May 19, 2007

Ghetto

One can't live in United States and not come across this term. Even Elvis Presley could not keep himself from crooning :

"As the snow flies
On a cold and gray Chicago mornin'
A poor little baby child is born
In the ghetto
And his mama cries
'cause if there's one thing that she don't need
it's another hungry mouth to feed
In the ghetto..................."

The expression comes from 1516 when the Venetian government made it mandatory for the Jews in Venice to live on the island known as the Ghetto Nuovo (the New Ghetto), which was walled up with only two gates that were locked from sunset to sunrise. Then, when in 1541 visiting Ottoman Jewish merchants complained that they did not have enough room in the ghetto, the government ordered twenty dwellings located across a small canal walled up, joined by a footbridge to the Ghetto Nuovo, and assigned to them. This area was already known as the Ghetto Vecchio (the Old Ghetto), thereby strengthening the association between Jews and the word "ghetto."

Segregated Jewish quarters had existed earlier too, in fact most often Jews chose voluntarily to live close together. But it's only after 1516 that the term "ghetto" came into being. During World War II the term ghetto attained its popularity as Nazis went about setting them up throughout Europe before transporting Jews to concentration camps from ghettos. Today the term has acquired wider (and negative) connotations as it has come to mean an impoverished section of a city where members of any racial group are segregated and perpetuated by economic and social pressures rather than legal and physical measures.

Sources: http://www.answers.com/ , http://www.veniceword.com/news/39/ghetto.html
Pic : The bridge to Ghetto in Venice, sourced from Google Images.

10 comments:

yogsma said...

wow...nice trivia..but i feel the word really weird...i don't know.

suramya said...

why did the jews agree to live together in the first place????? all walled up too, I love the pic and the bridge

Moi said...

yogsma : i thought it was a neologism..never knew the word had existence from 16th century...If u come to US, u cant escape the term coz every urban setting has numerous, what they call "ghettos"....it's an everyday term here......

Su: The Jews preferred to live together as a community....Even now when u visit Europe there are specific Jewish quarters/ pockets in the city in most of the countries for some of them simply prefer to stay together.....And why did they agree? They could not have had a choice for it's a race thats been prosecuted over centuries.....:(

suramya said...

hmmm, thats true. but I right now my sympathies definitely don't lie with israel. its interesting to find out the causes of their persecution. and even shakespeare didn't spare them, remember shylock in the merchant of venice

Moi said...

With history as complex as it is, I wonder if I will ever know where my sympathies lie.....Shakespeare I think was only representing the times. I have come across Wilde's works too where Jews would be represented as mercenaries and despised....A visit to the local Holocaust museum representing their chronological persecution and ostracization from centuries ago was a one-sided view but very very disturbing.

suramya said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
suramya said...

Yeah u can say shakespeare was just representing the times, but u know he did endow shylock with all the evil quantities that a villian can have and there was constant stress on his being a jew, I think if he didn't have any prejudice he would have just highlighted the prejudices in the other characters towards shylock instead of villifying shylock, or if he did want to have a villain he would have not emphasized on the religion.
The holocaust materials that are found on the net are so disturbing, I was unable to read everything that I wanted cause it troubled me so much. One can almost forgive israel for everything, almost but not quite.

Moi said...

It's weird Suramya how the more things change the more they remain constant. If it were Jews earlier, it's Islam now...and so on so forth.. The world needs a pattern to emerge so that it conveniently can blame a section of the world's population for the miseries around........

suramya said...

thats so true, I hate it when people judge each other on the basis of their religion, it happens a lot in college too, among the so called educated and broad minded youth

www.ghetto.it said...

Hi everyone,
To keep your memories of the Jewish Ghetto of Venice fresh, have a look of the website http://www.ghetto.it
Have fun :-)