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Ancient Synagogue of Venice Ghetto Restored; Was Built in 1415

A 538-year-old synagogue, the oldest in the ghetto of Venice, was rededicated last night after extensive restoration carried out with funds made available by the Joint Distribution Committee.

The synagogue, known as “La Scuola Grande Tedesca” (The Great German School), was built in 1415 in the ghetto of Venice inhabited then by Jewish bankers, most of whom had come from Germany, hence its name. Four other historic synagogues in the ghetto have been restored this year. All five structures were found in 1949 to be in danger of imminent collapse and the small Jewish community of Venice, numbering 1,100 persons, was unable to pay for their repairs.

At the ceremony last night, Vittorio Fano, president of the Jewish community of Venice, expressed his gratitude to the Jews of the United States and especially to the JDC. “For many years,” he said, “the JDC was instrumental in preserving the health and physical well-being of our children, our aged and our needy. Restoration of the centers of our spiritual and religious life is an equally great contribution to the welfare of our community. ” The JDC was represented at the ceremonies by Harold Trobe, its director for Italy.

The other rebuilt synagogues include Scuola Canton, probably named after the family that founded it in 1532; Scuola Italiania, built in 1575 on a portico supported by pillars; Scuola Spagnola, founded by Spanish Jews in 1580 and enlarged by the famous Baroque architect Baldassare Longhena in 1635; and Scuola Levantina, founded by Levantine Jews at least 300 years ago and endowed with an important collection of ceremonial objects.

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