Beginning with the institution of the first ghetto in Venice in 1516, and soon followed by those in Rome and other cities, Jews had to contend with this circumscribed and ambivalent place, which made them a part of the city and also isolated them.
For nearly three centuries, this was the space within which Jews cultivated their identity, on the one hand preserving the features of their ancient culture, but on the other hand drawing from the world that opened up beyond that confine. The continuous relation between “inside” and “outside” the ghetto walls marked Jewish life throughout the long journey towards emancipation.
This deeply complex circumstance is the subject of this volume, including a series of critical texts that take on the profoundly current issues inherent to the topic from every angle, from the historical and artistic to the sociological. The concepts of resilience, integration, cross-cultural encounters and aspiration to be equal while remaining different, are themes continually being raised by today’s society, reigniting the dilemma of the ghettos.
Understanding their role in terms of identity formation is the aim of this volume, which traces the unique situation of European Jews, especially those in Italy, between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, in the firm belief that Jewish history can transmit universal values and offer useful tools for the present.