Roman Jews

Inside, and outside, the Ghetto.

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Tourists & Locals

Visiting tourists (Jewish and not) have also helped breathe new life into the area. Guidebooks point to the Ghetto as one of Rome's lesser-known gems, and, because of Jews' long history there, one of the most "authentically Roman" places to visit. "When I first started giving tours of Jewish Rome in 2002, nobody came," Pavoncello said. Now her guided walks regularly sell out.

Despite the Jewish community's dispersal to other neighborhoods, the Ghetto continues to serve as a primary gathering place. Every day around lunchtime, the street fills with hundreds of students spilling out of the K-12 Jewish day school that is housed in a refurbished building in the Ghetto neighborhood. Nearby benches are lined with community elders who discuss the day's news, and on Saturday nights, young adults head to one of the Ghetto's kosher fast food joints.

It is not hyperbolic to claim this current moment as unique in Rome's Jewish history. Instead of being vilified, Jewish life is now celebrated. Today, the Ghetto is one of the chicest places to eat lunch, non-Jewish student groups regularly visit Museuo Ebraico, and Pope Benedict XVI is a devoted fan of the neighborhood's famous pastries. More importantly, the Jewish community has rediscovered its own vibrant soul. "One thing is for certain, said Pavoncello, speaking about the community she has lived in all her life. "We are not wandering Jews."

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Leah Koenig

Leah Koenig is a freelance writer whose work has been published in The New York Times Magazine, Gastronomica, Jewish Living, Lilith, Culinate, Beliefnet and other publications.