Italy The Jewish Ghetto

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Sue Wolfe

About this spot
In the triangle formed by Via Oberdan, Via Zamboni and Via Valdonica is The Jewish Ghetto. As a liberal city, Bologna welcomed Jews. Many were booksellers, printers, and bankers. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the city had 11 synagogues and was home to a rabbinical academy. But in 1555, with the edict of Pope Paul IV, the ghetto was established, and Jews were forced to wear a “badge” so they could easily be identified and shut in at night. Under papal rule, the number of synagogues was reduced to one and Jews were not able to settle officially in Bologna for two centuries.

Equal rights were granted to the Jews in 1859. However, in the 20th century, antisemitism emerged in Bologna and Jewish teachers were forced to leave the public schools. 51 Jewish professors were retired from the University of Bologna and 492 foreign Jewish students were expelled. Once the Germans occupied Italy in 1943, persecution in Bologna became deadly. 114 Jews from the area were deported to Auschwitz. Many Jews throughout Italy became partisans and fought in the brigades of Giustizia e Libertà (justice and freedom).

Recent gentrification has turned the ghetto into a prestigious address with a growing number of artisan workshops. As you wander the narrow streets you will see few reminders of the Jewish neighborhood like you would notice in Krakow or Prague. But you will see street names like Via de Giudei (Street of the Jews) and Via dell’ Inferno.

The Museo Ebraico, in the Palazzo Pannolini, is working to preserve and promote the Jewish heritage of Bologna and the Emilia Romagna region. You can find a Jewish Cemetery and Memorial outside the Old City.

Also located in the triangle, is the Chiesa di San Donato. It was built in 1454 on the Piazzetta Achille Ardigò. The façade is decorated in lime tempera. Because of its fragility, multiple restorations have taken place over the years.

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