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December 11, 2015 5:02 pm

Charity Headed by Diane von Furstenberg Calls on Wealthy Celebrities to Help Fund Restoration of Venice’s Jewish Ghetto

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Main square of Venetian Ghetto, where Venetian Jews were decreed to live. Photo: Wikipedia

The main square of the Venetian ghetto. Photo: Wikipedia

A non-profit organization headed by Jewish designer Diane von Furstenberg is appealing to celebrities for donations to help restore Venice’s ancient Jewish ghetto, The Telegraph reported on Thursday.

The Venetian Heritage Council hopes to fund extensive repairs to the Ghetto’s five synagogues, which date back to the 16th century, and its Jewish museum, the Museo Ebrico. The organization has already raised $2.2 million but still needs another $6.6 million.

Donations have already been made by prominent American Jews, most of whom wish to remain anonymous, according to The Telegraph. Barbra Streisand has also taken an interest in the project as has Jewish fashion designer Donna Karan. The group also hopes that director Steven Spielberg will contribute to the restoration project.

“The Ghetto of Venice sits at a nexus of world history for Venice, Europe and Jewish culture as a whole,” said Joseph Sitt, the chairman of the Venetian Heritage Council. “It needs to be saved, its history told.”

The appeal comes as Venice prepares to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Ghetto’s establishment.

The Venetian republic decreed in March of 1516 that all Jews living in the city should move to the Ghetto, an area of narrow alleyways and tall houses surrounding two squares: the Campo del Ghetto Nuovo and the Campo del Ghetto Vecchio. The area was considered ideal by Venetian rulers because it was in the Cannaregio district, far removed from the heart of Venice, and surrounded by water, effectively making it a prison for Jews, The Telegraph said. The Ghetto was enclosed by walls and gates that were locked at midnight by guards and reopened at dawn.

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