Community and Culture

Building an Exchange of Culture and Creativity in Israel and Europe.

Venice and the Hebrew Book

500 Years of the Jewish Ghetto in Venice

The National Library of Israel participated in the symposium, "Venice and the Hebrew Book," held in July of 2016 at the spectacular Libreria Sansoviniana at the Marciana National Library in Venice as part of the events marking 500 years of the Venice Ghetto. 


Few cities have had greater influence on the development of Jewish books than Venice. The symposium explored developments behind Jewish printing in Venice from the 16th century and the stories of some of the people whose influence spread beyond the walls of the Ghetto and across generations.


Professor Gadi Luzzatto Voghera, Symposium Chair, opened the proceedings with the story of the feud between rival printers Bragadini and Guistiniani printers over an edition of Maimonides' Mishneh Torah with commentary, which ultimately led to the Papal decree to burn all copies of the Talmud in 1553, across Italy.


Two surviving volumes of the Mishneh Torah were on loan from the National Library of Israel to the exhibition, “Venice, the Jews and Europe 1516-2016,” at the Palazzo Ducale in Venice until late 2016. 


Professor Emile Schrijver, General Director of the Jewish Historical Museum and Professor Jewish Book History at the University of Amsterdam, spoke about the role of manuscripts in transmitting knowledge after the advent of printing until the 18th Century.


Dr Yoel Finkelman, Judaica Curator of the National Library of Israel, showed how the influence of the Christian printer Daniel Bomberg in establishing the canonical layout of major rabbinic works, including the Talmud, continues to influence Jewish learning today.


Professor Katrin Kogman-Appel, Professor of Jewish Studies at Munster University, presented the lost wood cut picture bible created by Venetian craftsman Moses Dal Castellazzo, as an example of early Hebrew printing within the wider cultural and economic context of 16th century Venice.


Professor Howard Adelman, Director of the Jewish Studies Program at Queens University, Ontario spoke about Rabbi Leon Modena, and the poet Sarra Copia Sullam, whose ties with Christian intellectuals reflected the complexity of relationships beyond the ghetto in the 16 and 17 century.