The Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island is offering an interactive opportunity to see three Italian cities just as an actual resident would during their everyday life. The live, virtual tours of the Jewish areas of Rome, Florence and Venice will be held on three consecutive Sunday mornings, starting March 27.
All three tours will be conducted in real time, so participants may ask the tour guides questions about what they are seeing or even request a different view or a close-up look.
Guides are recruited through Our Travel Circle, which specializes in Jewish-centric live tours of cities around the world. The company describes its tours as “interactive, remote live-streamed walking tours featuring expert hosts who engage and entertain by facilitating discussions and questions, and trained local guides eager to zoom in, and introduce groups to their favorite spots.”
Our Travel Circle has provided the following descriptions of the tours:
Rome, March 27, 9:30 a.m.: Judaism in Rome is literally woven into the fabric of the eternal city and has been for over two millennia. Our journey will take us through the zone of the “newcomers” in Ancient Rome, Trastevere, or Trans Tiberium to the Ancient Romans. We will pass over Rome’s Tiber River via The Tiber Island, which plays a role too in one of the darker chapters of Jewish history of the city.
Crossing back toward Rome’s left bank, there stands the Great Temple and the heart of modern Rome’s Jewish community. In the shadow of ruins of the ancient Theater of Marcellus and Portico d’Ottavia, we will pass restaurants teeming with tourists and Romans alike, waiting for a taste of Jewish Artichokes and so many other wonderful dishes. This lively zone is full of Kosher shops, bakeries, wine bars and galleries.
Florence, April 3, 9:30 a.m.: It’s believed that Jews lived in town since the 13th century, but the first official documentation attesting to their presence in Florence dates to 1437, when the Republic called upon a group of resident Jews to restructure their banchi (banks) to take over the indispensable function of lending money, thereby saving Christian bankers – and their souls – from the damning sin of usury.
We’ll begin our journey with the most exquisite artistic evidence of the complex relationship existing between the Jewish and Christian cultures: Lorenzo Ghiberti’s “Porta del Paradiso,” illustrating the most famous chapters of the Tanach in its ten carved panels. We’ll proceed to the Piazza della Repubblica, the former site of Florence’s Jewish Ghetto. We’ll move on to the crowning glory of the city’s Jewish community: the Grand Synagogue, hailed as one of the most beautiful in Europe, and its splendid Museum of Hebraic Art & Culture.
Venice, April 10, 9:30 a.m.: On this tour, we will see the world’s oldest ghetto, founded on March 29, 1516, in Venice when the Senate approved the establishment of an urban area in which the Jewish population was required to reside.
The Ghetto was surrounded by water, and access was closed off each night at sunset by heavy doors. Throughout the night, a patrol paid for by the Jews themselves circumnavigated the Ghetto, watching over the recluse population. Giovanna will give us a look into the deep history of Venice and how the Jews lived for so many years.
The Jewish Alliance is excited to bring these virtual tours to the community. Members of the Alliance’s Dwares Jewish Community Center can join each tour for $18 or pay $45 for all three tours. All others can attend each tour for $25 or all three for $60. Each tour will include literature about the places that are visited.
Log in or create an account at https://register.jewishallianceri.org/OnlineEdge/login.html to register, then enter “virtual” in the Keyword box on the left. If you have trouble registering, contact Donna Cole at dcole@JewishAllianceRI.org or 401-421-4111, ext. 104.
For more information about the Sunday tour series, contact Larry Katz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LARRY KATZ is the director of Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island.