On 29 March 1516, the Venetian Republic created the first ghetto on a small island in the north-western sestiere of Cannaregio. The residents were removed and replaced within a week by Jews already in Venice. This was a period in which the city sought to keep a watchful eye on all foreigners: the French, English and Spanish embassies were also relegated to Cannaregio. There had been a metal foundry (ghèto) in the parish, which has traditionally been the source of the name, although the etymology is far from clear. The French writer Alice Becker-Ho in her book Le premier ghetto ou l’exemplarité vénitienne presents a number of valid alternatives: gouda-(h), separation and ghetta, herd.
Jews within Venice therefore found a secure place to live despite the restrictions imposed on them, and were soon joined by others fleeing persecution in central Europe. They built two synagogues in the ghetto: the Schola Grande Tedesca and the Schola Canton. The pragmatic Venetian Republic later exploited the economic advantages of allowing Levantine Jews to settle there – charging the residents for rent, water, the cost of the compulsory nightwatchman and all services.
Kikes mark 500 years in Venice