The “Women, Jews, Venetians” conference was an exciting opportunity for those interested in the experiences of Jewish women in Venice, and the wider effects of those experiences on society, to come together to discuss research findings and suggest future possibilities for action. Organized by Prof. Baumgarten of UCSC, the conference made productive use of our time with a number of presentations, while still leaving time to discuss the implications of those talks.
The talks themselves ranged from the more theoretical (ambiguous images of “the Jewess” in European culture) to the concrete (obstetrics in the ghetto and the experiences of Venetian women during World War II). Taking Venice as their starting point speakers reached out to the global (an analysis of Peggy Guggenheim and the place of Venice in her wider life experience) and the local (subtle readings of recent oral histories of members of the Venetian Jewish community). Chronologically, speakers started with the formation of the ghetto in 1516 and its early inhabitants, from the politically important and fiscally significant Gracia Nasi family to the victims of inquisitorial investigation in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, to the seventeenth-century thinker and poet Sarra Copia Sulam. They continued on into the twentieth century, including Mussolini’s long-time mistress, the Venetian Jewish Margherita Sarfatti, and the experiences of Venetian Jewish women in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The arts featured prominently in the conference. Music, dance, art, poetry, and historical fiction all received close attention. Finally, the conference also turned our attention to the future in two ways: first, the significance of the upcoming anniversary of the formation of the ghetto and how best to commemorate it; and second, the future of the Venetian Jewish community.
Associate Professor of History
University of Kentucky