Commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Venice ghetto, the first Jewish enclave to bear that name, a group of philanthropists led by iconic designer Diane von Fürstenberg have announced a $12 million project to restore Jewish life there.
“As much as this renovation is about preserving the past and the rich history of the Venetian and Jewish communities, today is about the future," said von Fürstenberg in a statement to the Venetian Heritage Council, the international philanthropic group funding the restoration. "All of us are responsible for making sure that future generations – 500 years from today – have access to these stories of human culture and progress.”
She is the daughter of Belgian Jewish parents; her mother was a Holocaust survivor liberated from Auchwitz in 1945. von Fürstenberg is among a handful of Jewish celebrities whose names appear on the Giving Pledge, a list of wealthy celebrities who promise to give away at least half of their fortunes to philanthropy before they die. Devoted to both Jewish and non-Jewish causes, she hosted a UJA-Federation event in New York in 2009 where she commented on her strong Jewish identity, “Well, I’m a real Jewish princess … Being Jewish is just who you are. It’s just who I am.”
The program is geared to refurbish Venice's Jewish museum and synagogues. Although the renovations have yet to begin, the work is expected to be completed in 2016.
The project will rebuild the interconnected buildings of the ghetto compound, as well as the interior of three of the five antiquated16th-century synagogues, including the restoration of several gilded wooden panels with carved features inside the buildings.
Improvements tp the Museum will increase traffic flow inside, and establish a gallery inside the ghetto complex to house silver religious objects from past generations of the Jewish community.
The city's ghetto was established in 1516 as a forced place of residence for Jews.