A new Jewish museum is opening this week in Padova (Padua), the historic town in northern Italy not far from Venice. Also this month, in a series of inaugural events, the Jewish Museum of Franconia (Jüdisches Museum Franken), in Bavaria, opened a third branch in the small town of Schwabach.
The Museo della Padova Ebraica (Museum of Jewish Padova), which officially opens June 18 and then opens to the public on June 21, is sited in the former “German,” synagogue, Sinagoga Tedesca, used by the Ashkenazic community, which was inaugurated in 1525 in the heart of the Jewish quarter, or ghetto, in the city’s historic center. The synagogue was severely damaged during World War II and completely rebuilt in 1998 (the ark was transferred to Tel Aviv in 1956).
The new museum will be a multimedia experience combined with the exhibition of an extensive collection of Judaica objects from past centuries to the present. Among them are a parochet from Egypt dating back to the 15th or 16th century, an 18th century Megillah, and a 16th century Torah scroll. A backlit photographic reproduction of the Ark occupies the space where the Ark once stood.
Exhibits will tell the centuries-old story of the Jewish experience in Padova. And there will be a 45-minute video installation in the women’s gallery focusing on 10 figures who were prominent in Padovan Jewish history: Jehuda Mintz, don Isac Abravanel, Meir Katzenellenbogen, Moshe Chayyim Luzzatto, Mosè David Valle, Shemuel David Luzzatto, Leone Wollemborg, Leone Romanin Jacur, Giacomo Levi Civita, e Lea Nissim.
Moreover, in association with the museum, professional guides will lead tours of the ghetto, to Padova’s five ancient Jewish cemeteries and to the Italian rite synagogue, which also dates from the 16th century and still today serves the small Jewish community.
The museum’s designers and curators included Davide Romanin Jacur, Aron Locci, and Gadi Luzzatto Voghera, with the collaboration of many volunteers in preparing the exhibits. Owned by the Jewish community of Padova, the museum will be run by CoopCultura, a professional organization that already runs the Jewish museums of Venice and Florence as well as other Jewish cultural institutions in Italy.
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The Jewish Museum of Franconia is housed in historic buildings in three towns: Fürth, Schnaittach (where the museum occupies the 16th century synagogue) and now Schwabach.
In Schwabach, the new branch is situated in a former Jewish house in the old Jewish quarter, where other buildings nearby include a synagogue, the rabbi’s home, a school and homes of Jewish court agents and families.
The house where the museum is sited is notable for having in it a sukkah, believed to have been installed by the then-owner of the house, Moses Löw Koppel, in about 1795.
It has a coffered ceiling that can be opened and is decorated with unique wall paintings from the late Baroque period.
In addition to traditional ritual scenes and floral motifs, the wall paintings include a freely drawn rendition of a hare being hunted. “The rabbit hunt is symbolic of the persecution of the Jews,” Daniela Eisenstein, director of the Jewish Museum of Franconia, told the German Jewish online publication ha-Galil.