Inside the walls.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The kitchen range has a microwave oven, upon which sits a toaster. Boxes of herbs and sugar and salt are arranged in a row. Strainers and ladles hang from hooks. There is also a supper table.
One evening The Delhi Walla enters the third-floor apartment of Elena Ferrrazzi, a Maths teacher in an elementary school in Venice. Ms Ferrazzi lives with her two daughters, Giulia and Lisa. Their home has two large halls and four rooms. The kitchen also doubles up as a drawing room. It looks like any other cozy home.
Even so, this place is extraordinary. Not because it is a 500-year-old building, but because the other side of the kitchen wall has one of the great monuments of Judaism–the Grand German Synagogue (I wrote about it here).
Ms Ferrazzi lives in Campo del Ghetto Novo, which is one of the two squares in Venice ghetto. The world’s first ghetto is commemorating its 500th anniversary this year.
I entered Ms Ferrazzi’s home to see how it is like to live in this historic district. How does the world’s first ghetto feels like when seen from within the walls of one of its typical low-ceilinged houses? What are the views from the windows? How surreal it might be to have coffee in a domestic setting, when the room next to the kitchen wall contains precious remnants of the city’s Jewish life.
Ms Ferrazzi has been living in this apartment for 20 years. She is a Christian, like most residents of the ghetto today. There are paintings in almost every room–these are art works by the painter brother of her late husband. The windows in the back rooms look out to the canal. The hall windows face the square–it is looking like a park at this time of the day. Elderly couples are seated on the benches. Children are noisily running from one end to another. Nobody is behaving like a tourist.
Ms Ferrazzi has a reputation of being an excellent baker. She makes delicious cakes and breads (yet, she is so slim!). As the evening deepens–the Jewish museum downstairs has shut down for the day–the Maths teacher sits down on the kitchen table to have coffee. One of her daughters is in the study; the other is taking a long shower. Her home is utterly quiet; it is as much at peace with the world as the empty synagogue on the other side of the kitchen wall.
Next to the synagogue
1. (The home, left, and the synagogue)
3. (Elena Ferrazzi)