Jerusalem’s Museum of Italian Jewry, and the Synagogue It Houses

October 4, 2023 | Shmuel Munitz
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In central Jerusalem, there is a synagogue that takes its name from a small town located 30 miles north of Venice, which, like the museum attached to it, preserves the history of Europe’s oldest Jewish community. Shmuel Munitz writes:

The synagogue was originally established in the early 18th century in the town of Conegliano Veneto in northern Italy. Its entire contents were meticulously transferred to Jerusalem, and in 1952 it was inaugurated in the Beit Schmidt building, where it remains today. This structure has a diverse history, serving as a Catholic establishment in the distant past and housing a girls’ school. More recently, it was home to the religious Ma’aleh High School.

The Jewish community in Italy is one of the oldest in Europe, likely dating back to the time of the Second Temple. Over the years, migration from various diasporas led to the formation of a diverse Jewish population in Italy, with descendants of Sephardi exiles living alongside Ashkenazi Jews. The prayer rite of the Bnei Romi, also known as the Italian Rite, is unique to Italian Jews who are not of Ashkenazi or Sephardi origin.

The Museum of Italian Judaism, named after Shlomo Umberto Nahon, was founded in 1983. The current exhibit, The Hidden Revealed, sheds light on the story of the museum’s collection and offers a glimpse into the treasures housed in the museum. Alongside permanent exhibit items such as an ornate ark of the covenant and chairs originally donated to the synagogue in Mantua in 1543, the exhibit also features a Hebrew learning cube set, a diary, and other personal items that provide insights into the lives of Italian Jews.

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