Venice Jewish Museum, Three Historic Synagogues to Get $12 Million Refurbishment

The renovations are expected to be completed in time for events in 2016 marking the 500th anniversary of the creation of the Venice Ghetto.

The main square of the Venetian Ghetto.
Archaeodontosaurus / Wikimedia Commons

The Jewish museum in Venice and three of the city’s five historic synagogues are getting a $12 million refurbishment.

The renovations are expected to be completed in time for events in 2016 marking the 500th anniversary of the creation of the Venice Ghetto, according to the Venetian Heritage Council, an international philanthropic group that made the announcement of the project on Monday.

International fundraising efforts will be led by the council’s chairman, Joseph Sitt, and vice chairman, Diane von Furstenberg, the Belgian-born Jewish fashion designer whose mother was a survivor of Auschwitz.

Renata Codello, who heads the Venice office of the Italian Culture Ministry under the UNESCO program for the city, will oversee the project.

“The $12 million undertaking will repair and reinforce walls and structures through the entire building, restore gilded wooded panels bearing carved biblical features, and fix numerous adornments and design elements that have suffered the weight of a half-millennium,” the council said in a statement.

“In addition to the structural revitalization of the synagogues, we are vastly improving and upgrading the museum space, adding space and streamlining room-to-room flow to accommodate the incredible interest in this piece of history,” council director Toto Bergamo Rossi said.

Founded in 1953, the Jewish museum in Venice is located in the heart of the former Venice Ghetto, where Jews were confined in 1516. The synagogues, two of them in use for worship today, date back to the 16th century and occupy the top floors of preexisting ghetto buildings whose simple exteriors hide the ornate decoration of the jewel-like sanctuaries.