Sunday, May 8, 2022

Big G Ghetto

     Loving words is not without its disappointments. Because many people don't care.
     And subscribing to the New York Times can also be disheartening. Because sometimes they drop the ball.
     Those two sources of  let-down merged Thursday, reading the Arts section, topped with Robin Pogrebin's story, 
Reviving the Renaissance Temples of Venice's Jewish Ghetto, about exactly that. I read it twice, not because it was so interesting—it really wasn't—but to make sure what was left out truly wasn't there.
     Venice's Ghetto, the tiny acre and a half island where up to 5,000 Jews were forced to live, lest they pollute Christian Venice, is the original ghetto. It's where we get the word, taken from an iron foundry that was located there 600 years ago.
     The etymology isn't a big secret. The second sentence of the Venice Ghetto's Wikipedia entry is: "The English word ghetto is derived from the Jewish ghetto in Venice."
     That might not be a big deal. But it is interesting, is it not? Worth sharing. 
     I suppose, in their defense, maybe they assume that everybody already knows. Though you didn't know, did you? And you're pretty smart.
     Why include it? I'd say it's the most relevant, germane aspect of the story. Otherwise, it's a rehab story about a place you'll probably never see.
     Maybe I'm just bitter. I've been to Venice twice and didn't get to the Ghetto either time. The first time because I was there with my dad for a single day at the end of a very long trip and had no energy, time or intention of going. Though 
I tend to hit synagogues abroad—muscle memory—we had been to temples in Charleston, Bridgetown, and Rome. That was enough. 
     The second time, five years ago, I did hope to go.  But we got hung up at the Palazzo Grassi, ogling Damien Hirst artworks.
     Though I comfort myself with the thought that now I have a reason to go back to Venice. With millions of dollars being poured into restoring these synagogues, it's better to have waited until they were looking their best.
    Still, c'mon, New York Times. A little respect for the etymologists. History matters. To some of us, anyway. If you find yourselves writing a travel piece about Normandy Beach, at least mention that there was a famous landing there a long time ago. It'll be news to some folks, and those who already know, well, we expect a least a nod.

1 comment:

  1. Great timing. Just returned today from glorious adventures in Italia. We toured the Venice Jewish Ghetto with a most engaging guide. Her explanation of the origin of the word giotto or geto is linked to a phonetic issue. Getto is pronounced with a soft g (gin), while ghetto is pronounced with a hard g (girl). She posited that the Jews turned the soft g into a hard one. At any rate, the Spanish synagogue was inspiring as was the matzah ball soup at Gam Gam. The ghetto is mostly inhabited by young bohemians and students although there are still about 500 Jews that work and worship there, while living elsewhere.


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