1 Ghetto Soundscapes: Venice and Beyond Edwin Seroussi (Hebrew University of Jerusalem) Lecture presented at the conference: The Ghetto and Beyond: The Jews in the Age of the Medici Center for Jewish History, New York City/Medici Archive Project September 18, 2016 In memoriam Prof. Don Harrán
By using the concept of soundscape I would propose to examine the sonic experience of the Ghetto’s inhabitants and their visitors beyond the specific category of sound called “music.” I join in this endeavor recent scholarship that has stressed the sensory construction of public spaces and the relations between the senses and architecture in Renaissance Venice.1 The concept of soundscape in relation to Venice appears in musicologist Iain Fenlon’s essay of 2012 on “Other” Musics in Sixteenth-Century Venice” in order to convey the multiplicity of the sonic experience in this unique cosmopolitan city.2 In his own words, “Venetian sixteenth-century concept of the ‘other’ embraced not only the obvious categories of Jews, Turks, Slavs, North Europeans, and non-Christians from the East, but also natives from the towns and cities of the terraferma. The Venetian liturgical soundscape, which embraced not only the sounds emanating from parish churches, convents, and monasteries, but also the cantillations from the synagogue in the Ghetto, orthodox chants from the Scuola dei Greci,
Howard, Deborah, and Laura Moretti (eds.) Sound and Space in Renaissance Venice: Architecture, Music, Acoustics. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009; Kent, Francis William (ed.), Street Noises, Civic Spaces and Urban Identities in Italian Renaissance Cities. Clayton, Vic.: Monash Publications in History, Dept. of History, Monash University, 2000; Marlene Eberhart, Sensing Space and Making Publics, in Vanhaelen, Angela, and Joseph P. Ward (eds). Making Space Public in Early Modern Europe: Performance, Geography, Privacy. New York, London: Routledge, 2013, pp 173-189; Eleanor Selfridge-Field, Song and Season: Science, Culture, and Theatrical Time in Early Modern Venice. Stanford University Press. Stanford, CA. 2007. 1
Iain Fenlon. “Other” Musics in Sixteenth-Century Venice. In Forney, Kristine and Jeremy L. Smith (eds.) Sleuthing the muse: essays in honor of William F. Prizer, Hillsdale, N.Y.: Pendragon Press, 2012, pp. 459-472. 2
2 and the music from the meeting-halls of the other foreign ‘nations’, was in consequence both complex and cosmopolitan.” More recently, cultural historian Daniel Jütte has expressed a similar interest in the ecology of sound as a field for examining Judeo-Christian relations in northern Italy especially in 16th century Venice.3 He expands the scope of previous studies on this topic by moving beyond research paradigms such as those focusing on “Jewish integration” or “Jewish contributions” to civilization. Sound by nature is ethereal and therefore spills over physical boundaries. No Ghetto walls could prevent the sounds of a raucous Purim party from reaching other quarters of the city. But those same walls could also not dampen the immediacy of the peals of the churches’ bells that resounded relentlessly in a dense heterophonic sonic cloud reminding the Jews, hour after hour, just who is in power.4 Let me quote a few lines from the entry on “Sounds and Silence of Venice” from the Internet project a Museum of the City (http://www.museumofthecity.org/project/the-sound-and-silence-of-venice/ ) “Bells were used not just to tell time but to signal alerts for earthquakes, fires, and the passing of august persons. In the 1500s there would have been precious little total silence in the bustling island state. The people of Venice became highly attuned to the sounds of different bells and their various meanings and the area of Venice is small enough that a large bell could be heard practically throughout the entire isle. Bells made an effective communication tool as they did not require a direct line of sight, highly unlikely in the narrow twisting streets of Venice…” Daniel Jütte, ‘The Place of Music in Early Modern Italian Jewish Culture,’ in Musical Exodus: Al-Andalus and its Jewish Diasporas, ed. Ruth F. Davis. London: Rowman & Little, 2015, pp. 45-61. 3
The crucial role of the sounds of Venetian bells and clocks to the city’s inhabitants is meticulously described in Selfridge-Field, Eleanor. Song and Season: Science, Culture, and Theatrical Time in Early Modern Venice. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 2007, chapter 3. 4
At the same time, the Jews of the Ghetto generated their own, if modest, sonic signals that, one can assume, could be heard by others. The suonatore del sabato, the Friday afternoon trumpeter that announced the approaching of the Sabbath was an official functionary of the ghetto; in 1614 the Small Assembly of the Jewish universitá formalized his salary.5 This sonic marker signaled the beginning of a day that was off-limits for Christians who benefited from Jewish services and merchandises during the rest of the weekdays. Thus, the suonatore del sabato projected his fanfare not only inwards, to its Jewish clients, but also to Gentiles dwelling beyond the Ghetto. The geography and architecture of Venice created therefore a unique sound box, if I may use this term to describe city. As Fenlon stressed, diverse segments of the Venetian population consumed a multiplicity of religious and secular music expressions that were accessible to a wide public throughout the city. However, not only churches and theaters offered music, but also the narrow alleys of Venice were stages for impromptu musical performances that at times disturbed the peace of its inhabitants. The literato, translator and bibliographer Anton Francesco Doni (1513-1574) left us a vivid impression of the street “noise” that annoyed him from his squalid apartment in Venice, “where all night long wretches who waste the daytime pass up and down singing strambotti [lewd songs] noisily and certain little erotic madrigals”.6 At the same time, it was not easy to keep intimate sounds, whether emerging from a private family celebration or a Mass in a small chapel, from spilling over to the crammed alleys. In 16th century Venice, exposing the inner sounds of your privacy could get you in trouble if these sounds challenged the rigid regulations of social behavior that characterized the Serenissima Republic. The Filippi family (aka De Nis family) of conversos who was known for its active Judaizing practices, took a house outside the Ghetto in an act of overCarlo Boccato, ‘Ordinanze contra il lusso e sul ‘suonatore del sabato’ nel ghetto de Venezia nel secolo XVII,’ La rassegna mensile di Israel 45 (1979), 239-54. 5
Anton Franceso Doni, ‘Living poorly: the squalid lodges of Anton Franceso Doni’ translated by David Chambers and Dora Thornton quoted in Chambers, David, Brian S. Pullan. Venice: A Documentary History, 1450-1630. Oxford: B. Blackwell, 1992, p. 180. 6
4 confidence. They paid a high price for their hubris. The sounds and visuals of their holyday’s practices that could be heard and seen from the street led to their arrest by the Inquisition agents at the crack of dawn on October 12, 1585. I checked out this date: it was early Sunday morning after Shabbat Hol haMo’ed Succoth, probably after an unusually boisterous evening at the Filippis’ improvised Sukkah.7 Public spaces were of course also areas of sonic display. The majestic Piazza San Marco, renewed in the 16th century as a central and widely open site, exposed the multiplicity of the city’s population to the sonic pomp and circumstance that emerged from splendid civil and religious processions year round. Even if the Jewish presence was banned at times from getting close to such processions, especially during Easter, their soundwaves certainly crossed through the cities’ resonant alleyways into the ears of the Jewish bodies who were separated from those events by legislation. Certain public sounds of Venice may have cast an even somber impression on Jewish listeners. Think for example about the effect of the sounds of “two trumpets at the pipes (organ)” that emerged from the church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo on a Sunday in May 1598 when an orphan Jewish boy was being baptized.8 The sonic display that accompanied conversions to Christianity, although less common by the end of the 16th century, reminded Jews of their precarious civil status in a Venetian society where the power of the Church was still manifest. These were the ultimate sounds of alienation to the ears of faithful Jews. Sonic experiences may have marked separation between Jews and Gentiles in Venice at the ritual level but also generated mutual attraction and invited transgression. The coincidence of Jewish and Christian festivals on the same dates opened a window for such indiscretions. Purim celebrations offered, as Brian Pullan put it, “an oasis of rejoicing in the desert of the Lenten city.” Pullan, Brian, The Jews of Europe and the Inquisition of Venice 1550-1670, Totowa, N.J., 1983, p. 145 and 215-6. 7
Pullan, p. 264, and n. 87.
5 Purim meant copious drinking, dancing, and masquerades, a sonic temptation that attracted Christian libertines. Lent was also a period for Jewish weddings and dance parties, creating even more noise in a season of Christian restraint.9 In 1626, the Inquisition in Venice heard a case against a Tedesco Jew called Lieberman who held a soiree during Lent, entertaining a mixed crowd that included Christians whom he persuaded to dance to the sounds of a fiddler (whose identity is not disclosed in the protocols) and to eat forbidden foods.10 An integral component of the Venetian social fabric, Jews participated in the rich musical life of the city as both consumers and providers. Jewish musicians and dancers were part of the musical scene in Venice from an early stage, prior to the establishment of the Ghetto as attested by the ban of 1443 against them. Stemming from the ranks of Italian and German Jewish immigrants who settled in terrafirma in the 15th century, their presence in the city became more permanent once the Ghetto was established. Archival references from the 16th century reveal a continuous presence in Venice of Jewish musicians, dancers, and music teachers from the Ghetto.11 Salomon, who is described as a Jewish music teacher and harpsichordist from the Tedesco community, provided a testimony in the tribunal of the Inquisition on 28 March 1555 in the process of Elena de’ Freschi Olivi.12 Where, when and for whom Salomon performed or who where his disciples remain open questions. The internal polyphony of the Ghetto substantially expanded throughout the 16th century with the arrival of new waves of Spanish-Portuguese and Eastern Sephardic Jewish immigrants. Within the perimeters of the Ghetto, the original one and its two expansions, new synagogues and houses of study created further sonic layers that could be heard beyond their walls, especially on Sabbaths and holyday’s celebrations that took place in public areas. Four lavish synagogues that can be seen to this day and about which we possess some information regarding their musical activities were built between 1528
Pullan, p. 163, and n. 79.
Pullan, p. 166.
Pullan, p. 147.
Pullan, p. 244 and n. 2 quoting Ioli Zorattini, Processi (1980), pp. 155, 158.
6 and 1578 (the Italian Sinagoga Grande, Tedesca, Spagnola and Levantina). These synagogues fascinated Venetian citizens and visitors alike and they eventually became a feature in the tourism of the city.13 Particularly attractive to visitors were the flamboyant sounds and lights of torches that characterized the celebration of Simhat Torah which spilled over from the synagogues into public spaces in the Ghetto. This event was among the most impressive sights of Venice and is well documented. An eyewitness account of Simhat Torah, as it took place in the first half of the 17th century, offers us a vivid, almost audible description of it. Penned by the convert Gulio Morosini, formerly Samuel Nahmias, a faithful disciple of Rabbi Leone da Modena until the death of his teacher, I tend to rely on his account in spite of the tendentious animosity towards his previous faith that characterizes his writing about Jews and Judaism: “In this ceremony [of processions around the synagogues]….the singers and cantors went accompanied by many plebeians who, believing that they have a good and pleasant voice, they sing hymns and rhymed compositions all together in great confusion, most of which contain praises to God, praying to Him for the restoration of the Temple of Jerusalem, for the coming of [Prophet] Eliyahu with their Messiah; [but they] have no qualm to sing these sacred songs to the sound and verses of profane songs in the Spanish style, [and] in the Turkish style … and singing each one according to their own custom and because they do not use [musical] instruments, one beating the palms raising his hands, another one banging his thighs, the other with [the hands] make the castanets, another one plays the guitar [by] scratching the doublet [snug-fitting buttoned jacket that is shaped and fitted to the man’s body which was worn in Spain], in sum they jump and dance to these sounds with a commotion of face, mouth and arms, and of all the limbs, such a display appears precisely as a mockery (or as a jester) of Carnival. In diverse places of the Benjamin Ravid: ‘Christian Travelers in the Ghetto of Venice: Some Preliminary Observations’, in S. Nash (ed.): Between History and Literature: Studies in Honor of Isaac Barzilay. B’nei B’rak, 1997, pp.110-50. 13
7 Levant I have seen that they play the cimbalo [probably the Turkish kanun, perhaps the term is imported from the Yiddish tsimbl, the zither used by Eastern European Jewish musicians or from the gypsy cimbalom], but the aforementioned manner [of celebrating] is the most common.”14 To taste some sounds from the Ghetto let me play for you a melody that to the best of my judgment derives from the Venetian synagogues. In his description of the Passover liturgy, Morosini specifically singles out the poem “Lekh leshalom geshem” sung by the cantor (cantarino in his terminology) during the Dew and Rain ceremony. A musical notation of this poem from the mid-19th century Spanish-Portuguese synagogue in London preserves its melody. It is a very famous pattern, almost a folk song, known as “La Mantovana.” Italian composers associated with Venice in the 17th century used and reused it. Ghetto cantors shared this tune with their Christian neighbors as one more sonic bridge connecting and separating them at the same time. Immigrant cantors trained in Italy brought this melody to the Sephardic enclaves in Western Europe. Beyond the synagogues, other associations, new in character and harbingers of changing times in the social constitution of the Venetian Jewish community, pursued musical activities in the Ghetto. Two such institutions are the salon of the upper classes and the devotional confraternity. The salon of the poet Sarra Copia and her husband Jacob Sullam is the most celebrated one of its kind, with Sarra as one of its musical entertainers attending a mixed audience.15 In opposition to the secularity of the salon was the devotional confraternity. Shomrim la-boqqer (Morning sentinels) started its activities in Venice at the Giulio Morosini, Via della fede mostrata agli ebrei. Rome 1683, 789-90. See, Riccardo Calimani, Storia del Ghetto di Venezia (Milano: Rusconi, 1985), chapter 19 on Morosoni, and quote in pp. 323-4. See also, Julie-Marthe Cohen, Il ghetto di Venezia nella rivisitazione polemica e nostalgica di Gulio Morosoni già Samuel Nahmias (1612-1687), M.A. thesis, University of Amsterdam, 1989, pp. 132-33. 14
Don Harrán. Jewish Poet and Intellectual in Seventeenth-Century Venice: The Works of Sarra Copia Sulam in Verse and Prose, Along with Writings of Her Contemporaries in Her Praise, Condemnation, or Defense. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2009. 15
8 Italiani synagogue in the late 1570s. It became a steady institution of this community and the German Jews imitated it later. Its year round early morning vigils created a new space for pietism inspired by an array of models, some coming from the Sephardic Jews of the Ottoman Empire others from similar Christian societies that sprang after the Counter-Reformation. Singing old and new Hebrew devotional poetry just before sunrise was prominent in these assemblies, some of which had mystical intentions. The Hebrew printing press in Venice was kept quite busy with the publication of manuals on behalf of these confraternities.16 Eventually professional composers were commissioned cantatas to enhance special events produced by these confraternities. One cannot talk about the soundscape of the Ghetto without mentioning Rabbi Arieh Yehuda, aka Leone da Modena. He was one of the active figures in the musical scene of the Ghetto in several contexts, as cantor of the Italian synagogue, member of confraternities and director of the short-lived music academy of the Ghetto. Modena was already involved in promoting musical novelties in the synagogue of Ferrara around 1605 prior to his definitive settling in Venice, a move that caused antagonism from rabbinical circles that he was forced to refute. In Venice, Modena pursued his musical activities further on but he did so in a low key, as I will show later on. A boost to the musical life of the Ghetto and to Modena’s crusade to introduce art music to the synagogue came in 1628 with the arrival of a wave of Jewish refugees from Mantua that included gifted musicians, events about which Giulio Morosini reported in utmost and, in my view, reliable details. Not coincidentally Modena assumed in the summer of that year the leadership of the Accademia degl’ Impediti, an association of Jewish musicians in the Ghetto. Later on that year, an impressive choral performance took place at the Scòla (synagogue) Spagnola on Simhat Torah a Jewish holyday that, as we have seen, attracted the attention of curious Christian observers. An organ was brought to the synagogue for this occasion, and it remains unclear from Morosini’s account if Michela Andreatta, The Printing of Devotion in Seventeenth-Century Italy: Prayer Books Printed for the Shomrim la-Boker Confraternities. In: The Hebrew Book in Early Modern Italy, ed. Joseph R. Hacker and Adam Shear, Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011, pp. 156-170. 16
9 the opposition of the rabbis to the organ was absolute or just against using the instrument during the holyday.17 Much more was written about Modena the musician and his role in the promotion of art music in the synagogues of northern Italy by my predecessors the late Israel Adler and the aforementioned Don Harrán as well as by Howard Adelman, may he live to a hundred and twenty. 18 I will add two new pieces of information about Modena’s musical world that can enrich our perception of the Ghetto’s soundscape during the first half of the 17th century. Modena informs us about a circle of Jewish musicians dedicated to polyphonic music in one of his unpublished sermons on the Psalms delivered at the yeshivat Sireni between 1624 and 1628. Titled “Etz ha-gan” (whereas “gan” = “garden” is the beit midrash), these sermons appear in Ms. 137 of the Rabbinical Seminary of Budapest (reel 47188 at the IMHM of the NL).19 In a commentary to Psalm 87, 7 (“As they make music they will sing: All my fountains are in you”) Modena fondly recalls by names of three singers who performed with him in four parts, Rabbi Moshe Treves “ram havivi,” i.e. my favorite alto, Rabbi Y. Monte Real “neged ram havivi” i.e. my favorite contralto, and my dear Rabbi M. Cohen “tenor.” Modena refers to himself as “shafel” (bass) which contradicts the uncontested claim of his grandson Itzhak min Halevyim that his grandfather was a tenor. Considering the dating of the sermon, it appears that Modena maintained a stable, if very small, vocal ensemble prior to the formal establishment of the Accademia degl’ Impediti. This ensemble may (or not) have performed in one of the synagogues or in meetings of one of the confraternities. Giulio Morosini, Via della fede mostrata agli ebrei. Rome 1683, 793. See also Howard E. Adelman in Marc Cohen (trans. and ed.), The Autobiography of a seventeenth-century Venetian Rabbi, pp.19-49, at p. 31; Harrán, Jewish Musical Culture, pp. 227-9. 17
See, I. Adler: La pratique musicale savante dans quelques communautes juives en Europe au XVIIe et XVIIIe siecles (Paris, 1966), I, pp. 43-154, and Don Harrán. Dum Recordaremum Sion: Music as Practiced and Theorized by the Venetian Rabbi Leon Modena (1571-1648), AJS Review 23, no. 1, 1998, pp. 17-62; Don Harrán: ‘Jewish Musical Culture: Leon Modena’, in R. C. Davis and B. Ravid (eds.): The Jews of Early Modern Europe. Baltimore and London, 2001, pp. 211-30. 18
Benjamin Richler, Ktavim bilti yedu’im shel Rabbi Yehudah Arieh mi-Modena, Assufot 7 (1993), pp. 157-172, esp. 165-6. 19
What was in the repertoire of Modena’s quartet? We may never know. However, one song may give us a clue. Song no. 198 of Modena’s Diwan (collected poetry published by Shimon Bernstein, Philadelphia 1932) bears as title “Lahan Tra verdi campi a la stagion novella” which means, “[sing my Hebrew song] to the melody of [the Italian song] Tra verdi campi a la stagion novella.” יושב מרום חזק ואמיץ כח רחום וחונן דל ורב מושיע עד אן רשע יצליח ולא תפיח צורר מקשיח המתגאה על כל חיות הקדש טוב ומטיב ומוחל וסולח ראה נא והשגיח כי רע מריח עמך יבריח In his commentary to this song, Bernstein confesses with frustration that he could not identify this reference. Today we can easily locate the music to which Modena set his Hebrew poem. It is a canzonetta, a lighthearted song for four voices by Orazzio Vecchi (1550-1605), published in 1600 but circulating as early as 1588.20 Dilettanti can easily perform these short homophonic songs, in which all voices sing mostly in parallel lines. It is the kind of song that probably disturbed the sleep of Signor Anton Francesco Doni whom we met earlier in this paper. Vecchi is a big name in late Renaissance Italian music. He was a renowned composer from Modena, where he worked most of his life but was famous in Venice too and published his works there. We can then listen today to a song that Modena and probably his fellow singers knew and performed (in Hebrew) if not in the streets of the Ghetto then in the intimacy of the Rabbi’s studio. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mzp_skapKtc Tra verdi campi a la stagion novella / Vince ogni fior una vermiglia rosa: Veggiola di lontano / Ma stendo in vano / L’ardita mano.
No proof exists that Modena knew Vecchi, who was twenty years his senior, personally. Nevertheless, he knew Vecchi’s song quite well in order to compose a Hebrew poem that fits perfectly the Italian original. Vecchi from his part had some interest in the synagogue as well. He reveals it in one of his
This identification was shared with me by Mr. Kedem Golden, a graduate student at Ben-Gurion University.
11 best-known works, the madrigal comedy L’Amfiparnaso; Comedia Armonica (Venice, 1597). In a dialogue between Christian Francatrippa, a Gentile coming to exchange a pawn and the Venetian Jews praying on the Sabbath, Vecchi puts in the mouths of the Jews a series of distorted Hebrew words.21 To accomplish such a derision of the synagogue, Vecchi must have had some exposure to Jewish ritual soundscapes, not a difficult task for a Gentile in Venice (or Modena) of his time. Incidentally, many of Vecchi’s songs were also covered in French, English and German, including by Protestant poets who wrote sacred texts to his melodies. In short, by introducing Vecchi’s melody to his Hebrew poetry, Leone da Modena shows once again that in the field of music he was a man of his age. Research on the soundscape of the Venetian Ghetto has been patently Eurocentric and today, due to lack of time, I have reproduced such an approach. However, let us just remind to ourselves that the growing presence of the Levantines in the Venetian Ghetto since the last quarter of the 16th century generated very different sounds than those of the Italian, German and even Spanish synagogues to which Leone da Modena was attached. As I have shown in several studies, Venice was a hub for Ottoman Hebrew music. The use of the Ottoman makam system, the musical modes of Turkish court and Sufi music, by cantors of the Levantine synagogue is well documented in precious 17th and 18th century manuscripts of religious poetry and prayers belonging to cantors from the Eastern Mediterranean who served in Venice.22 Don Harrán. ‘‘Barucaba’’ as an Emblem for Jewishness in Early Italian Art Music, The Jewish Quarterly Review 98, no. 3 (2008), pp. 328–354 21
The first manuscript is a hymnal compiled by David ben Abraham de Silva (Ms. Montefiori 238, Hirschfeld Ms. no. 238), cantor in Venice circa 1650. The pizmonim found in this miniature volume were collected by David Silva in Venice in 1650. The manuscript contains some 350 poems, many with indications of melody by referring to the melodies of other songs in the in the vernacular, in Hebrew characters. Fols. 208r-231r contain a list of the melodies used for the singing of prayers at various holidays and services. The names of the cantors who apparently composed or arranged them are occasionally mentioned; for example: Hazzan Ezra Al-Hadab (fols. 218r, 208v, 213r, etc); Al-Hadaf (fol. 216r); Hazzan Altaras (fol. 215r); Hayyim Aviatar (fols. 209v, 210v, 211v, 215r: “di musica di Hayyim Aviatar”) ; Hakham Figo (fol. 217v); Meir Lombrozo (fol. 217v); Hakham di Leria (fol. 218v, 219r, 220r); Hakham Joseph Al-Kilai (fol. 220v). Fols. 223r-231r contain a numerical index of the poems, while fols. 120r-122r contain poems in Ladino. The poems in this manuscript are classified as in Israel Najara’s compendium Zemirot Yisrael (1st ed. 1587, 2nd. ed. 1599, 3rd ed. 1600), i.e. according to functional (for the Sabbath, the New Moon, the High Holidays, Purim, Hanukah, etc.) and partially musical (makam) criteria. De Silva employs the following Turkish makamlar: Buselik (pronounced by the Jews as Puselik), Rast, Uzzal, Dügah, Hüseyni, and Neva-Irak. According to 22
12 These “Oriental” sounds could also be heard on the streets of the Ghetto as we heard from Morosini’s testimony about the Simhat Torah celebrations. On July 1797, as the army of Napoleon Bonaparte approached Venice, the gates of the Venetian ghetto came down. The Napoleonic conquest of the Veneto was short-lived and, from the Jewish viewpoint, not an encouraging one.23 Once the news of the return of Mantua to Austrian rule following the Treaty of Campo Formio (18 January 1798) reached Venice, the Jews led by Rabbi Abraham Jona (c. 1745-1814), the last rabbi of the Venetian ghetto, held a special synagogue service. In his autograph diary, Rabbi Jona describes in detail this performance, which he conducted at the synagogue on the Fourth of Shevat (21 January 1798).24 After he recited Psalm 18 in a simple style (pashut), ‘a choir (kat hameshorerim) sang Hallelujah odeh ladonay be-khol levav [Psalm 111] with instrumental accompaniment (beniggun ha-musiqa) with the additions that were added [as required] by the event.’ Then Rabbi Jona ‘sang with the congregation Hodu l'adonay qir'u bi-shmo [Chronicles I, 16; opening verses of the Sabbath and Holidays' morning services] to the tune of Simhat Torah (be-niggun kmo yom Simhat Torah), and the entire congregation joined him in the Hallel [Psalms 113-118], … The musicians then started all over again with singing and instrumental music.’ As it grew dark, all the lights of the ghetto were lit and the festivities continued outdoors. Part of the celebration included solemn prayers for the wellbeing of the Austrians. Adler, this is “an important manuscript that deserves to be studied for traditions of song and music.” See, Israel Adler, “La musique savante dans les synagogues italiennes,” in Gli Ebrei in Venezia, (1987), pp. 532-533. 23 On
the abolition of the ghetto and its consequences see, Donatella Calabi, ‘Gli ebrei veneziani dopo l'apertura delle porte del ghetto: Le dinamiche insediate,’ Le metamorfosi di Venezia da capitale di stato a città del Mondo, Gino Benzoni, ed. (Florence 2001), 147-71; Gadi Luzzato Voghera, ‘Gli ebrei,’ Storia di Venezia: L'Ottocento e il Novecento, a cura di Mario Isnenghi e Stuart Woolf, L'Ottocento 1797-1918, a cura di Stuart Woolf (Rome 2002), 619-48 (especially the detailed literature on Venetian Jews in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century in note 4); Adolfo Ottolenghi, ‘Il governo democratico di Venezia e l'abolizione del ghetto,’ Rassegna Mensile de Israel 2 (1930), 88-104. 24 The diary of Rabbi Abraham Jona is found at the New York Public Library, *P 80-573. For a detailed description of this manuscript see Abraham Berger, ‘The diary of Abraham Jona, last rabbi of the Venetian Ghetto, 1797-1814,’ Bulletin of the New York Public Library 66 (1962), 623-9. I treat these events in detail in my essay, ‘Singing Modernity: Synagogue Music in Nineteenth and Early Twentieth-Century Italy,’ in Assimilation and its Discontents: The Italian Jewish Experience Between Inclusion and Exclusion, ed. David Myers, Massimo Ciavolella, Peter H. Reill and Geoffrey Symcox. University of Toronto Press, 2008, pp. 164182.
The soundscape that emerges from the description of this late eighteenthcentury synagogue event, with its mix of old liturgical traditions and music inspired by, arranged and performed according to the contemporary musical taste, is one of the last sonic traces that marked Venetian Jewish life since 1516. It shows the multifaceted attitude of Venetian Jews to the contiguous maintenance of autochthonous traditions and integration into the richly textured musical life of Venice. Ghettoization was challenged by the transgressive nature of sound and music. Its rich sonic tapestry echoed the profound social shifts that historians of Italian Jewry, such as Robert Bonfil, Benjamin Ravid, and David Ruderman, perceive as the cause for the restructuring of Italian Jewish identity and mentality in its path to modernity.25
25 These arguments were expounded especially in Robert Bonfil, Jewish Life in Renaissance Italy, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1984. For a summary see David B. Ruderman, ‘The Cultural Significance of the Ghetto in Jewish History,’ From Ghetto to Emancipation: Historical and Contemporary Reconsiderations of the Jewish Community, ed. David M. Myers and William V. Rowe (Scranton, PA.1997), 1-16, esp. 7-9