A new Jewish museum has opened in Rome. The old museum, which was on the first floor of the Roman synagogue on the Lungotevere Cenci, has been moved into five rooms, 600 square metres in all, on the garden level of the building, with a new entrance through the garden of the temple from Via Catalana.
The visit to the museum begins in a room which contains a display of fabrics and curtains used for wrapping the rolls of the Torah (the teaching and judicial decisions given by the ancient Hebrew priests) and for covering the furniture which houses the Torah; the furniture is very richly embroidered, especially the curtains from Tuscany which date from the 15th century, made in velvet and decorated with golden thread.
Other exhibits in the museum include inscriptions from the Roman catacombs and from the synagogue at Ostia Antica bearing witness to the fact that the first Jews arrived in Rome in 161 BC mediaeval manuscripts, antique silver and items dating from 1555-1870 when the Jewish population was required to live in the ghetto and only allowed out during the daytime as long as they wore a Jewish insignia. Only two professions were permitted to Jews during this period: money lending and the selling of used clothes. The Jews were emancipated and only received full citizenship after the unification of Italy.
The new museum also has a 30-minute video which relates the story of the Roman Jewish community from the opening of the ghetto, the years of persecution from 1938-44 and the reconstruction of the community following world war two.
The Roman Jewish Museum, Via Catalana, Largo 16 Ottobre 1943. Open Thursdays 10.0017.00 and Fridays 09.0014.00. Closed 1 January, 25 April, 1 May, 2 June, 15 August and in the afternoon on any other Catholic holidays. For information tel. 0668400661. Guided tours are available.