All the other parts of Venice require that you take water taxis (nothing under $75 no matter where you want to go) or public boats (vaparettos), which are relatively inexpensive but like the New York City subway are packed with locals and tourists. And there are many different lines, so you need to ask instructions.
If you wish to spend a meaningful and spiritually uplifting Shabbos in Venice, you will have to stay at a hotel which is land-connected to the ghetto, as there are no other Shabbos or weekday minyan options. The longest walk to the ghetto from almost anywhere in St. Marco is about thirty-five minutes, so no matter where in St. Marco you stay, you can always walk to the ghetto.
How to spend Shabbos in Venice? The first thing to do is call Rami, the owner of Gam Gam, the only glatt kosher restaurant there, and make reservations for Friday night and Shabbos lunch. Rami is not just the owner of Gam Gam, he’s also a Lubavitcher shaliach, and in true Lubavitch spirit he provides free Friday night and Shabbos meals (during the weekdays you pay), on a walk-in basis.
Rami also oversees a for-pay restaurant on Shabbos only called the Gallery, a cordial and quiet venue as opposed to the Shabbos Gam Gam, which, being a favorite of frum students and young couples, has a rather lively atmosphere.
Rami’s food is delicious and plentiful, and Rami and his wife, Shachar, continuously check on each patron throughout the meals.
For davening you have two distinct choices. The main shul is the world-renowned Spanish Scola Sephardic shul, which is open for services only on Shabbos. The shul is beautiful and the davening is minhag Italki. Talking is not tolerated, and there is no moving about.
Tight security is provided by an Israeli guard who always asks for your passport. (Only later did we learn that an eruv is operative throughout the ghetto and beyond; had we known, we would not have had to explain to the guard why we could not carry on Shabbos – which he already knew and so allowed us in with a smile.) In fact, there is a 24-hour police presence in the ghetto at all times.
The other choice is a Lubavitch one-room shul (with a mechitzah, of course). Davening on Shabbos morning starts at 10 a.m. and the minyan is loud and leibedig. Tourists are welcome and the first to get aliyahs. Rami gives a drasha between Shacharis and Mussaf. Shalosh Seudos is heartening as each tourist guest is invited to share divrei Torah. Havdalah is conducted outside in the heart of the ghetto.
During the week there is a minyan every day and evening at the Lubavitch shtiebel.
Rami’s phone number in Venice is 041-5231495 and you can visit jewishvenice.org for more information.Daniel Retter
About the Author: Daniel Retter, Esq., is the author of the sefer “HaMafteach” (Koren Publishers), an indexed reference guide to Talmud Bavli and the Mishnayos, in Hebrew and English. A frequent contributor of feature articles to The Jewish Press, he practices immigration, real estate, and business law in New York City. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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