Jewish Museum & Great Synagogue, Rome

Lungotevere de' Cenci, Roma
Lazio, Italy
closed on: Saturdays and major Jewish holidays (see text)
Museum Type: History / City
Museo Ebraico di Roma - Jewish Museum of Rome - Inexhibit 1

The Museo Ebraico di Roma (Jewish Museum of Rome) is a Jewish museum housed in the Tempio Maggiore (Great Synagogue) complex in Rome, Italy.

Cover image: The Great Synagogue of Rome, home of the Jewish Museum; view from the Tiber River’s south embankment; photo © Riccardo Bianchini/Inexhibit

History and site – the Great Synagogue complex
The idea to create a space in Rome aimed to disseminate the Jewish culture originated in the 1960s when a first gallery was opened inside the synagogue; yet, only in 2001, the plan for a new, larger exhibition space was developed, eventually leading to the opening of the new Jewish Museum of Rome in 2005.

The museum is housed in the basement of the Great Synagogue, an imposing building located in the former Roman Ghetto, the second most ancient Jewish quarter in Italy after that of Venice, built on the Tiber’s Lungotevere De’ Cenci embankment, near the Tiber Island.
The Great Synagogue was built in 1904, after a design by architects Vincenzo Costa and Osvaldo Armanni, to replace the old synagogue of Rome, an ensemble of five synagogues (the Cinque Scole in Italian) which was set for demolition together with a large part of the then unhealthy ghetto neighborhood; the ghetto itself had been formally abolished in 1970 and its walls were torn down eighteen years later.
The area of the former ghetto is now one of the most popular neighborhoods in Rome, also famous for the Porticus Octaviae archaeological site (just beside the museum) and for its many restaurants featuring traditional Jewish-Roman cuisine (yet, only a few of them are conducted by Jews and are fully Kosher these days).

Museo Ebraico di Roma - Jewish Museum of Rome - Inexhibit 2

Portico Ottavia Roma Porticus Octaviae archaeological site Rome Inexhibit

The Great Synagogue of Rome and the “Porticus Octaviae” archaeological site in the former Roman Ghetto; photos ©  Riccardo Bianchini/Inexhibit

Museum and permanent exhibition
Along with the Great Synagogue and the museum, the Tempio Maggiore complex comprises the Spanish (Sephardic rite) Synagogue, the offices of the Jewish Community of Rome, the Rabbinical Office, the ritual bath or Mikveh, and a historical archive.
The collection of the Jewish Museum is largely based on objects recovered from the old Five Synagogues and donations by members of the local Jewish community.

The museum’s permanent exhibition is divided into eight thematic galleries, in which the history of the Jewish community of Rome and various subjects related to Jews’ culture and life are presented with description panels, documents, artworks, religious objects, textiles, parchments, furniture, garments, everyday objects, photographs, and videos.

The Ancient Marble Gallery features many marble carvings, from the 16th to the 19th century, of particular importance and significance for the Jewish Community of Rome.
The Textile Preservation Center presents a selection from the museum’s 900-piece textile collection, including precious Renaissance velvet, Baroque embroidery, and silk fabric decorated with gold thread.
From Judaei to Jews depicts the history and origins of the 2000-year-old Roman Jewish community through ancient tombstones, manuscripts, and maps.
The exhibition Year and Life Cycle Celebrations focuses on the major rituals, celebrations, and coming-of-age ceremonies in a Jew’s life, and Jewish yearly and weekly events.
The exhibition Treasures of the Cinque Scole features various liturgical objects from the old Five Synagogues of Rome, including silvers, chandeliers, inlaid marbles, and tapestries.
The section Life and Synagogues of the Ghetto illustrates the daily life in the Jewish quarter, the peculiar Judeo-Roman language, the traditional Jewish-Roman cuisine, the architecture, and the popular culture of the ghetto.
From emancipation to the present day focuses on the recent history of the Jewish community (Comunità Ebraica) of Rome from the end of the papacy’s rule on the city of Rome in 1870 and the subsequent abolition of the ghetto to the Shoah and the persecution of Jews under the Fascism and the Nazi occupation of Italy to post-war Jewish history and the role of the Roman Jews in today’s Italian society and culture.
Finally, the Libyan Judaism Room, which opened in December 2017, presents – through documents, objects, and photographs – the history of the over 6,000 Lybian Jews who came to Rome as refugees in 1967 after the Six-Day War, and that of their ancient community.

The museum and the Great Synagogue can be visited through guided tours, for single visitors and groups of up to 40 people.
The museum is closed on Saturday and on the following Jewish holidays: Purim, Passover Eve, Passover, Yom Ha’azmaut, Shavuot, Tishà Be Av, Rosh Ha Shanà, Yom Kippur, Sukkot/O’Shannà Rabbà, Sukkot, Sheminì Atzeret, and Simhat Torà (check the museum’s website for this year’s exact dates).

Torah Dressings, Jewish Museum, Rome

Jewish Museum of Rome, Torah Dressings; photo Mike Freedman (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Mezuzah Case, Jewish Museum, Rome

Jewish Museum of Rome, Mezuzah Case; photo Mike Freedman (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Tempio Maggiore Roma Great Synagogue of Rome interior

The Great Synagogue, interior view; photo Sarahtarno (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

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copyright Inexhibit 2024 - ISSN: 2283-5474