The Museum of Italian Judaism and the Shoah opened recently in Ferrara. Built in an area that once housed a prison complex (which closed in 1992), MEIS  includes two exhibition spaces, one housed in a building that blends into the older urban fabric, and one that has received certification for green building design. Between the two structures is the “Garden of Questions” designed to “bring the public closer to Jewish culture through smells and flavors.” (MEIS website)

The Museum, founded by a Law passed in April of 2003, is meant to “bear witness” but also to provide a “place of meeting and sharing.” (MEIS website)

Currently on display are two exhibitions: one, “Jews, an Italian Story: the First Thousand Years,” uses artifacts, multimedia technology, and installations to tell the story of the Jewish population in Italy from the second century BCE to the 10th century CE. The second exhibition, “The Renaissance Speaks Hebrew,” is open through September 15th and looks at the creation of identity within Jewish populations in a number of Renaissance cities. The exhibition demonstrates that “there is no Italian Renaissance without Judaisim. And there is no Italian Judaism without the Renaissance.” (MEIS)

The exhibition catalogue, edited by Giulio Busi and Silvana Greco, includes 19 essays organized around the following themes: Spaces, Lives, Conflicts, and Encounters.

References: MEIS website; Wall, Harry D. “A New Museum Explores 2,000 Years of Jewish Life in Italy.” New York Times (April 24, 2019).


MEIS complex including framing buildings and Garden of Questions (Jennifer D. Webb)

Further reading: Dana E. Katz, The Jew in the Art of the Italian Renaissance (Philadelphia PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008); The Jewish Ghetto and the Visual Imagination of Early Modern Venice (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2019).

Posted by Jennifer D. Webb

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