Great German Schola of Venice to reopen on Yom Kippur

On Yom Kippur, the sound of the shofar will resonate for the first time after a century in the magnificent Great German Schola in Venice, the first of the five synagogues in the area of one of Europe first Jewish ghettos. Built in 1529, this Schola is an essential stop for tourists exploring the Ghetto, but has not been used for worship since World War I. Along with the Great German Synagogue, also the Levantine Schola and the Spanish Schola will be open on the Day of Atonement.

The historical decision taken by the Jewish community of Venice will allow congregants to participate to services while respecting all the measures in place to preventing the spread of Covid-19. At the same time, the reopening launches a powerful message of hope in a dramatic time that brought us so many closures. It affirms the resolution to start the new Jewish year in the auspices of new life.

Built on the top floor of pre-existing buildings, the synagogues in the Venetian Ghetto are recognized with difficulty from outside while inside they are little jewels. Venice was once a capital of the Mediterranean and a capital of Jewish life in Europe. However, the five synagogues are hidden beyond ordinary facades, since they were initially tolerated on the condition that their exteriors bear no resemblance to Jewish houses of worship. The contrast with the superb decorations of the interiors is therefore all the more striking.

The Great German Schola, of Ashkenazi rite, was restored in late baroque period while in the early 1900s some problems of statics caused the relocation of the pulpit opposite to the Aron HaKodesh not to weigh too much on the floor. The irregular plant is harmonized by an elliptic women’s gallery and by the decorations of the walls. The Ten Commandments are inscribed in golden letters with red background running all over the walls of the cultural room.

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