Frankfurt and Venice

susanna calimaniBy Susanna Calimani*

Although the UK has just voted for the Brexit, let us stick to important things. 
Last month, almost a year after moving to Frankfurt, my parents came to visit me. We toured the city, they came to my workplace, explored the unexplored, compared the city to Venice: something better, something worse, something not comparable. The pros and cons, the weather and the food (Frankfurt-Venice 0-2), the neighborhood life and the lack of tourists (Frankfurt-Venice 2-2).

Since Jews always look for local Jewish life and heritage, halfway between a treasure hunt and an inborn attraction, on Sunday morning we went to visit the recently restored Judengasse: a museum built on the ruins of part of the Jewish district. The Judengasse was a street, 330 meters long and 10-15 meters wide, and had three gates that were closed at night, on Sundays and on Christian holidays: coming from Venice, where we are now “celebrating” the 500 years of the first Jewish Ghetto in the world, I felt the immediate connection, and added one more element to my comparison list “Frankfurt vs. Venice”. 

This was a tie: they both had a Ghetto (Frankfurt-Venice 3-3). Venice had it first, I was pretty sure about it; but only until I read on a panel that Jews were ordered to move into the Judengasse in 1462. After doing the math (2016 – 500 = 1516) I suddenly realized that maybe it was not a tie: it seemed that the concept of Ghetto was not originally born in Venice and –as a direct consequence – Frankfurt won against Venice 3-2.

Fine, I will stay longer in Frankfurt, but maybe the books might want to revise the adjective “first”.

*Susanna Calimani is a wandering economist, currently based in Frankfurt.