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The Synagogue 

The Museum

The U. Nahon Museum


The U. Nahon Museum of Italian Jewish Art is the home of the material and spiritual treasures of the Italian Jewish community - the oldest Jewish community in the West, dating back to the first century BCE. The museum's collection includes Torah Arks, Judaic, documents, books and manuscripts , items of clothing, objects of art and everyday objects that were collected by Shlomo Umberto Nahon, a Zionist activist in Italy and a member of the Jewish Agency in Israel. Made Aliyha to Israel with his family in the 1930s, and settled first in Tel Aviv and then in Jerusalem. After World War II, he joined forces together with promenent figures in Italian Jewery in Italy and in Israel, including Sally Meyer and Federico Luzzatti, in efforts to save the cultural assets of Italian Jews, many of whom were in real danger due to the destruction of their communities in the Holocaust. Thus began the greatest cultural rescue project in the Israel's history, and some forty Torah Arks, Synagougues and their contents were brought from Italy to Israel and scattered in synagogues and museums throughout the country. The many Liturgical and art objects that were brought to Israel in this operation were displayed in several rooms adjacent to the Italian synagogue in Jerusalem. About a decade after the death of Nahon, these spaces and their treasures were opened to the public - this time as a real museum, The U. Nahon Museum of Italian Jewish Art.

At the Museum we collect, preserve and display items from the fifteenth century to the present day, which represent most of the Jewish communities in Italy. Our goal is to show the general public the history of Italian Jews, their rich culture and their contribution to the Jewish people and the State of Israel.

The Museum is a recognized museum according to the Israeli Museum Law (1983), and benefits from the support of the Ministry of Culture, the Jerusalem Municipality, the Council for the Preservation of Heritage Sites, the Shusterman Foundation and the Friends of the Museum.

The Synagogue of Conegliano- Veneto

The heart of the museum is the magnificently beautiful synagogue of Conegliano Veneto. The synagogue was brought to Israel in its entirety from Italy in 1951, and has since been used by the community of Italian Jews in Jerusalem.

Jews have lived in Congliano Veneto (about eighty kilometers north of Venice), since the sixteenth century. The ark of their synagogue is decorated with Gilded wood carvings. An inscription in the lower part of the Ark indicates that it was dedicated to the memory of the rabbi of the community- Natan Ottolengo (died in 1615), who also served as the director of the Torah Talmud in the city. In 1701, the Ark, together with the rest of the furniture were moved to a "new" synagogue, built by the community, and the Roccoco wings were added. At the end of the nineteenth century, the Jews began to leave Congliano, mainly in search of better employment. The synagogue stood abandoned, and worshipers visited it only rarely. The last time it was in use was during Passover 1918; the worshipers were Jewish officers and soldiers from the Austro-Hungarian army, led by the young military rabbi Dr. Ernst (Aharon) Deutsch. From then until after World War II, the synagogue stood empty.

After World War II, the municipality of Congliano decided to destroy the historic city center, including the Jewish ghetto and its synagogue. The heads of the community in Venice, which was responsible for the assets of the abandoned community, sought to save the beautiful synagogue and find a proper place for it. That's when Dr. Nahon, along with Sally Meyer and Federico Luzzatti, two key figures in the Italian Jewish community both in Italy and Israel, organized the transfer of the synagogue from Italy to Jerusalem, where a community of Jews of Italian origin had been living since the 1920s. After it was restored, the synagogue was inaugurated with great pomp and splendor on Shabbat HaGadol 1952.

Later the synagogue became an integral part of the museum, but it still fulfills its purpose; Jews from Italy continue to visit the ancient synagogue, and prayers are held there on Fridays and Saturdays, on holidays and on special occasions. The prayers are cunducted according to the "Roman" rite - one of the oldest rites in the Jewish world, and the closest to the one preformed in the Land of Israel during the time of the Second Temple.

Beit Yehudei Italia Schmidt compound

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The museum and the synagogue are housed in the "Beit Yehudei Italia", in a neo-Gothic style building with its own rich and fascinating history. The building was built by the A German Society in 1886-1887 as part of the "Schmidt Complex", named after the Lazarist priest Wilhelm Schmidt (1833-1908) who for many years headed the "German Catholic Society in Palestine", and was also called the German Complex. The building served as a hostel for German pilgrims, and a center for philanthropic activities. The magnificent building opposite housed a school for Syrian girls and between the two buildings was a garden surrounded by a wall. The garden gate, the remains of which can still be seen today in the courtyard of the complex, opened onto the street. The spacious hall on the ground floor is one of the last remnants of the original building. The ceiling of the hall is made of vaults and its walls are covered with paintings of scenes from the Old and New Testaments, plants, fruits and animals accompanied by verses in six languages: Hebrew, Arabic, German, Latin, Greek and Syriac. During the preservation of the paintings, which were done by experts from Italy in 2015, the names of the artists who decorated this special hall were revealed: "Franz Eichle, painter, 1893", "Joseph Kaltenbach, painter, 1893". Today the hall is used for concerts and lectures, as well as private events.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the "German Catholic Society in Palestine" moved to a new complex near the old city, and the Schmidt complex was abandoned. In 1930, the Jewish school, "Ma'ale", was established, and operated there for nearly 50 years. In the 1940s, the Italian Jewish community was given permission to gather there for Shabbat prayers. With the transfer of the Congliano Vento Synagogue to Israel in the early 1950s, it seemed to be the most natural place for it. The Museum of Italian Jewish Art was opened to the public in 1983. Thus began a new and exciting chapter in the history of the building known today as "Beit Yehudei Italia".

Today, Beit Yehudei Italia serves as the spiritual and cultural home and center of the Italian community in Israel, as a whole and in Jerusalem in particular. Alongside the community, the Museum works to collect, preserve and display the cultural treasures of this fascinating community.

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