Work on Venice Cemetery Continues
Restoration work on the Old Cemetery in Venice, which was founded in the 14th century, is nearly complete. Numerous stones have been set upright. During the restoration work, which included draining a large section of the cemetery, 120 tombstones were discovered underground in pristine condition.
The Jewish community would like to find funding to restore the "new" cemetery, also on the Lido, which dates from the 17th century, and also to reconstruct the ceremonial hall for use as a research center and archives on European Jewish cemeteries.
Jewish Heritage & Museum in Sicily
Jews settled in Sicily almost certainly before the common era and were expelled in 1492. They left behind a wide range of artifacts and archival documents that testify to a long established, skilled and, from time to time, mighty and thriving community. Unlike Jews of many other European countries, the Sicilian Jews enjoyed a great deal of autonomy and provided the backbone of the economy and the craft industry until their expulsion. Archaeological discoveries of Jewish artifacts began in the middle of the 18th century and have never stopped since. They have disclosed so far an unparalleled Jewish heritage which ranges without any interruption from late antiquity till the Middle ages. These discoveries consist mainly of oil lamps, rings, seals, gravestones, magical and ritual items, books, ketubbot, sifrei Torah as well as some very important records such as the first portrait of a Jew (now in Paris), Europe's most ancient aron, the oldest rimmonim in the world (now in Palma de Majorca), the earliest manuscript of Abulafia's Qabalah, the first dated acclamation Shalom al Israel along with many funerary inscriptions in Greek, Latin, Hebrew and Judaeo-Arabic alike, inclusive of two Samaritan inscriptions, which represent the westernmost attestation of this community.
A first extensive survey of these monuments was conducted 1995 by Nicol Bucaria in the framework of a research fellowship and its full length results were published in 1996 (Sicilia Judaica, Flaccovio, Palermo). Upon this, in November 1997 with a resolution adopted at its annual General Assembly, the Italian Association for Jewish Studies urged the Sicilian government to take all the necessary steps to establish a Jewish museum in Palermo. In January 1999, on occasion of the presentation in Jerusalem of the Festschrift Gli Ebrei in Sicilia dal tardoantico al medioevo (Flaccovio, Palermo), the President of the Sicilian Parliament said that he was firmly committed to establishing a Jewish museum in Sicily in the near future, in order to preserve a priceless heritage for future generations and to make its riches available to the general public.
Some days later, at the International Conference on Jewish Heritage in Paris, the Sicilian minister of culture and education declared that the Jewish museum will be opened by end 1999 and hosted in the former convent of the Teutonic Knights in Palermo. It will gather and make accessible the many artifacts and treasures which lie scattered across the island and abroad and will also highlight the original contribution of the Sicilian Jews to both Judaism and Sicilian society and be a welcoming house to all the Jews throughout the world.
International Survey of Jewish Monuments
c/o Jewish Heritage Research Center
Box 210, 118 Julian Pl.
Syracuse, New York 13210-3419, USA
tel: (315) 474-2350
fax: (315) 474-2347