Friday, May 27, 2005


On my last night of miluim, my friends and I wandered into a discussion on the etymology of the word ghetto. I didn't really know where it came from. Today I stumbled across an article on precisely this question, with a suggestive answer, which I thought to share with you.

Sandra Debenedetti-Stow, in an article in the Frank Talmage memorial volume, found documentary evidence demonstrating that the Jews of Rome understood the word as being a form of the Hebrew word "get", meaning writ of divorce.

Which, I think, says a lot about their attitude toward their separation from the rest of the city. Obviously, the concept carried many chillingly dangerous ramifications as well, which history played out all too clearly. Sometimes it is better to break down those barriers and join the rest of society. But I do believe that there is a certain value in having a place of your own, where you can afford to be less self-conscious, where a self-evident identity allows a community to explore itself with more freedom.


Blogger micha said...

Sandra Debenedetti-Stow is pretty creative.

Most historians trace it to the island of Ghetto outside of Venice. Named for its large foundry ("gettato"), which they kept there in order to keep the soot away from residential areas. In 1516, Venice forced its Jews to move to the island.

7:22 PM  

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