The Roman Jews have been a part of the Roman Empire since its founding. In their very public synagogues, stone epitaphs and marble sarcophagi they have refused to hide in plain sight or assimilate. Instead, throughout the eternal city’s history, the Roman Jews have openly expressed their refusal to be marginalized or forgotten—and in doing so, they have contributed to the fabric and history of Rome.
While Rome has some of the best museums, art galleries and archaeological sites in the world , It is impossible to see everything in a single visit.
However, with a Rome guide in Jewish history who can easily navigate through museums, art galleries and archaeological sites YOU can see and experience Rome and its surrounding areas from a Jewish perspective.
Rome’s Jewish Ghetto no longer officially exists (it was abolished in 1882), but the neighborhood is still the center of Rome’s Jewish community. My Walking tour focuses on the city’s Jewish life and history, highlighting the neighborhood’s cuisine as excellent ways to discover the history and culture of this unique corner of Rome. You will also have the opportunity to visit the modern magnificent Synagogue and its Museum wich has a curated collection of documents and artifacts related to local Jewish history. Here inside you will be deeply informed about the story of Rome’s jewish community and its persecution during World War II. Also we will make a stop at the Kosher Bakery to taste the famous “Pizza Giudia” where we’ll have the chance to meet other Jews, who consider the place as a meeting point.
Religious discrimination started in the Middle Ages and led to segregation in 1555 under Pope Paul IV. The tour will reveal the original settlement in the area of Trastevere and how the Tiberine Island in the pagan and Christian era, hosted as well a jewish hospital still active nowadays. Across the river is the “Ghetto”, surrounded by walls and closed by gates: there lived until 1870 more than 5000 jews in miserable houses over the ruins of a majestic square, the Porticus of Octavia, and the gigantic Theatre of Marcellus. Inaugureted by Augustus in 17 B. C. was turned in the Middle Ages into a massive fortress.
You will have the opportunity to visit the modern magnificent Synagogue and its Museum where you will be deeply informed about the story of Rome’s jewish community and its persecution during World War II. Also ee’ll stop at the Kosher Bakery to taste the famous “Pizza Giudia” where we’ll have the chance to meet other Jews, who consider the place as a meeting point.
Today, despite its unhappy history, the Jewish Ghetto is now one of Rome’s most beautiful quarter.
The Jewish Ghetto is in Rione Sant’Angelo, directly across the Tiber River from the Trastevere neighborhood and not far from the Roman Forum. There are no metro stops near the Ghetto, but a number of city bus lines connect it with the train station and other parts of the city. Remember: a tour focused on the Jewish Ghetto is best scheduled when the neighborhood businesses are open; many close for the Sabbath, from Friday at sunset to Saturday at sunset. We will see The Turtle Fountain: You know, the Eternal City is known for its dozens of beautiful fountains, and one of the prettiest is the Turtle Fountain (Fontana delle Tartarughe) in the ghetto’s Piazza Mattei. Dating from the late Renaissance, this small fountain’s original dolphin decorations were replaced by turtles due to low water pressure, resulting in the final version we see today.
CHOOSE YOUR TOUR WITH ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE (DAVAR ACHER):
3 hours walking tour Rome דבר אחר, Davar Acher (another perspective):
- Theatre of Marcellus
- Portico d’Ottavia/Octavia Porticus
- Ghetto district
- Piazza Mattei/Mattei Square
- Via della Reginella
- Synagogue +Synagogue Museum
- Ponte Rotto
- Ponte Fabricio
- Tiberine Island
- Ponte Cestio
- Piazza in Piscinula
- Church of Santa Maria in Trastevere
- Trastevere, Vicolo dell’Atleta
4 hours tour (with transportation) Vatican and Colosseum דבר אחר (Davar Acher (another perspective):
These highlights walking tours of the Colosseum, Roman Forums, Palatine Hill, Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and Saint Peter’s Basilica are grounded in traditional Jewish sources denoting significant religious aspects in Jewish lives from the ancient past through the Baroque. The rabbis, emperors, popes and famous renaissance and baroque artists mentioned in these tours all represent important accomplishments and contributions to Jewish history.
- Roman Forum
- Arch of Titus/ Arcus Titi wich commemorates the victory of the emperors Vespasian and Titus in Judea in 70 CE, which lead to the conquest of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Jewish temple.
3 hours walking Vatican tour דבר אחר – Davar Acher -(another perspective):
- Vatican Museums,
- Sistine Chapel,
- Saint Peter’s Basilica
The presentation will help to further Jewish/Christian dialogue. We will also provide those we guide with a bibliography, so that they can pursue further study on the matter.
The world of the Torah lends itself to “up-close-and-personal” study via art, architecture, sculpture and mosaic in Rome and throughout Italy. Since everyone has a different history and a different way of looking at the world, no two persons, even if they are of the same age, family, religion or socio-economic background, have identical perceptions. Everyone has her or his own דבר אחר, Davar Acher (another perspective/ another opinion).
Rome is an open museum magically designed to celebrate, share and explore wisdom, art and scholarship. It is an intertwining of the ancient biblical past, present and future.
In this diverse and complex world in which we live, we must understand that people learn in many different ways.
There is no right or wrong answer in interpreting artworks or passages from the Torah. What is relevant is that we are all engaged in דבר אחר, davar Acher (another perspective/ another opinion) — a learning experience to understand that there are various literary and visual interpretations (inspirations) of just one or two media through which an artist creates. We also learn from the artist’s interpretations of his/her contemporary society at the time, and we build from that–be it literary interpretation, or an artist’s understanding relayed through paint , marble, fresco, or mosaic.
For example, when we examine the captivating figures from the Torah, this helps us to gain a full understanding of the related scripture stories, Just as Michelangelo, Raphael and Bernini (to name a few) did over 500 years ago.
Michelangelo made Florence the city of David, Rome the city of Moses, and the Vatican the city
of Talmudic and Kabbalist allusions while Seven Hebrew Prophets gaze down upon us from the inner sanctum of King Solomon’s Temple, known as the Sistine Chapel.
Raphael was assigned the position of Commissioner of Antiquities and tasked with preserving them. In his painting “The Expulsion of Heliodorus”, he drew his inspiration from studying the magnificent menorah on the Arch of Titus.
Bernini modeled the bronze baldechino ( canopy) after those in Solomon’s temple and the Keruvim from the Holy Ark, while his David in the Gallery Borghese captures the revelatory moment from I Samuel 17:49.
When we as an audience interpret works of art from the ancient or recent past, medieval, renaissance, baroque , and continuing through modern and post-modern eras, we open up worlds of meaning and experience for ourselves and for those who hear, read, or see our interpretations. It is through various interpretations of scripture and art, and through their the insightful and fascinating view into the intellectual and emotional worlds of the artists of their time, that we are shown how a Jewish audience interprets Hebrew scriptures from a different perspective from that of their Christian counterparts.
Rome and Lazio have some of the best museums, art galleries, architecture, archaeological sites, villas, catacombs, churches, synagogues, wineries, olive groves, piazzas and fountains in the world. It is impossible to see everything in a single visit. However, with Rome guide in Jewish history who can navigate through these marvelous offerings, the visitor can see the the highlights from a Jewish perspective.
Interpreting art, architecture, and sculpture, while reading passages from the Torah, is rewarding, and yields many fruits for the mind and spirit. Viewers are engaged in thinking and talking about the art work at hand, and how its aesthetics might apply to their personal interests. By examining art, architecture and sculpture, we can take a moment to reflect, appreciate, and — most importantly — respect one another. Moreover, there can be many different responses to the same work of art, now, in contrast with the constraining biases which often sought to limit our understanding of the art of the recent past. Thus, a Jewish audience can leave with meanings relevant to their own lives in the present moment. For scripture, along with art, architecture and sculpture in Rome and Lazio, is really much more contemporary than people think—it’s a דבר אחר, davar Acher (a different perspective). .
Brenda Lee Bohen
I provide these tours in collaboration with Brenda Lee Bohen
Brenda is a Veteran of the United States Army Reserves and holds dual citizenship in both the United States and Italy. She has earned a BA in the History of Art and Architecture from De Paul University, and a Masters in Science in Historic Preservation from the School of The Art Institute of Chicago. She has studied at the Pontifical Gregorian University’s Cardinal Bea Institute for Jewish Studies in Rome, while continuing advanced scholarship in Jewish History at the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership in Chicago. She specializes in Rome Jewish history through the Torah, as well as in Historic Preservation, and is a member of the Illinois Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums and the Illinois Holocaust Museum. She provides walking tours of the Jewish ghetto neighborhood and is authorized to explain privately inside the Jewish Museum of Rome, inside the Spanish Synagogue, and inside the Great Synagogue. Her highlights walking tours of the Colosseum, Roman Forums, Palatine Hill, Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and Saint Peter’s Basilica are grounded in traditional Jewish sources denoting significant religious aspects in Jewish lives from the ancient past through the Baroque. The rabbis, emperors, popes and famous renaissance and baroque artists mentioned in her tours all represent important accomplishments and contributions to Jewish history. Her recent academic papers were accepted to present at Conferences in the United States, Europe, Iceland and Singapore: “A Mitzvah in Historic Preservation: The Need for the Conservation of Stone Epitaphs Dedicate to Jewish Women in Ancient Rome” “דבר אחר in Ancient Rome:Understanding Greco-Roman History through the Torah and Historic Preservation” “The Roman Jews and Pope Pius XII” “Christian Students and The Jewish Museum of Rome” “Advocating the Conservation of the Ostia Antica Synagogue in Rome in its Surrounding Landscape”
Full day with Guide, car and personal driver:
- Arch of Titus,
- Moses by Michelangelo
- Ostia Antica (ancient Synagougue)
Half day with car, Guide and personal driver:
Colosseum, Arch of Titus, Ghetto, Trastevere
Moses by Michelangelo
This private tour, allows customized experiences for those with limited mobility, food allergies, or other requirements or preferences.
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