A Study of Synagogues in Macedonia and Thrace • Elias V. Messinas • ASF/Sephardic House & Bloch
Elias V. Messinas is a graduate of the Yale School of Architecture and Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem. His doctorate thesis at the National Technical University of Athens, under the guidance of Prof. Giorgos Sariyiannis, Prof. Doron Chen, and Prof. Aleka Karadimou-Gerolympou, examined the Greek synagogues, their architecture, and their relationship to the urban fabric of the historic city and the Jewish quarter (15th-20th century). He further expanded his research supported by an Ally Kaufmann Fellowship at the Technion Institute of Technology Faculty of Architecture, under the guidance of Prof. Daniel Shefer. He has been studying and documenting the Greek synagogues since 1993. He has lectured, published, and exhibited his research on the synagogues in the United States, Israel and Europe. In 1995 he initiated and coordinated the initial phases of the preservation program of the synagogue in Veroia in cooperation with the Municipality of Veroia, and the support of the Getty Grant Program. In 1997 he published the book The Synagogues of Salonika and Veroia in Athens, Greece, and created Kol haKEHILA the newsletter and website for the Jewish Monuments of Greece. Since 1995 he has developed an expertise in environmental preservation and ecological buildings. He has pursued research at the Desert Architecture Unit of the Ben Gurion University on the retrofit of energy-saving solutions in existing buildings. His research was supported by an exchange program of the Ministry of Education of Greece and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel under the guidance of Prof. Isaac Meir. He also attended the M.Sc. interdisciplinary program “Environment and Development” at the National Technical University of Athens under the guidance of Prof. Dimitris Rokos. Since 2005 he is the founding chairman and managing director of international environmental NGO ECOWEEK with activity in Europe and the Middle East. He shares his time between Aegina and Jerusalem, where he practices and teaches “green” Architecture and Design and is a consultant for “green” buildings, among others, to the Ministry of Environmental Protection of Israel.
The Synagogues of Greece
THE SYNAGOGUES OF GREECE: A STUDY OF SYNAGOGUES IN MACEDONIA AND THRACE is the result of nearly two decades of research and in-situ work by the author, an Ivy League educated architect, and an offspring of Greek Jewry himself. The manuscript was based on the author’s Ph.D. dissertation at the National Technical University of Athens, Greece and a post-doctoral Ally Kaufmann Fellowship research at the Technion Institute of Technology, Israel. Based on unpublished archival sources, this book traces the history of the synagogues, the Jewish quarters and Jewish communities in Greece, from antiquity, through Byzantine and Ottoman times, contemporary history and the Holocaust, when 87% of Greek Jewry was annihilated. Being the first — and so far, the only — extensive and comprehensive study and survey of the synagogues of Greece, this book fills a large gap in the documentation, knowledge and understanding of Jewish life and Architecture in Greece, and — hopefully — sets the ground for further study and research. The book is based on in-situ surveys, and to a large extent on unpublished documents from the pre-Second World War archives of the Jewish communities of Greece now at the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. It is also based on archival research around the world – including Alliance Israelite Universelle, Weiner Library, Beth Hatefutsoth, Yad Ben Zvi, Joint Distribution Committee, Central Board of Jewish Communities of Greece (KIS), Jewish Museum of Greece, and others. The reader will learn about the nearly 100 synagogues and numerous Jewish quarters standing in Greece before the Second World War, most of which have since been lost. Also, will find names, family and community ties, places of residence, and unpublished facts on Jewish social and professional life in Greece, before the Holocaust nearly erased two thousand years of flourishing Jewish life in Greece. Today, with no more than 5,000 Jews in Greece, there are less than 10 synagogues standing and only a few surviving Jewish quarters.
The Synagogues of Greece A Study of Synagogues in Macedonia and Thrace Elias V. Messinas Edited by Sam Gruber Published for American Sephardi Federation (ASF)/Sephardic House by Bloch Publishing Company, Inc. in association with Bowman & Cody Academic Publishing
The Synagogues of Greece
The Synagogues of Greece A Study of Synagogues in Macedonia and Thrace
Elias V. Messinas Edited by Sam Gruber
Published for American Sephardi Federation (ASF)/Sephardic House by Bloch Publishing Company, Inc. in association with Bowman & Cody Academic Publishing
Copyright ©2011 By Elias V. Messinas First English edition. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means, except for brief passages to be used for reviews, without the written permission of the publishers. No part of the manuscript, architectural drawings, phootographs, sketches, or graphic material may be reproduced in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the author. Published for American Sephardi Federation (ASF)/Sephardic House by Bloch Publishing Company in association with Bowman & Cody Academic Publishing.
Library of Congress Cataloguing-in-Publication Data Messinas, Elias V. The synagogues of Greece: a study of synagogues in Macedonia and Thrace / Elias V. Messinas p. cm. ISBN 978-0-8197-0789-5 (paperback) 1. Synagogues—Greece—Macedonia—Veroia—Thessaloniki 2. Synagogues—Greece—Thrace—Alexandroupolis—Didimoticho—Komotini—Xanthi 3. Synagogues, Greek—History—Architecture 4. Ottoman Empire—Greek cities—Jewish quarter. I. Title. CIP 2012945490
Cover: Front elevation of Komotini synagogue, by Elias V. Messinas Architect
Printed in the United States of America August 2012
contents Preface Foreword Acknowledgments
viii xi xiii
History and Synagogue Architecture in Greece: An Overview
The Jewish Quarter in the Greek Cities of the Ottoman Empire
The Synagogues of Greece: Macedonia Salonika
The Synagogues of Greece: Thrace Alexandroupolis
Appendix: Architectural Drawings and Illustrations (alphabetical)
Glossary and Abbreviations
preface This is the fourth volume* to be published in The Sephardi and Greek Holocaust Library, whose purpose is to fill a serious lacuna in the sad tale of the Holocaust. There is a dearth of publications on the Sephardi and Greek experiences both in terms of memoirs and scholarly studies of the period. True, there is an increasing number of publications in Greek, Hebrew, Spanish, and French; however, this material has not been submitted to the searching analysis that characterizes similar materials dealing with the variety of Ashkenazi experiences during the tragic decades of the 1930s and 1940s. The studies to be offered in this series will present to both scholars and the general public a range of materials heretofore not available in English so that the story of other communities devastated by the Nazis, marginalized for a variety of reasons by scholarly research, may find their place in the broader narrative as well as provide for their descendants an answer to the question: What happened to our relatives and ancestors in the war years? This series initially will comprise two categories of materials I. Documents, Reports, Memoirs which are contemporary to the
events of the period. The first volume of the series includes seminal materials in this category. Later volumes will contain more recently written memoirs that add new dimensions to the experience of the Jews of Greece. II. Scholarly studies on the Sephardi and Greek Holocaust. For the committee, we wish to express our gratitude to Sephardic House under whose auspices this series is being published. Support for this series has been graciously given by The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, The Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture; the Lucius M. Littauer Foundation, The Recanati Foundation in memory of Raphael Recanati, and private donors: Dianne Cadesky in memory of Esther Tivoli and Molly Edell, and Victor Besso. Special thanks are due to The Cahnman Foundation for a timely grant to complete this book. Steven Bowman Series editor Cincinnati, 2011
*Previously published volumes in The Sephardi and Greek Holocaust Library: 1. The Holocaust in Salonika, Eyewitness Accounts, edited by Steven Bowman and translated by Isaac Benmayor. 2. Heinz Salvator Kounio, A Liter of Soup and Sixty Grams of Bread. The Diary of Prisoner Number 109565. Adapted and translated by Marcia Haddad Ikonomopoulos. 3. Chimera. A Period of Madness, by Isaac Bourla 4. A Cry for Tomorrow 76859 ..., by Berry Nahmia; translated from the Modern Greek by David R. Weinberg.
I wish to express my deepest gratitude to FortunnĂ¨ and Albert Sarfatty (zâ€?l) for their concern and commitment in preserving the rich history and traditions of the Jews of Greece.
To Yvette, Maya, Noa, and Eden
foreword This book brings to completion a long process of study, research, survey and discovery. It was a process that began in 1993, when as a young architect living in New York I decided to return to Greece to survey and document the synagogues of Greece, as a natural progress of re-discovering my Jewish roots. This process came to completion in 2002, when as a mature architect living and building in Jerusalem, Israel, I was celebrating the gift of parenthood with the birth of my first daughter Maya-Zoe in March 2002. The publication of the manuscript finds me again in Jerusalem, after a long sojourn on the island of Aegina, Greece, and the Negev desert, Israel, pursuing ecological issues and “green” architecture in my practice and the work of the international NGO ECOWEEK I co-founded in 2005, and as a proud father of three: Maya-Zoe, Noa-Or, and Eden-Sari-Simha. This long process was full of excitement and emotionally charged, as the search for the Jewish architecture of Greece, meant a search deep in my own Jewish roots in Greece, connecting me to my parents, grandparents and great-grandparents from Ioannina, Chalkis, Salonika, Athens, Turkey, Italy, and Spain. During the time I have been feverishly pursuing this project, I felt very much like the protagonist in the film by Theo Angelopoulos “Ulysses’ Gaze,” who in his search of a film role traveled from Salonika through the Balkans reaching the war-stricken Sarajevo. To me too, like in Ulysses’ journey, as Greek poet Kavafis writes, the process itself was the reward, rather than the destination. The book comes only to conclude this rich and rewarding process and journey through history; the history of my own family and Jewish community. The search for information on the buildings and their history, connected me to the people that used these buildings, their children and grandchildren, now living in the United States, Israel and elsewhere in the world. For example, I will never forget the day when I met a descendant from Veroia, Yossi Mor(dohai) who lives in Jerusalem. He was born during the German occupation and was saved thanks to the efforts of his parents who hid in the mountains around Veroia and the help of the locals. His family house in Veroia, identified by the Hebrew inscription “If I forget thee O Jerusalem,” still stands. The search for synagogues brought me to remote areas in Greece, meeting local people who remembered and were eager to share their memories of Jewish neighbors and friends, lost during the Second World War; I will never forget the enthusiasm and hospitality of Tasos Kehagioglou in
Didimoticho, Nikos Karabelas and Stavros Mamaloukos in Preveza, Panagiotis Papadimitriou in Ioannina, and Giota Zafiriadou in Komotini. But I will also never forget the local Jewish people who shared their memories with me, opened their homes to me, opened the synagogues and waited patiently while I was surveying and documenting the buildings: Louis Cohen from Xanthi, David Cohen in Veroia, Elias Cohen and Rafael Frezis in Volos, Iakovos Cohen in Drama, David Jivre from Didimoticho, Leon Levis in Salonika, Anna Matsa, Nina Negrin and Samouel Cohen in Ioannina, Sabethai Tsiminos (z”l) in Kavala, Haim Kapetas in Karditsa, Ezdras Moisis in Larissa, Reveka and Izis Sakis and Iakovos Venouziou in Rhodes, Mr. Sabas in Trikala, Marios Maisis and Minas (z”l) and Becky Kosti in Chalkis; I thank them all. The search for the origins of the Greek synagogues brought me not only to Spain, but also to Izmir, Turkey, where I reconnected with the Sigura family, relatives from the side of my father whom I met for the first time in 1997. One of the most charged moments of my research was at the Central Archives of the History of the Jewish People at the Givat Ram campus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. During one of my routine searches in the Salonika files, Dov Ha-Cohen, a fellow researcher, was going through the register of the Jewish community of Izmir from the end of the nineteenth century. Suddenly, Dov, who was sitting opposite me at the reading desk, looked up towards me and started reading the names of my great-grandfather Mushon Ben Yossef Messinas (born 1865), his wife Joya Bat Meir (born 1863), and his children Rivka (born 1891), Yossef (born 1893) and my grandfather Merkado (born in 1895) who passed away January 31, 1995. The manuscript for this book is based on my doctoral thesis at the Architecture and Urban Planning department of the National Technical University of Athens, under the guidance of professors Yiorgos Sariyannis, Doron Chen and Aleka Karadimou Gerolympou. The thesis was completed in 1999, defended in July 1999, and accepted by the examining committee made up of my professors and professors N. Holevas, D. Karidis, M. Efthimiou, and G. Prokopiou. Spelling of the names of synagogues is very dependent on source and date. The spelling of these names has been unified in this book, based upon the Hebrew pronunciation. For example, Scialom Synagogue is spelled in the book Shalom Synagogue, Keila Portugal, Kehila Portugal, and Beth Shaul, Beit Shaul.
The names of cities are based on their Greek names. For cities outside Greece, I use the popular name of the city as related to the Jewish history; for example, for Edirne, Andrianoupolis, and Monastir for Bitjol. When a city was given a different name during the Ottoman period, this name is added in parenthesis next to the Greek name; for example, Komotini (Giumuldjina). I have chosen to use the name Salonika rather than the Greek name Thessaloniki as this is the name commonly used in the English and Hebrew sources, dealing with the Jewish aspect of the city. Concerning references to archival documents other than bibliographic sources, my research has been mostly based on the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People at the Givat Ram campus of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. These documents are referred to by the name of the city, number of the file, and date. For example, (Salonika 336/11.6.1930), Salonika (AIU) (the files of Alliance IsraĂŠlite Universelle), and Salonika HM (microfische). I owe the reader an explanation about the choice of the specific geographic area of Greece and also the choice of the specific cities: Before the Second World War, northern Greece was the area with the largest concentration of Jewish communities. In this area, the communities maintained their character until the early 20th century, when Macedonia and Thrace became part of Greece. The architectural typology that developed is unique and rich in examples, thereby allowing us to study and understand it. This book may also be seen as a monograph covering a specific geographic area; other areas of Greece may be covered in the future in additional publications, by this author or by others. Concerning the cities included in this book, northern Greece was the site of many Jewish communities and synagogues before the Second World War. The cities included in this book are the only ones where a synagogue
has survived. I focused only on cities with surviving synagogues in order to base my study on accurate documentation and architectural plans. Only this way, I felt, could a comprehensive study of the synagogues as works of architecture be possible. In the Appendix, the reader will find architectural plans (based on detailed surveys by the author) of all the synagogues surviving in Greece, and of some synagogues that were destroyed but there was enough architectural evidence that enabled an accurate reconstruction. They are included in order to allow the reader to compare and understand the synagogues of northern Greece within the wider context of Greece, and also to compare the synagogues of Greece to synagogues of other countries. I hope that the younger generations of architects and historians will find in this book a stimulus for them to take up their own research, and that this material will become the basis for more study and further investigation in an area that has hardly been tackled. I dedicate this book to my wife Yvette and our daughters Maya, Noa and Eden. Yvette has been an inspiring and supporting partner throughout. During our honeymoon we spent hours visiting and surveying synagogues in Corfu, Rhodes, and Kos, thus reconnecting our marriage to the celebration of Jewish life of the past, and at the same time commemorating the Greek Jewish communities that were lost during the Holocaust. Maya, Noa and Eden are the new generation that continues the Greek presence in Jerusalem, the city that stands as a symbol of history, coexistence, tolerance, and peace inspiring our present and our future. Elias V. Messinas Jerusalem, September 2010
acknowledgments This book culminates a long process of study and research during which many people, each one in their own field, each one in their own country, offered invaluable input and ideas. I am thankful to all of them who helped and supported this process of learning and preserving a piece of the history of the Jews of Greece. For the production of this book, I wish to thank the people and institutions that supported and inspired the preparation and printing of this book. Without them it would not be realized. First and most, I am grateful to Fortunn`e and Albert Sarfatty (z”l) for their concern and commitment in preserving the rich history and traditions of the Jews of Greece by generously supporting this book, and Mrs. Vicky Safra for taking this book under her wing and making it a reality. I am indebted to Sam Gruber, director of the Jewish Heritage Research Center, not only for the meticulous editing work on the manuscript, but mostly for being an inspiration in my study of synagogues, through his own published work and field documentations, which served as a model for my own work. As President of the International Survey of Jewish Monuments, Sam was the first person to respond to my intention to undertake the survey and study of the synagogues of Greece in 1993, securing not only the first “seed” grant from the World Monuments Fund, but also by securing and administering numerous grants that made the completion and publication of the study possible. I thank my professors Yiorgos Sariyannis, Doron Chen, and Aleka Karadimou Gerolympou for guidance and inspiration throughout the Ph.D. process, and the dissertation defense jury professors D. Karydi, M. Efthimiou, G. Prokopiou and N. Holevas. I thank Carol Krinsky, professor of Art History at NYU and author of The Synagogues of Europe, for initiating me into the magical world of synagogue history and architecture and for her insights and guidance in my work. I thank the Lucius N. Littauer Foundation, and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation in New York, and the Technion Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel, for an Aly Kaufman Postdoctoral Fellowship for 2001-2002, grants that made the preparation and translation of the manuscript possible. I thank the institutions that supported the survey and study of Greek synagogues since 1993: Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, the World Monuments Fund, the Kehila Kedosha Jannina in New York, and the Ian Karten
Charitable Trust in England. The project got started with the study and survey of the synagogue in Chalkis, the hometown of my grandmother Eftihia Forni Negrin (1908–1985), thanks to Minos Mordochai and the Jewish Museum of Greece who provided a much-needed "seed" contribution in 1993. I thank individuals and institutions who were extremely generous in allowing me access to their archives and collections, some of which are published in this book: the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (KIS), the Institution for the Rehabilitation of Greek Jews (OPAIE), the Jewish Museum of Greece, the Jewish community archive of Salonika, the General Archive of Greece, the Ministry of Environment, Urban Planning and Public Works (YPEHODE) maps archive, the General Administration of the Greek Army (GES) aerial photographs archive, the archive of the Building Permit office of the City of Salonika, Albertos Koen, and Vassilis Mavromatis collections in Greece, the Alliance Israélite Universelle and Roger-Viollet photographic archive in Paris, Beth Hatefutsoth Photo Archive in Tel Aviv, the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People, the Center for Jewish Art of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Yad Vashem library and photographic archive, Joint Distribution Committee archive, Yad Ben Zvi library and archive, David Cassuto and the U. Nahon Museum of Italian Jewish Art in Jerusalem. I am grateful to Mark Mazower for referring me to his research notes in general and the Rosenberg report in particular, located at the Wiener Library in London. Above all, I am grateful to David Recanati, editor of the remarkable work Zikhron Saloniki, for permission to publish unpublished photographs from the Avraham and David Recanati collection. The Getty Grant Program supported the identification and preparation phases of the Veroia Synagogue conservation project, which I implemented with the team of architects Petros and Marina Koufopoulos, engineer Panagiotis Panagiotopoulos, photographer Socratis Mavrormatis, conservators Yianna Dogani and Amerimni Galanou, Geoerevna, Fasma Consultants— Kostantinos Kotsogiannis, and Antonis Yourousis. I thank them for enlightening my research with their professional participation. Two people have been instrumental in the publication of this book: Prof. Steven Bowman and Blanche Cody; for publishing this manuscript I am grateful to both. I am also grateful to the Sephardic House in New York for taking this publication under their auspices and including it in their publication series. Finally, I thank translator Reveka Kamhi (Greece), editor Roberta
Chester (Israel), for their methodic and professional work on the English text. I thank Kostas Soutas and Artemis Petropoulou of Red-T-Point (Greece) for preparing the images for publication, and Moran Agaki of my architectural firm in Jerusalem, for rendering the architectural drawings for publication. Most of all, I owe an unpayably large debt to my wife, Yvette. She has been an indefatigable support, an exceptionally able critic, and an
incomparable partner in this long journey. The book could not have been successfully completed without them all; any shortcomings herein are, of course, entirely my own responsibility. Elias V. Messinas Jerusalem, September 2010
The Synagogues of Greece
introduction his book is about the history and architecture of synagogues in the Jewish quarters in Greek cities. Most of these centers and buildings date from the Ottoman period (15th-19th centuries) and the period of the creation of modern Greece. They survived until the Second World War, the German occupation, and the Holocaust, which marked the beginning of the end of Greek Jewish history. The book especially focuses on the synagogues of the geographic area of northern Greece (Macedonia and Thrace), most of which developed under similar circumstance of Jewish migration, settlement and acculturation, and most of which have met a similar fate — destruction by force or by neglect. Synagogues of other areas of Greece — such as Central Greece, Epirus, the Ionian islands (Corfu), the Aegean islands (Aegina, Delos, Rhodes, and Kos), and Crete, are mentioned in the text as examples, and their plans are included in the appendix, but in many cases their history is the result of other distinctive influences and developments. This book is mostly about architecture and urban form, so the sites considered in detail are those where a synagogue still stands and has been surveyed in detail, or where there existed enough information — archival or physical — for the author to attempt a reasonable interpretation and graphic reconstruction. In some cases buildings surveyed and documented by the author in the 1990s have since been demolished. In other cases, buildings had already collapsed by the time the author visited them, and though he was able to document the ruins, those ruins too, have now been removed. For many former synagogues of northern Greece then, this book presents the only extensive documentation and memorial.1 While focusing on the architecture of synagogues and their immediate urban setting, the author has also endeavored to present something of the historical framework in which these synagogues developed and were used, and in some cases, information about the synagogues’ destruction when this could be learned. Because there is very limited material available on the synagogues of Greece, a complete study of the building type through history is not possible. The available material utilized in this work, however, allows the investigation of the development of the synagogue during the Ottoman period, and the period of transition to modern Greek rule. Substantial information is also provided about the last phase of the synagogues’ history. This information has been gleaned from contemporary sources, particularly the papers of the various Jewish
communities, as well as accounts in the public media.2 The book especially investigates the following three aspects in each Greek city: • The Jewish quarter • The relationship of the synagogue to the Jewish quarter, and • The synagogue building These three aspects are investigated before and after the Tanzimat Reforms (1839 and 1856), the political and social movement that redefined the role of ethnic and religious minorities in the Ottoman Empire, and for Jews functioned somewhat like the French Emancipation of the Jews during the Napoleonic period (1791). It is at the time of the reformations and in the decades following that significant change in the morphology of the Jewish quarter and of the synagogue took place, and the Jews of northern Greece redefined their role in modern society. In many cases they used the construction of new synagogues to demonstrate their new status.
The Jewish Quarter Before 1839 The most important characteristics of the Jewish quarter prior to the Tanzimat Reforms was the quarter’s organization within a limited area around the synagogue. The synagogue formed the religious and administrative center of the community. Within the quarter, there was an intricate social and physical structure that embraced members of all the socio-economic strata, who lived side by side, within the often limited space. Jewish quarters in Ottoman Greek cities were organized around courtyards, which formed the only primary, and sometimes the only open space of the quarter. In many cases streets were narrow and filthy, at least according to the descriptions of visitors. The unorganized construction on the street and the building projections (sahnisi) above further reduced the already meager open space. Within this seemingly chaotic environment, however, there flourished a rich and often dynamic Jewish culture. Central to this culture was the synagogue. It integrated within the dense urban fabric, hidden from view from the street, and it followed the same general morphology and construction as the adjacent houses. This protective organization of the Jewish quarter was
also found in the Christian quarters of northern Greek cities, which were organized in a not too dissimilar manner around the church. This organization ceased after the 19th century and the implementation of the Tanzimat Reforms. After 1856 Following the implementation of the Tanzimat Reforms, and because of a series of destructive fires that devastated the historic centers of a large number of Greek cities within the Ottoman Empire, the density and organization of the historic urban center changed â€” sometimes gradually, but often suddenly and dramatically. Together with the city centers, Jewish quarters changed, too, since it is in most cases they were located in the heart of the historic centers. These changes were characterized by the settlement of the Jews according to new socio-economic criteria: the poor remained in the old central Jewish quarter, while the more affluent chose to live in the new urban areas that sprang up outside the densely populated walled city centers, featuring wide streets and spacious gardens. The very rich were able to construct elegant houses and villas in the suburban peripheries that developed, especially in the 19th century, around the newly burgeoning commercial centers. The new quarters for the affluent were inhabited by a mixed population of Jews, Christians, and Turks, based purely on socio-economic criteria. The traditional cohesion of urban Jewish communities (in the face of non-Jews), the result of a shared Jewish history and religion, began to dissolve with the wider dispersion of its members, and their pursuit of more particular economic and social goals. Following the Tanzimat Reforms and the commercial benefits that many northern Greek cities enjoyed, Jewish quarters were less closely related to the historic city centers, and their location and form followed more general urban development patterns of the city. The new Jewish quarters were integrated in the urban fabric, with large urban blocks, wide streets, and gardens, in the European style. In the later development of the Jewish quarter, it is often difficult to trace with precision the boundaries of the Jewish quarter, since houses belonging to Jews were spread out within the urban fabric, rather than organized within a certain area. The best example of this type of expansive Jewish quarter â€” which might better be called a Jewish neighborhood, is the case of Komotini. The synagogues built in these new quarters, were free standing buildings, often of imposing architectural presence. Except for their adjacent courtyard, they stood both exposed and integrated into the wider urban
context. While the site and size of synagogues rarely elevated them to a role of civic architecture, as was increasingly the case elsewhere in Europe and America, the new building still took on a public character which previously had been unknown.
The Relationship Between the Jewish Quarter and the Synagogue Before 1839 During the Ottoman period, each religious minority (millet) within the Ottoman Empire was governed by a religious leader (for the Jews after 1839 by the Haham Basi); thus the synagogue served as both the religious and administrative center of the Jewish community. The community and the quarter are organized around the synagogue. The synagogue formed an integral part of the fabric of the Jewish quarter, and it was built with the same materials and in the same scale as the houses, so that it could hardly be distinguished from the adjacent structures. The location of the synagogue within the quarter, near the central open courtyard, allowed access to it for all community members of the community, while still providing protection from the street and the city outside the Jewish quarter. After 1856 After 1856 the relationship between the Jewish quarter and the synagogue changed. This change was gradual, as the Tanzimat Reforms and the free settlement of Jews outside the Jewish quarters, was gradual. The new Jewish settlements were integrated into the city grid, and the synagogue, located close to the new Jewish settlement, was also integrated to the city fabric: it was built prominently facing the street, with a small courtyard surrounding it either in the front or the side.
The Synagogue Before 1839 Greek synagogues before the Tanzimat Reforms were mostly modest rectangular buildings that served relatively small communities. The appearance of the synagogue was also the result of restrictions placed by the Ottoman authorities, which sometimes limited synagogue size, height and
street elevation. As a result, most synagogues were relatively low buildings, hidden among densely built houses. Another important characteristic of Greek synagogues was their construction method and style, which generally followed the local vernacular style of northern Greece, the Balkans, and western Turkey. These synagogues were built by the builders' guilds (snaf). The characteristics of this construction method was the structural use of masonry and wood, the plastered walls, the interior and exterior decoration (colors, wall paintings, and wood carving), and the volumetric organization of the house (or public building). Characteristic elements of this style were also the "sahnisi" (the projection of the building beyond the exterior facade), deep roof overhangs, the shallow foundations, and the thin wooden columns that organize both the structure of the building and its interior layout. In general, the synagogues within the geographic area of northern Greece had many common characteristics with synagogues of neighboring countries especially those which once formed part of Ottoman Empire, in particular modern Turkey and Bulgaria. Similarities included size, scale, interior lay-out, the relationship to a courtyard and the street, and construction methods and style. Detailed studies of the synagogues in these countries, however, are still needed. As far as the floor plan of the synagogue is concerned, two plan types were found in Greek synagogues of the earlier Ottoman period: the "Ottoman" or "Tetrapyle" and the "bi-polar" type. The "Ottoman” plan is rectangular, with four columns set in the center of the prayer hall, in the center of which, in most cases, stands the bimah. This arrangement is known from elsewhere throughout the Ottoman Empire. It also bears superficial resemblances to synagogues from places as distance as Portugal and Poland. Architectural historians are not in agreement about the origins or the relationship of these similar but disparate plans. The arrangement may derive from the Ottoman mosque (which derives from the Byzantine church plan). In the case of the synagogue, the four columns do not, however, support a dome in the center, but only decorative elements on the ceiling. In the bi-polar plan the bimah is located against the western wall of the prayer hall, facing the heikhal (Ark) opposite. In Greece, the heikhal was always placed against the most southeasterly facing wall, so that the worshipper facing the heikhal would also be facing Jerusalem. Synagogues of western Greece, where this plan type is common, generally have more in common with synagogues of Italy than with those of Ottoman lands. There are similarities in interior layout and in the relationship between the
heikhal (Ark) and the bimah between Italian and western Greek synagogues, where we find the layout now called in Greece, “Romaniote,” a variant of the bi-polar arrangement found in Padova, Venice and elsewhere. The women's section of the synagogue (ezrat nashim), is another important element of the Greek synagogue prior to 1839. It was either raised above or adjacent to the main prayer hall, and was hidden from view behind wooden lattice. After 1856 Following the Tanzimat Reforms the forms of Greek synagogues changed considerably, albeit gradually. By the end of the 19th century the Greek synagogue moved beyond Ottoman-period traditions to more closely follow progressive European models, resulting in a common synagogue type where the bimah is placed more immediately in front of the heikhal, near the eastern wall of the prayer hall. The women's section changed from its earlier model, too, and took the form of an elevated open balcony wrapped around the main prayer floor, without the visual division as in the past.
To better understand the texts in this book, the reader is urged to also consult the architectural plans in the appendix. There one will find not only detailed plans of the synagogues of northern Greece, discussed in this book but also the floor plans of all standing synagogues in Greece, based on extensive on-site surveys by the author. This invaluable material, published as a corpus for the first time, will assist in further understanding the development of the synagogue within modern-day Greece, and throughout the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean regions.
1 Synagogues of northern Greece are also treated (though is less detail) in N. Stavroulakis and T. De Vinney, Jewish Sites and Synagogues in Greece (Athens, 1992), and in E. Messinas, The Synagogues of Salonika and Veroia (Athens, 1997). 2 Specific source references from the various archives are not included in this English edition, since all the sources are in Greek. Complete references can be found in the author’s Greek language dissertation upon which this edition is based. The Greek text can be found on line at: http://thesis.ekt.gr/content/index.jsp?id=11795&lang=el
history & Synagogue architecture in greece: An Overview lived throughout Greece in considerable number since the HellenisJ ews tic period. The Roman writer Strabo (born 63 or 64 BCE, died ca. CE 24)
Spain to Baghdad. For each community he gives a brief reference to the number of members, leaders and to their primary professions. The largest Jewish community he found was at Thebes with 2,000 Jews, engaged mainly in textile industry. Many of these workers perhaps resided in the neighboring communities from Corinth to Chalkis in Euboea. The Romaniote community of the Byzantine period was hardly monolithic. The Jews of Greece were regularly augmented by refugees — first
wrote that Jews had a substantial presence throughout the Empire.1 In Greece, in addition to documentary evidence there are archaeological remains. Traces of several synagogues, described below, have been excavated, and there is mention of Jewish communities, presumably all with synagogues, in Paul’s account of his visits to Greece in the 1st century CE. Philo (c. 30 B.C.E.–c. 45 C.E.), wrote in the Embassy to Gaius how Jews came into “Europe, into Thessaly, and Boeotia, and Macedonia, and Aetolia, and Attica, and Argos, and Corinth and all the most fertile and wealthiest districts of Peloponnesus.” 2 It is possible that Jewish presence was continuous in a least a few locations, such as Salonika, but at this time there is no positive proof. Jewish communities in Greece are referred to throughout the Byzantine period, but the historical and archaeological findings are extremely limited and information about the architecture of synagogues during this period is nonexistent.3 Synagogues excavated elsewhere in the Balkans and in Greek An architectural member (half column Asia Minor may be a capital) depicting the menorahs with lulav useful reference.4 and ethrog. Discovered in Corinth by the The Greek Jewish Ruins of the synagogue of Delos dating from the first century BCE. The “Seat of Moses” is American School of Classical Studies, it believed to have been removed from a nearby gymnasium. (The Jewish Museum of Greece) communities of antiquidates from the 4th-6th centuries CE and ty and the Byzantine most probably belonged to the synagogue from parts of the Empire lost to Islam, and especially by Jewish refugees of the city. (The Jewish Museum of Greece) period are known as Romanfrom the persecutions that followed the Crusades (1096-1270) in England, iotes, after “Romania,” the France, Germany and other European states, especially the Black Plague Byzantine name for the Roman Empire that they continued. The Roman(1348), and again after the persecutions in Hungary in 1375. These iotes predate the Sephardim who came to Greece from Spain, Portugal and Italy, many centuries later. The Romaniotes spoke Greek enriched with refugees were integrated into the already existing communities around speHebrew. In 1170, Benjamin of Tudela (Spain) wrote a descriptive report on cific synagogues, but sometimes, when their numbers warranted it, they the Jewish communities of Greece during the Byzantine period.5 He visited also built new synagogues according to the tradition of the city or country a number of Greek Romaniote communities including Corfu, Arta, Patras, from whence they came. We know of examples of this practice in SaloniCorinth, Thebes, Chalkis (Egripo), Salonika and Drama on his way from ka, Istanbul, and Edirne, and it was common elsewhere in the Ottoman
Empire.6 These Romaniote communities, with their augmented populations, existed throughout Greece until the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. At that time, many communities were uprooted and forcibly moved to repopulated and revitalize the capital city, renamed Istanbul.7 The first Sephardim, exiles from Spain, came to Greece (mainly to the Macedonia region) after June 1391, following anti-Jewish and forced conversions to Christianity inspired by the fiery preaching of the archdeacon of Ecija Ferrant Martinez in Seville in 1378.8 It is estimated that about 100,000 Jews fled throughout Europe, while about 100,000 were forced to convert. Many refugees reached Salonika and the cities around it. Sometime after 1394, Jews from France arrived in Macedonia after they were persecuted by King Charles VI. Presumably some settled in Salonika, but information is lacking on exact dates and numbers. In several cases, Ashkenazim and Sephardim who found refuge on Greek territory found already existing Jewish Romaniote communities when they arrived.9 The Sephardim and Ashkenazim brought their own dialects, Judeo-Spanish (Judaeo-español) and Judeo-German (Yiddish), correspondingly. Ottoman Period (15th century-1912) During the Ottoman period, beginning in the mid-15th century, more Sephardi refugees from Spain settled in Greece after the establishment of the Holy Inquisition in Seville (Spain) in 1478. In 1482 the first Spanish royal decree calling for limited persecution of Mosaic floor of the synagogue in Aegina, located at Jews of Seville, Cordoba the Archaeological Museum of Aegina. and Cadiz was issued. (Elias V. Messinas Archive) The final decree of expulsion of Jews from Spain was signed by the King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Castille and Aragon on March 31, 1492 in the palace of Alhambra of the conquered Kingdom of Granada. All Jews of the kingdom had to leave by August 1492.10 While most Christian European states refused to take many Jewish refugees, the Ottoman Empire of Bayiazit II allowed tens of thousands of refugees to enter. Many settled in Greece and the Balkans.
In 1506, Spanish Jews who had found temporary safety in Portugal after they were forcibly baptized in 1498, were also forced to emigrate, and they, too, arrived in the Ottoman Empire. Subsequently, Jews expelled from parts of Italy and Provence in Southern France,11 also made their way east, settling in Salonika, Veroia, Monastir (Bitjol), Skopje, Edirne (Andrianoupolis), Sofia and Istanbul. These Sephardi Jews transformed the cities in which they settled. Deserted areas were given life. Still, despite the mass settlement of organized Jewish communities during this period, very few buildings of the time have survived. Frequent fires often destroyed the historic centers of Greek cities such as Salonika, Veroia and Serres; and later, the destruction of the Holocaust erased forever significant remnants and buildings in Greece, some of which had survived for centuries. Today, the synagogue of Rhodes, built in 1575, is the oldest extant synagogue from the Ottoman period. The rebuilding of a synagogue on pre-existing foundations, however, is known in several instances in Greece, where limited space in the Jewish quarter and state restrictions on building synagogues meant that synagogues destroyed by fire or earthquake were frequently rebuilt on their previous site. The synagogue of Chalkis, for example, has probably been in the same position since the founding of the citadel until today. It has been destroyed and reconstructed at least six times on the same foundations.12 So, at least in its location, it may be considered the oldest synagogue in “continuous” use. The list of Jewish communities in the Ottoman Empire between 1520 and 1535, includes the following13: City Population 1. Andrianoupolis 2. Salonika 3. Serres 4. Trikala
20,305 24,315 5,465 4,125
Jewish population 1,005 13,225 325 905
In 1655, the appearance and teachings of the pseudo-Messiah, Shabbetai Zvi, caused tremendous fragmentation among Jewish communities in Greece. The communities split into two groups — those who believed that Shabbetai was the Messiah and those who did not. This Messianic enthusiasm ended in 1666, when Shabbetai converted to Islam to save his life. Many of his followers throughout Greece followed his example, thereby creating a new religious group, the "Dönme, who had strong Jewish roots and traditions, but were practicing Muslims."14
Modern Period (1912-1944) The mid-19th century is well known for the political instability in the Ottoman Empire and the region of Thrace suffered immensely. During the Balkan crisis (1875-6) and the Russo-Turkish war that followed (1877), the occupation of Thrace by Russian troops inflicted great damages and losses of population in the urban centers of Thrace by Russian forces and Bulgarian attempts to annex Thrace to Bulgaria. Fragment of an inscription (door stone lintel) reading “Synagogue of the Hebrews” found in The first quarter of the 20th century is characterized by con- Corinth at the beginning of the 20th century, dating from the 4th-6th centuries CE. It was most tinuous territorial realignments, permanent unrest, military con- probably placed above the entrance to the synagogue of the city. (The Jewish Museum of Greece) flicts and successive foreign occupations. The first Balkan war (1913) was destructive for the cities of Thrace (both East and West). After more than 100 synagogues or prayer rooms. Salonika alone had about 60 the end of the second Balkan war and the Treaty of Bucharest (August synagogues and midrashim (small prayer halls).16 After the Jewish commu1913), Western Thrace was surrendered to the Bulgarians, and Eastern nities were destroyed during the Holocaust, most synagogues suffered a Thrace, including the regions of Didimoticho and Orestiada, were surrensimilar fate and disappeared as we shall note later on. dered to Turkey. These geographic changes significantly affected the comDuring the Second World War, Italian and German forces occupied position of populations in these areas. The signing of the treaty stimulated Greece. After the surrender of Italy to the Allies, German forces took comconsiderable migration to Macedonia and Istanbul. plete control and enforced repressive policies against Jews, culminating in At the Treaty of Neilly (1919), the region of Western Thrace came deportation to Auschwitz, Treblinka and other death camps in Poland. In all, under inter-allied administration, and in the same month Greek and 86% of the Greek Jews, including Jews in Thrace and parts of Macedonia French forces occupied the region, which was divided into three prefecoccupied by Bulgaria, were murdered. tures. The period of conflict between the French, the Bulgarians, the The greatest number of victims came from Salonika, whose Jews were Turks and the Greeks, concerning the future of Western Thrace, ended rounded up beginning in March, 1943. Within a few months a four and a with the occupation of the region by the Greek army in May 1920. Thrace half century-old community of tens of thousands of people, rich in learnwas surrendered to Greece, while the valley of Evros, including Didiing and lore, was almost entirely destroyed. Before the war there were moticho and Edirne (Andrianoupolis), remained in limbo for several years. approximately 60 functioning synagogues and prayer houses in Salonika. Didimoticho was finally surrendered to Greece in 1921 and this resulted Today, there are three. in massive exchanges of populations (Greek and Turkish) in this region. Much of the (still sparse) information we have today about the Jews suffered like others during these troubled times. But unlike Muslims destruction that Greek Jewish communities suffered during the German and Christians who were subject to an increasingly escalating practice and Occupation (1941-44) belongs mainly to the period immediately after the war.17 Survivors and aid workers reported that most of the synagogues had then policy of population exchange, Jews, for the most part, stayed put in been destroyed, and in some towns, entire Jewish quarters were leveled. their home cities. Their allegiance of necessity adjusted to the new govPost-war communities that tried to reorganize lacked financial and materiernment. During the 1930s, in many cities, including Salonika, the ecoal resources to restore even those synagogues that remained, nor had these nomic security of Jews as well their physical safety was increasingly small bands of survivors use for large synagogues such as those of Komounder pressure. The worst incident occurred in Salonika on the night of June 29, 1931, when two thousand armed men burned down the Jewish tini or Xanthi. In most cases in cities where two or more synagogues were Kambel quarter. During the same week the Jewish quarters “6,” “151” and used before the war, only one could function after the war.18 In some cases, Rezi-Vardar, also in Salonika, were also attacked. such as Kavala, redundant synagogues were used for community purposIn the 1930s there were 31 Jewish communities in Greece, including es. Sometimes they were rented or sold. Many were eventually demolRomaniotes, Sephardim and Ashkenazim. These communities prayed in ished, or collapsed through neglect.
Contemporary Period (1944-Today) Until the Second World War and the mass destruction of Jewish communities in Europe and Greece, there were synagogues in most Greek cities. These buildings, which dated mainly from the 19th century or later, are mostly gone. After the Second World War, 38 synagogues in 25 cities survived in Greece.19 Most of these buildings were either ruined and abandoned, or had been converted to homes,20 warehouses,21 and stables.22 Due to the lack of an organized Jewish community, many of these buildings were sold and then torn down during the reconstruction of the cities. Today 12 synagogues function in 9 cities of Greece:23 • Athens: Beit Shalom (1941)24 and the synagogue of Yanniotes (1905)25 • Salonika: the Monastirlis (or Monastiriotes) (1927),26 Yad LeZikaron (1984),27 and Yoshua Avraham Salem in the S. Modiano Old Age Home (1981/2) 28 • Larissa: Etz HaHayim (1861) • Trikala: Yavanim (19th century)29 • Ioannina: Kahal Kadosh Yashan (1826) 30 • Volos: one synagogue (1960)31 • Chalkis: one synagogue (beginning of 19th century)32 • Rhodes: Kahal Kadosh Shalom (1575) • Corfu: Scuola Greca (17th century) Some synagogue buildings also survive in other Greek cities, but no longer serve their original function. • Kos: It is owned by the municipality and functions as a multi-purpose hall (1934) 33 • Drama: It is used as a private residence (19th century)34 • Veroia: Restored and re-opened as a museum and synagogue (before 1850) • Chania: the Etz Hayim Synagogue has been restored and functions as a cultural center and synagogue (end of 17th century) 35 • Kavala: Until recently a hall for services functioned in the former Jewish Community Center of the city (beginning of twentieth century). It was recently demolished.36
The Synagogues of Greece Introduction Within Judaism, the synagogue is second only to the Temple in Jerusalem in its importance as an institution, and functions as the religious, cultural, and social center of the Jewish communities. While the ori-
gins of the synagogue are unknown and contested, some trace the synagogue to the period of the Babylonian Exile (586-530 BCE), when the institution is believed to have been created in an effort to preserve the Jewish religion while it was exiled from its spiritual heart, Jerusalem. In the scriptures, the earliest mention of a sanctuary (Mikdash me’at in Hebrew) is in Ezekiel and it has been suggested that this actually refers to some form of house of assembly and worship (Beit Knesset or synagogue) and a house of learning (Beit Midrash).37 The earliest physical evidence of synagogue in Israel dates from the 1st century CE, and there is general agreement that these buildings were in use before the final destruction of the Jerusalem Temple by the Romans in 70 CE. Remains of likely synagogue buildings have been found at Gamla and Masada. In the Diaspora, the earliest epigraphic evidence of synagogues (referred to as proseuche or prayer halls) dates from the 3rd century BCE from Egypt. This has led some scholars to suggest that the synagogue is an institution essentially created in the Diaspora to serve as a religious locus for those Jews who lived far from Jerusalem and the Temple cult. Synagogues in Ancient Greece Many ancient synagogues have been discovered in the lands of the Diaspora, including a significant number within the borders of modern Greece, as well as further north throughout the Balkans. The Jewish presence in Greece probably dates to at least the beginning of the Hellenistic Age, roughly 2,300 years ago, at the time when Alexander the Great unified the East to the West. There was contact between Greece and Israel earlier, and it is a possible that Jews were resident in Greece even before the 4th century BCE.38 According to the historian Strabo organized Jewish communities existed in most large Greek cities as early as the first century BCE. We may assume that each of these communities had at least one synagogue, though what the form and organization of those institutions was remains the subject of conjecture. Between 49 and 52 CE, during his second visit to Greece, St. Paul visited Greek Jewish communities, where he preached (presumably) at the synagogues of Phillipi, Salonika, Veroia, Athens and Corinth.39 While there is no known specific link between the synagogue of antiquity and those of the Ottoman and modern periods which are described in subsequent chapters, Greek Jews of all periods were certainly well-aware of their millennia-old presence in Greece. The ancient synagogues which have been discovered by archaeologists were not in use after the early Byzantine period. We do not know if portable remnants of
Interior of the 19th-century Pulieza Synagogue in Arta on May 22, 1946. (Published in Chronika 134, 1994, p. 15)
Interior of Kahal Kadosh Hadash Synagogue in Ioannina after its desecration and damage in the Second World War. (The Jewish Museum of Greece)
Interior of the synagogue in Serres dating from the 19th century. (Published in Chronika 167, 2000, p. 12)
The heikhal of Kahal Kadosh Hadash Synagogue in Ioannina after its desecration and damage in the Second World War. The synagogue was demolished after the war. (The Jewish Museum of Greece)
Beit Shalom Synagogue in Athens built in the late 1930s. In the front elevation, facing Melidoni street, the architect E. Lazaridis combined a Greek temple front with elements derived from the Temple of Jerusalem. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
The synagogue in Chalkis, re-built in the beginning of the 20th century, shortly after the earthquake of 1894 in the same location, on Kotsou street. (Elias V. Messinas Archive) Interior of Ianniotiki Synagogue in Athens in the late 1990s. The heikhal and the bimah are arranged in a bi-polar layout. (The Jewish Museum of Greece)
Interior of the Synagogue Yavanim in Trikala built in the 19th century. The center of the synagogue is marked by four columns. The heikhal is located on the eastern wall. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
The heikhal of the synagogue in Chalkis. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
One of the numerous inscriptions on the facades of the synagogue in Chalkis. These inscriptions belonged to tombs in the Jewish cemetery, but were used by the Venetians as construction material for the city walls after the 16th century. The inscriptions were revealed in the beginning of the 20th century, when the walls of Chalkis were demolished, and were returned to the Jewish Community. The community attached them to the walls of the synagogue, most probably during its reconstruction following the earthquake of 1894. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
these or other ancient synagogues were preserved and used in synagogues of later periods, in the way that religious items from Spain were carried to new homes in the Sephardic Diaspora. But just as the Jews of Rome during the Middle Ages could look to the Arch of Titus in the Roman Forum, and perhaps, too, to the Roman catacombs, it may be that Jews in Greece in the Middle Ages also had some literal touchstones which connected them to their ancient past. While the forms and decorations of the ancient synagogues did not directly influence later Greek synagogues, it is worth considering the most important archaeological finds since they demonstrate the continuity of the Jewish presence in Greece, and they also illustrate how little the overall form and function of synagogues changed over the centuries as it developed and was maintained as the preeminent communal and religious space. Delos The earliest remains of a synagogue in Greece, from the 2nd or 1st century BCE, are those discovered on the island of Delos in 1912-13 by the French Archaeological School, near the northeastern shore of the island.40 Excavations revealed the remains of what was then thought to be a house subsequently converted into a synagogue. According to André Plassart's report, it is a rectangular building that measures 14.25 meters (length) x 28.15 meters (width) and is divided into three equallysized rooms. In one of the rooms there are remnants of marble seats at the northern and western walls, while the marble throne is at the center of the western wall. It is believed that this throne and seats belong to the stadium neighboring the synagogue, which had been destroyed earlier on. In the room above the seats, there are small marble bases or pillars on which four Greek inscriptions carry the expressions “Theos Hypsistos” and “Hypsistos” (the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew “Shadai,” the Highest). The building was recognized as a synagogue based on this reference. The discovery in 1980 of two Samaritan synagogue inscriptions 90 meters north of the building both clarified and confused the building identification. On the one hand, the presence of the Samaritan inscription helped rule out various non-Jewish pagan uses for the building. On the other hand, the inscriptions suggest that the structure belonged to Samaritans (who called themselves the “Israelites on Delos”), rather than Jews. The building is still considered the oldest synagogue or proseuche in the Diaspora, but whether it was the Samaritan proseuche from which the inscriptions came, or whether it was a Jewish proseuche
in proximity to the Samaritans (as was the case in Ptolomaic Egypt) is unknown. Still, it is likely that Greeks made little distinction between Samaritans and Jews, just as in the first and second centuries CE there was not yet a clear distinction between Jews and Christians. Aegina A more positively identified ancient synagogue has been excavated on the island of Aegina, closer to Athens.41 The remains, located not far from the local harbor, were first noted in 1829 and the site was fully excavated in 1932, and again in subsequent years.42 The plan of the synagogue is simple; the main hall appears to have been rectangular in shape, entered from the west, and with a wide protruding semi-circular apse at the east end. This type of basilica plan was common in the 4th century C.E. and later used by pagans, Christians and Jews. The hall measured 13.5 by 7.6 meters, and the apse is 5.5 meters in diameter. Presumably the apse would have housed a wooden or stone Ark to hold Torah scrolls. There are no traces of seating in the apse as was the case in some Early Christian churches and at the 3rd-century CE synagogue of Sardis (Turkey). There was probably a portico in front of the hall. This synagogue appears to have been built over an earlier structure of unknown identity, but nearly identical plan. This too, may have been a synagogue. According to the excavations, other rooms, mainly on the north surrounded the synagogue hall. They were smaller in size, and were probably used for other needs of the community, such as teaching, meetings, meals, and treasury. Similar complexes of rooms are known from the synagogue at Ostia Antica (Italy) and elsewhere. The floor of the sanctuary was completely covered with a “carpet” style mosaic in blue, grey, red and black, mostly filled with geometric designs. The mosaic includes two inscriptions, within tabulae ansatae, both referring to donors. In English, they read:43 I, Theodoros, the archisynagogos who served for four years, built the synagogue from its foundations. Revenues [contributed] amounted to 85 gold pieces and offerings to God [i.e., from the synagogue treasury] [amounted] to 105 gold pieces. Theodoros the younger being in charge, the mosaic work has been done out of synagogue revenues. Blessings upon all who enter. The destruction of this synagogue may have been due to a decree that
permitted the destruction of synagogues or other religious temples in the vicinity of churches. This synagogue was discovered next to a church and a (Christian) cemetery. Today, only part of the synagogue's mosaic floor is extant, and it has been moved from its original location to the courtyard of the island's Archaeological Museum to protect it from certain destruction due to contemporary construction in the area of its original position.44 Corinth We know there was a sizable Jewish population in Corinth from documentary evidence, including Saint Paulâ€™s Letters. There is archaeological evidence for a synagogue from at least the 3rd century. Several architectural elements, including a stone block with three carved menorahs that was probably a capital, have been found, although their provenance is not clear.45 Athens: Metroon There is epigraphic and literary evidence for Jews in Athens from the fourth century BCE on. The location of a synagogue in the ancient city is, however, uncertain. It is possible that a synagogue existed in late Roman times near the Agora, where a fragment of inscribed architectural revetment (wall covering) was discovered in the 1930s during an excavation led by Homer Thompson.46 This was reexamined by Thompson and A.T. Kraabel in the 1970s, and since it represents part of an inscribed menorah, it is very likely that it comes from an architectural setting. The archaeologists presented the hypothesis that in the late fourth or early fifth century C.E, a synagogue was built into the reworked Metroon, repaired after the sacking of Athens by the Heruli in 267 C.E. Northern Greece and the Balkans Despite the reports of Paulâ€™s visits to synagogues in northern Greece, no ancient remains have yet been found. Not far to the north, however, other synagogues have been discovered in the Balkans, notably at Stobi (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia),47 Plovdiv (Bulgaria) 48 and Saranda (Albania).49 All these attest to the long Jewish presence in the area.
The Architecture of the Synagogue There is no established form for a synagogue. Over the centuries synagogues in different countries and at different times have been built in almost every conceivable shape and size. Synagogues in Greece have drawn, at different times, inspiration from many places, depending on what
cultural forces were at play at the time. Greek Jews have been at the crossroads of Europe, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, and their buildings have responded to religious and architectural trends from Palestine, Rome, Byzantium, and later the centers of Muslim culture. Synagogue architecture of Spain and Italy and in the 19th century from France and Western Europe all influenced Greek synagogue design.50 Still, regardless of material, size, location, or favored architectural style, there are a few required features for every synagogue that allow it to perform its function, and in turn identify its use to the community. The most important typological elements of the synagogue are the Ark and the Bimah. The Ark, known in Hebrew as the heikhal or Aron HaKodesh,51 is the cabinet where the scrolls of the Torah are stored. It is usually the visual focal point of the synagogue interior, and is usually set against the interior wall closest to Jerusalem. In Greece, as in most of Europe, this mean east, and this is the direction that Jews face when they pray. The term heikhal, or sometimes in Greece, ehal, is used by Sephardim. The bimah, also known in Hebrew as the teivah, is the readerâ€™s platform. It usually consists of a raised platform upon which is set a stand or table on which the Torah is placed when it is read. The term "teivah" is used by the Sephardim, and "bimah" is used by the Ashkenazim. The Heikhal The heikhal can take the form of a free standing or projecting cabinet, a niche in the wall, or of a small room.52 In each case there is within a shelf or shelves where the Torah Scrolls (Sefarim) are placed. In most types of heikhal there are ornamented doors. These are covered with a curtain (parokhet),53 often embroidered with gold thread. According to Sephardic tradition there is a similar curtain in the inside of the heikhal. According to religious law (halakhah), prayer is in the direction of Jerusalem, that is, facing the eastern (or southeastern) wall where as a rule in Greek synagogues, the heikhal is placed. In ancient synagogues the Torah Scrolls were carried into the hall of worship in a decorated ark that was called teivah. The teivah corresponds to the religious law (halakhah) that requires it be placed in front of the heikhal (possibly between the heikhal and the bimah).54 In some cases in Greece we find the heikhal projecting from the exterior wall of the synagogue (either the eastern or the southeastern) in a semicircular shape (for example in Kos), or a half octagon projection (for example in Ioannina). This characteristic has no particular explanation, because it a) does not refer to religious laws, b) does not depend on the origin of the
The courtyard of the Synagogue Kahal Shalom in Rhodes built in 1575. (Elias V. Messinas Archive) Interior of Kahal Kadosh Yashan Synagogue in Ioannina. The heikhal, in the center, is located against the eastern wall of the synagogue, and is decorated in an Italian Baroque style. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
Interior of Scuola Greca Synagogue in Corfu. View towards the heikhal. The interior of the synagogue was partially damaged when two assailants broke into the synagogue and burned Jewish books and documents in an attempted arson on Passover eve in November 2010. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
Interior of Kahal Shalom Synagogue in Rhodes built in 1575. The double heikhal recalls the arrangement of the ancient synagogue in Sardis. The original heikhal was destroyed during the Second World War. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
The bimah of the Scuola Greca Synagogue in Corfu built in the 17th century. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
The heikhal of the Scuola Greca Synagogue in Corfu built in the 17th century. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
Scuola Greca Synagogue in Corfu built in the 17th century. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
The synagogue in Kos built in the 1930s, after the earthquake of 1933. The building is currently used as a multi-purpose hall by the Municipality of Kos. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
The gate leading to the courtyard of the restored Etz Hayim Synagogue in Chania. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
Exterior of the 19th-century building that served as a synagogue in Drama prior to the Second World War. According to the last remaining Jews in Drama, the building was a converted home. Below the synagogue, on the ground floor, was the home of the rabbi. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
Floor detail of Etz Hayim Synagogue in Chania. The synagogue was damaged in two anti-Semitic arsons in January 2010, that also destroyed rare books, archives and valuable objects. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
Interior of the restored Etz Hayim Synagogue in Chania. The heikhal is oriented East in a bi-polar arrangement. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
synagogue (Sephardi or Romaniote), and c) does not depend on the chronology or geographic location of the synagogue. For example, a projection is found in the synagogues of Ioannina (Romaniote, 1826) and Kos (Sephardic, 1934), but cannot be found in the synagogues of Trikala (Romaniote, 19th century), and Larissa (Sephardic, 1861). The Bimah (or Teivah) The Torah Scrolls are read from the bimah, which in some Sephardic communities is known as the teivah. This combination platform and table or stand for treading the Torah is always placed opposite the heikhal. In the Greek synagogues the bimah may be found in three different positions: 1) At the Center of the Room According to the Talmud, the bimah is at the center of the synagogue. This designation is based on the wooden bimah of the synagogue of Alexandria, described in the Talmud.55 This Talmudic tradition of a central bimah continued in the commentaries of Spanish Talmudists of the 12th, 13th and 14th century. For example, the Mishneh Torah56 by Moshe Ben Maimon (or Maimonides, 1135-1204), the Migdal Oz by Shem Tov Ben Avraam Ibn Gaon (end of 13th, beginning of 14th century), the Magid Mishnei by Vidal Yom Tov of Tolossa (second half of the 14th century) and the Arba’a Turim57 by Rabbi Yaakov Ben Asher (Ba'al Ha-Turim, 14th century). Although the synagogues of Spain were destroyed or converted to churches after the expulsion of the Jews in 1492, surviving medieval manuscript illuminations58 illustrate the central bimah, apparently in accordance with the examples of the Talmud and the medieval Spanish Talmudists. Based on two illuminations we see at least a schematic representation of the internal structure of synagogues in Spain where an elevated wooden bimah was at the center of the prayer hall. In Greece the central bimah is traditionally called Sephardic, and is found in Rhodes, Kos, Komotini, Salonika (Italian Synagogue) and possibly in Didimoticho. 2) Adjacent to the Western Wall (Bi-polar Organization)59 In Greece, when the bimah is attached or adjacent to the western wall of the prayer hall, the arrangement is traditionally called Romaniote. This type of plan is encountered in Corfu, Ioannina, and Trikala. The bi-polar plan in Greece has many common characteristics with the bi-polar plans in neighboring Italy, and especially Venice, after the 16th century.60 The close commercial, religious and social ties between Jewish communities of Greece with those of Italy may have affected the mor-
phology of Greek synagogues, mainly in western Greek cities such as Ioannina, Corfu and Arta, where many Italian Jews settled. An even earlier example of the bi-polar type also appeared in Spain, and survived in the small private synagogue of Cordova, erected in 1315. The existence of the Cordova Synagogue suggests that the bi-polar arrangement may have originated in Spain. Joseph Ben Ephraim Caro (1488-1575), who came from Spain, wrote in his authoritative summary of Jewish law, the Shulhan Aroukh, that the position of the bimah depends on time and place. That is, that in the past, when synagogues used to be larger, the bimah was in the center of the room. Since in his days synagogues were smaller, many chose to place the bimah at the western side of the synagogue.61 Based on this explanation, and the fact that the majority of early synagogues known to be built by Sephardim in Greece and elsewhere placed the bimah near the western wall, it is possible that the bi-polar synagogue became more widespread after the Jews' expulsion from Spain, when, because of limited resources or their small number, Jews chose to build small synagogues, where it was more practical to place the bimah at the western end of the room. 3. Adjacent to the Heikhal The placing of the bimah adjacent to the heikhal developed from the 19th-century European Reform synagogues. The new architectural arrangements for Reform synagogues were inspired by the progressive ideas of the time and influenced by the form of the service and buildings of (mostly German) Protestant churches. The Reform movement began in the city of Seesen, Germany, and gradually spread — with variations — to most Jewish communities of Europe and America. Even so, by late 19th century many Orthodox synagogues also adopted the combined bimah and aron (heikhal) arrangement, as well as many of the other architectural arrangements — such as fixed, seating facing the heikhal. The removal of the bimah to the east end allowed more room for seating in the center of the synagogue, but it also signaled an increased separation of clergy and congregation, greater decorum (conformity) in the exercise of prayer and, in general, a more formal and less participatory service. In Greece, this type is encountered towards the end of the 19th century and mainly in the first decades of the 20th century. It was not so much ideology or social theory that brought about this type. Rather, it was an effort to imitate the contemporary Jewish trends of Europe — although these trends which emphasized conformity did have a social purpose. We have such examples in mainly contemporary synagogues such as that of
Beit Shaul (1898) in Salonika, Xanthi, (1926), Monastirlis in Salonika (1927), and Beit Shalom in Athens (1941). The Projecting Bimah In Greece there are two instances of a bimah projecting from the western wall: in Ioannina and in Trikala. This projection is part of the bi-polar arrangement, and results when the bimah is adjacent to the western wall. But there are also examples in bi-polar plan synagogues where the bimah does not project. Traditionally,62 before the Second World War, the bimah of the synagogue of Chalkis was adjacent to the western wall, but had no projection. Likewise, the Catalan Yashan Synagogue (destroyed in the fire of 1890), and the Talmud Torah Hagadol63 Synagogue (1904-1917) in Salonika, both of which had a bi-polar interior arrangement, had no bimah attached to their western wall. Further, the synagogue of Aragon in Kastoria (1830, demolished after the Second World War)64 has an elevated bimah over the main entrance, 18 steps above the floor of the main prayer hall, but the reconstruction drawings show no projection for the bimah. On the other hand, if we examine the neighboring synagogues of Italy65 and mainly those of Venice and Padova, we can observe many similarities, especially insofar as the bi-polar position of the bimah and the projection to the western wall are concerned. This morphologic relationship of the two can lead us to the conclusion that the projection probably came from Italy to Greece. The Relation of the Synagogue to the Street and Courtyard The courtyard is an inseparable part of the Greek synagogue. The courtyard separates and protects the synagogue from the street. It also serves as an open space for the congregation, where members meet before and after services in a quasi-private space. The courtyard, entered through a gate from the street, is often surrounded by a high wall, hiding it from public view. Today, there are still examples of this type of courtyard in the central market of Izmir,66 where most synagogues of the city are concentrated, in Syria,67 in Morocco68 and elsewhere throughout the Muslim world. Similar courtyards existed in Western Europe, too, especially before the age of Emancipation. Many examples, such as that in Veitschocheim in Germany, were known in small towns throughout Germany before the Holocaust. In Italy, due to the limited space of the ghetto, a different tradition developed for the protection of the synagogue, namely on an upper floor of domiciles. Such examples are encountered in the Jewish ghetto of Venice, whereas in Greece we have two known examples: In Corfu and in Patras
(demolished in the 1980s). The use of the courtyard and the protection of the synagogue away from the street prevailed in Greece and Turkey until the mid-19th century, when the Tanzimat Reforms69 were implemented. From this time on, there is a new relationship of synagogue to street, reflecting the public recognition of the legitimacy of the Jewish community, and promise of greater security. As developed in Western Europe after Emancipation, new synagogues were designed to directly face the public street. The courtyard still fulfills its function as a community space, but it is placed to the side of the synagogue, behind the now-splendid faĂ§ade. Thus, in the second half of the 19th century, synagogue architecture becomes part of the urban streetscape. For example, we can see this change by comparing the synagogue in Alexandroupolis (19th century) to the Monastirlis Synagogue in Salonika (1927). The Women's Section (Ezrat Nashim) The separation of men and women in the synagogue is the norm for all pre-modern synagogues; and in all Orthodox synagogues, and thus, in all synagogues in Greece.70 Only men enter the main prayer hall. Women enter a special section, called the ezrat nashim, which is often elevated in a balcony or gallery area. In Greece, the womensâ€™ section is usually entered from a separate entrance, usually from the courtyard of the synagogue to a side door. In some synagogues, such as was the case in Xanthi, men and women entered the main door to the synagogue together into a vestibule area, but women then ascended a staircase to the ezrat nashim, while men proceeded straight ahead into the main prayer hall. Until the 19th century, a wooden latticed window covered the openings of the women's section to the main hall of prayer to visually separate men and women.71 Examples of this survive today in the synagogues of Ioannina (1826) and Veroia (before 1850). At the synagogue of Komotini (19th century) the corridor and the elevated section for women was also separated from the rest of the synagogue by a wooden latticed window, similar to that of Veroia and Ioannina. The women's section in the synagogue of Larissa (1861) was apparently similar; its earlier arched openings still have their original form but have been blocked with stonework. Finally, an example similar to Komotini is the synagogue of Trikala (19th century), where, before the recent extensive alterations (including a new women's section in the southern part of the building), there was a women's section on the northern side.72 Women used to enter through a separate entrance (today it is turned into a cupboard) from the courtyard, and would
Interior of the prayer room in the Jewish Community Center in Kavala in 1994. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
The bimah of the synagogue in Chalkis. In the background is the womenâ€™s section (ezrat nashim). (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
The heikhal of the Scuola Greca Synagogue in Corfu built in the 17th century. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
The 19th-century bimah of the Synagogue Yavanim in Trikala. The bipolar bimah is located on the western wall, and an additional â€” later â€” bimah in the center of the hall. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
The heikhal of the Scuola Greca Synagogue in Corfu with the Sifrei Torah in wooden tikim. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
The heikhal of the Synagogue Kahal Shalom in Rhodes with Sifrei Torah. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
The 17th-century bimah of the Scuola Greca Synagogue in Corfu. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
Interior of Kahal Shalom Synagogue in Rhodes built in 1575. The wooden bimah in the center of the hall is a reproduction of the original bimah destroyed during the Second World War. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
Interior of Etz Hayim Synagogue in Larissa renovated in 1991. The hall is organized by ten columns and the bimah in the center. Before the Second World War the bimah was built of wood, above the entrance on the west wall opposite the heikhal (bi-polar). (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
Interior of Beit Shalom Synagogue in Athens bult in the late 1930s. The interior of the synagogue was renovated in the 1970s in a modern style. The heikhal and the bimah are built adjacent to each other, in a Reform manner. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
The ezrat nashim (womenâ€™s section) balcony of the Synagogue Kahal Shalom in Rhodes, probably a later addition to the original building. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
Interior of the synagogue in Chalkis. Over the bimah is the balcony of the ezrat nashim (womenâ€™s section). (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
Morphological characteristics of Greek synagogues. (Elias V. Messinas Achitect)
Mole Antonelliana, the Great Synagogue in Torino (Italy), dating from the late 19th century. An imposing public building in the eclectic style. A typical post-emancipation example of a grand and monumental synagogue in the heart of Torino. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
The synagogue in Edirne (Turkey) dating from the 19th century. (Courtesy Albertos Koen)
Interior of the Conegliano Veneto Synagogue (1701) reconstructed in the 1950s in Jerusalem, located at the U. Nahon Museum of Italian Art. The original building was published in J. Pinkerfeld, The synagogues of Italy (Jerusalem, 1954), p. 39-40. (Courtesy of the U. Nahon Museum of Italian Jewish Art, Jerusalem)
Sinjora Synagogue in Izmir (Turkey) built in the 19th century. Similar to the Greek synagogues, it is a rectangle plan with four columns in the center. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
The ceiling of Sinjora Synagogue in Izmir (Turkey) built in the 19th century. Prior to its modification, the bimah stood under this ceiling, in the center of the hall. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
climb a wooden staircase along the northern wall from the ground floor to their balcony on the first floor. The entire area of women's access to the synagogue as well as the women's section was, as at Komotini, closed by a wooden latticed screen separating it from the main wall of the synagogue. In most synagogues, this form of extreme separation ended, beginning in the mid-19th century under the influence of European models in synagogue design. Instead, ezrat nashim takes the form of an open balcony, that is separate and elevated, but more open to and integrated into the main prayer hall. Examples in Greece include: in Salonika, Talmud Torah Hagadol Synagogue (1907-1917), the Italian Synagogue (1896-1917) and the Monastirlis Synagogue (1927), Xanthi (1926-1995) and Volos (restored in the 1940s and demolished in 1960s). Restorations were made in the women's section in historic synagogues such as that of Rhodes (probably in the 1930s), Corfu (probably in the 1930s), Larissa (probably in the 1930s) and Chalkis (in the 1940s and 1950s).
Architectural Morphology Synagogue Plan Types Most synagogues in Greece are arranged symmetrically along a longitudinal axis, where four or more columns separate the interior into aisles. In
rare cases the main axis is across the width of the synagogue. The main entrance is used by men, who pray in the main hall of the synagogue on the ground floor. Women pray in the women's section (ezrat nashim), which is separated from men, either on a higher floor or by a wooden latticed window. Some synagogues, such as the synagogue of Corfu (17th century), have a unified interior space, not separated by columns. The Corfu Synagogue is narrow in width, and does not require additional interior supports to carry the load of the roof. The open plan without columns, sometimes referred to simply as a “hall plan” is also found in contemporary synagogues, mainly in those small enough to permit a unified space. Examples exist in Kos (1934), Volos (1960) and in the modern synagogues in Salonika, Yad LeZikaron (1984) and Y.A. Salem (1981/2). According to verbal descriptions of one version, the synagogue of Alexandroupolis (19th century), which its new (non-Jewish) owner renovated after the Second World War, had no columns in the interior. Finally, the modern synagogue Beit Shalom (1941) in Athens, is an example of this type, for it is built with reinforced concrete, permitting a large span without interior columns. A plan type common in synagogues of the Ottoman Empire, is of a rectangular space with four central columns that organize the interior space. In most cases the bimah is set between the columns in the center of the room. This type of synagogue is found in Izmir (Turkey) — Algazi Synagogue and Bikur Holim Synagogue, in Plovdiv (Bulgaria), and in Greece in Veroia (before 1850), Komotini (19th century), Larissa (1861) - with 10 columns at the center, Didimoticho (end of 19th century/1924) and Chalkis (beginning of 20th century). The origin of the four-column interior is unknown. Variations can be found from Portugal to Poland.73 The basilica plan is also common in Greek synagogue design. The interior is divided into three aisles, usually by two rows of columns which help carry the roof. Examples of this type, influenced by Western European models, date mostly from the beginning of the 20th century. Today we can find examples of this type in Xanthi (1926), the Yanniotes Synagogue of Athens (1905), and the Monastirlis Synagogue of Salonika (1927). An earlier version of the basilica type is the synagogue of Ioannina (1826), where the interior is divided by five rows of columns, into six aisles. A variant of the basilica plan consists of a façade — often flanked by two projecting tower blocks — that is wider than the prayer hall behind. The façade may contain an entrance vestibule, and one or more stairwells leading to the womens’ gallery. This plan has its roots in Western Europe where large two-towered synagogues were erected beginning in the 1850s. This type soon spread east and examples can be found throughout Greater
Poland. The use of a wider façade structure may derive from Ottonian and Romanesque cathedral architecture. The plan might also have appealed to some Jewish congregations for its similarities to some reconstruction of Solomon’s Temple, especially after the 1890s when the reconstruction of the Temple by French architect Charles Chipiez was widely circulated.74 This type of floor plan is found in Kos (1934), Athens (Beit Shalom Synagogue, 1941), and Xanthi (1926). Seating The position of the bimah affects the arrangement of seats in a synagogue. In the past, the seats in Greek synagogues were permanent, built-in wooden benches, and these still survive today in the synagogues of Ioannina and Veroia where benches are placed along the perimeter of the room, and at the center, arranged in parallel rows. Typically, when there was a central bimah, benches were built around it, most facing the central bimah and some facing the heikhal. In the case of the bi-polar plan, benches were arranged in rows parallel to the main axis of bimah and heikhal. Benches were aligned on each side of the main axis, with congregants divided facing a central space. In this way one half of the congregation faced the other, as in the synagogue of Corfu. In the third case where the adjacent bimah is joined to the heikhal, the seats are organized in parallel rows that all face the wall of the heikhal, as in the Beit Shalom Synagogue of Athens. In Greek synagogues, in the main prayer hall the worshippers take their seats next to the heikhal, at the perimeter and at the center of the hall.75 In Jewish tradition the seats next to the heikhal are most desirable and connote the greatest honor. After these, other seats along the east wall are preferred.76 Today, for a number of reasons, in most Greek synagogues the seats are wooden movable chairs or portable benches that are set up for each individual service. They can be arranged in regard to the type of service, and the size of the congregation. The Synagogue Before and After the Tanzimat Reforms (1839-1856) Until the beginning of the 19th century, and particularly before 1839 and the Tanzimat Reforms, Greek synagogues had almost no distinctive exterior characteristics. They could not be differentiated from neighboring houses.77 After the Reformations the situation changed. The Ottoman restrictions on buildings no longer applied and synagogues began to assume a more imposing and prominent look. The buildings established their presence on the street next to houses and even
churches.78 In this phase, there was a clear influence coming from abroad, mainly from Europe: new progressive ideas of the emancipation of Jews, through education in the schools of Alliance Israélite Universelle throughout the Ottoman Empire, and through international commercial activity of members of the communities who established these synagogues. The Reforms also changed the form of the Jewish quarters. Before Tanzimat, the Jewish quarter followed the defensive model: houses were built around a common open courtyard. Members of a particular community or an entire Jewish community lived around this courtyard reached from narrow, dead-end streets. The synagogue was in the courtyard, and blended with the houses. It often did not differ from them: the synagogue was not an imposing building facing the street and the city, but rather a part of the fabric and the block of buildings in the neighborhood, to the point it was not distinguishable from the neighboring homes. In many cases of fire, for example in Salonika, fewer synagogues than those actually existing were recorded. The authorities had no way of distinguishing and recognizing the synagogues in densely populated neighborhoods. The defensive model protected religious groups, while synagogues within these neighborhoods were hidden from the notice of the authorities, which, until the middle of the 19th century, posed limitations in the construction and renovation of synagogues. An example survives in Veroia, where the synagogue is built among the houses of the Jewish quarter called Barbouta. The synagogue is an integral part of the fabric of buildings of the neighborhood, while its main façade faces the open courtyard of the quarter, away from the street and the city. Two gates, connecting the neighborhood to the city, would be locked at night, keeping the street and the city outside the courtyard of the Jewish quarter and away from the synagogue. Today we have similar examples in Kahal Kadosh Shalom Synagogue in Rhodes (1575), and in Kahal Kadosh Yashan Synagogue (1826) in Ioannina. In both synagogues, high walls hide the entrance and the main façade, while the synagogue complex is an inseparable part of the courtyards and houses of the Jewish quarter. The synagogue of Komotini, demolished in 1994, may have been a similar case. It was part of the block of houses that enclosed the courtyard of the Jewish quarter, but it was also distinguished from the surrounding houses due to its notable octagonal dome (which may have been a later addition). After the Tanzimat Reforms, we find synagogues built on the street, with prominent façades lining the densely constructed modern streets.
Interior of Kahal Kadosh Yashan Synagogue in Ioannina, built in 1826. The interior of the synagogue is divided into eight aisles by columns and permanent wooden benches. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
The synagogue in Xanthi at an unknown date, most probably shortly before the Second World War. (The Jewish Museum of Greece)
The exterior of the eastern wall of Kahal Kadosh Yashan Synagogue in Ioannina with the projection of the heikhal. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
The synagogue of Patras built in 1926. The photograph was taken in 1978, two years before the building was demolished. (The Jewish Museum of Greece)
The interior and heikhal of the synagogue of Kavala built in the second half of the 19th century. The base of the central bimah is visible in the forefront of the picture. The building, which stood adjacent to the Jewish Community center, was severely damaged during the Second World War. It was demolished after the war. (Published in Chronika 164, 1999, p. 22)
A house in the ex muros Jewish quarter of Ioannina decorated with a Star of David. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
Interior of the synagogue of Patras built in 1926 prior to its demolition. The furnishings of the synagogue were preserved and are on display at the Jewish Museum of Greece. (The Jewish Museum of Greece)
The synagogue built by the Jews from Monastir in the center of Salonika in 1927 has already been mentioned in this regard. This synagogue, the work of Jewish architect E. Levy, still survives. It has an impressive faรงade, behind which are courtyards which surround the building on three sides, hidden from the street. Their use is exclusively for the congregation. This synagogue reflects the obliteration of older restrictions and the implementation of the new city plan that determined the position of the building on the street. A similar example is the contemporary synagogue of Xanthi, built on Hadzistavrou Street, a main street leading to the central covered market of the city. The synagogue is prominent on the street, but its entrance is at the back away from the street, through a courtyard. This way the building combines a prominent elevation on the street with a direct axis between the entrance and the heikhal, oriented east towards Jerusalem. The reason for this orientation is most probably the decision of the architect to have the main axis leading directly from the entrance to the heikhal. The Builders' Guilds (snaf) The majority of the synagogues built in Greece during Ottoman times were simple buildings, often constructed with basic local materials, tsatma and bagdati coated with plaster. On the exterior they were no different from the traditional homes of the Jewish quarters. Builders followed the traditional building practice. In northern Greece and Epirus, during Ottoman times, the organized guilds (already existing in the Byzantine period) were preserved. The builders' guilds were among those that flourished. A great deal has been published on the traditional architecture of northern Greece and particularly on the works of the builders' guilds (snaf or isnaf)74 in the region of northern Greece. The craftsmen's hierarchy, their regulations and operations, were strictly defined. The head workman was at the top of the pyramid: he was elected by the 12 eldest masters, and managed the guild for one year or more. The head workman took the title of the architect (kalfa) and was in charge of the supervision of the work: he was responsible to find work for his fellow workers and maintained the smooth function of the guild. The chief craftsmen were called isnafers and masters and their assistants were called kalfades (apprentices) and arhikalfades (head apprentices). Finally the young assistants were called tsirakia. The isnaf had specialists such as stone workers, who carried rocks from the stone quarry to the site, carpenters, woodcutters, stone carvers, painters and decorators. The snaf would build according to the tradition of each city and
region: initially the Byzantine tradition in construction, but during the Ottoman period new features and aesthetics were adopted that gradually influenced the appearance of their work, regardless of the client's preference. They were commissioned by Christians, Jews and Muslims to build houses, churches, monasteries, mosques and synagogues, to which they gave a common character adapted to the identity and tradition of each patron. They built according to the environmental character of the region and the decorative style they had adopted from their experience in Ottoman public works. As a result, the Ottoman tradition is a mixture of the art that the koudaraioi brought with them and the local customs. So, we find synagogues in the regions of Epirus, Macedonia and Thrace, as well as in Asia Minor (Izmir) where we can recognize the common characteristics of the snaf tradition integrated and enriched with the local tradition. We can recognize their work in the synagogues built throughout northern Greece and Epirus, for example, Ioannina (1826), Kastoria (1830), Veroia (before 1850), Drama (19th century), and Komotini (19th century). The common characteristics of these synagogues are their materials and size; and the construction details and techniques which are also found in private and public buildings erected by the koudaraioi in these cities. Preservation and Conservation of the Synagogues in Greece Many of the synagogues of Greece were destroyed in the Holocaust, others were heavily damaged and demolished in the post-war period. Still others were left standing but neglected until they, too, were torn down. Only recently, after a half-century of denial and neglect has there been interest in the fate of the buildings and the need to protect and preserve them. Disregard was not only for synagogues. The rapid development of post-war Greece led to the deterioration and destruction of many historic and traditional buildings and urban spaces. The intense construction resulted in the tearing down of historic buildings, and the intensive exploitation of urban land. Moreover, as in many countries, a large part of the population joined the political and business leadership in tolerating the destruction as a sign of progress. Today, however, it is recognized that it is necessary not only to preserve monuments, but also to protect and preserve the traditional urban fabric. The preservation and conservation of monuments, including Greek synagogues, has begun to preoccupy architects and urban planners. According to D. Karidis, "the request for the protection of a particular traditional building or a traditional part of the city seems like an obvious
obligation to preserve a cultural possession.” The 1990s saw successful efforts to preserve two remaining synagogues that were abandoned and in danger of being demolished: the synagogue of Chania (Crete) and the synagogue of Veroia. Local authorities, international donors and the Central Board of Jewish Communities of Greece have contributed to these efforts. But in many cases interest has come too late. Recently, detailed articles80 were published on the occasion of the dem-
olition of certain significant synagogues in the cities of Didimoticho, Komotini and Xanthi81 in northern Greece. The articles attempted to rouse more widespread interest in this issue, and to avoidance of similar occurrences in the future. The demolition of the synagogues of Komotini and Xanthi will be dealt with in detail in the relevant chapters.82 Research has also revealed information on the demolition of another synagogue, that of Patras, which was declared inactive in 1970 and demolished in 1980.83
1 Strabo, Geography, 16.2.28. 2 Philo, Embassy to Gaius (Legatio ad Gaium), 281. 3 The most complete introduction to Greek Jewish sites is Nicholas P. Stavroulakis and Timothy J. DeVinney, Jewish Sites and Synagogues of Greece (Athens, 1992). In many cases, this study builds on observations made by Dr. Stavroulakis and has benefited by use of the photographs of Mr. DeVinney. On Jews in the later Byzantine period see Steven Bowman, The Jews of Byzantium (1204-1453), (University, Ala. 1985). For the earlier Byzantine period see the classic study of Joshua Starr, Jews in the Byzantine Empire 641-1204 (Athens, 1939) and extensive commentary by Zvi Ankori, Karaites in Byzantium (New York and Jerusalem, 1959). 4 See Lee Levine, The Ancient Synagogue (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000) 5 On Benjamin in Greece see: Singer, Michael, A., The Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela: Travels in the Middles Ages (Joseph Simon Publisher, 1983), 67-69; and The World of Benjamin of Tudela: a Medieval Mediterranean Travelogue (London and Cranbury, NJ, 1995) and scholarly commentary in Ankori, Karaites, passim. 6 For example in Damascus, Syria, where there were synagogues named for the Sicilian and Iraqi communities. See Samuel Gruber, Silenced Sacred Spaces: Selected Photographs of Syrian Synagogues by Robert Lyons (Syracuse, NY, 1995). 7 Views on the situation of the Jewish communities throughout the 15th century vary. Most Jewish communities in northern and central Greece were forced to move to Constantinople after its fall. By the 17th century, almost two centuries later, they were still referred to as sürgünlü in the Turkish archives. They were forcibly resettled in Constantinople in order to revive its commerce and comprised communities from 21 different cities (seven from Anatolia and the rest from Turkey, Europe and the Balkans). We also have data related to the order of Mehmet II for the compulsory settlement of (Romaniote) Jews from Serres to Constantinople after the fall, in 1453-5. As recorded in the register of the Jewish community of Istanbul of 1689, the following Romaniote communities who were forced to move to Istanbul immediately after the city was conquered by the Ottomans are still referred to by the term sürgünlü, which means "forced to move." The number presumably refers to the number of heads of household in each community. 1. Egriboz (Chalkis) Sürgünlü 31 2. Demotica (Didimoticho) Sürgünlü 62 3. Saloniki (Large) Sürgünlü 81 4. Saloniki (Small) Sürgünlü 44
5. Caraferia (Veroia) Sürgünlü 45 6. Siroz (Serres) Sürgünlü 32 7. Edirne (Andrianoupolis) Sürgünlü 38 Other Jews are listed as kendi gelen, meaning "those who came on their own." 8 With his teachings in Seville, F. Martinez requested the solution to the "Jewish issue" in his city. Twenty-three synagogues of the city were destroyed, the Jews were confined in ghettos, all relations between Christians and Jews ended, and every Jew was removed from key positions in the local government and society of the city. Martinez' teachings brought about a strong anti-Semitic climate which broke out on June 4, 1391, after the death of the King of Castille, in 1390. See Jane Gerber, The Jews of Spain: A History of the Sephardic Experience (New York, 1992), 113. 9 By the end of the 15th century, during the mass settlement of Sephardim, many Greek cities had already lost their organized Jewish communities. As a result, the Sephardim either found no Jews at all in the cities they arrived, or they only found a few individual families. 10 The literature about Sephardi Jews is enormous. A good introduction is Jane Gerber, The Jews of Spain, op. cit. 11 In August 1550 an invitation was sent from Salonika to the Jewish community of Provence, in which local Jews were invited to leave their city and to come to settle in the city of Salonika. Molho, M. Les Juifs de Salonique à la fin du XVI — Synagogues et patronymes (Clermont-Ferrand, 1991), p. 13. 12 The last two destructions that we know of were in the fire of Easter 1847, and in the earthquake of 1894. In these two cases, as it had been done in the past, the building was reconstructed on the same foundations. If we compare the urban plan of the "Citadel" of 1840 to the topographic plan of 1961 (1:500), we see clearly that the synagogue is built on exactly the same position, on top of the same foundations as the older ones. In fact, when the new urban plan was applied and Kotsou Street was widened, the synagogue was not moved; instead the southern courtyard was reduced to the minimum (see ground plan). Regarding the 1840 map of the citadel of Chalkis, S. Kokkinis, & G. Gikas, The first urban diagram of the "Citadel" of Chalkis, and a list of buildings, Record of Evoian Studies XIX, (Athens: 1974). Regarding the 1894 earthquake and destruction of the synagogue of Chalkis, see document Halkis 6551/1894. We have similar examples in other cities of the Ottoman Empire, where a firman of 1825, permitted the reconstruction of a synagogue destroyed by a fire in Istanbul; however, it does not permit any changes of the building in terms of size, appearance, etc. This firman dictates
the exact size of the synagogue and its courtyard. Such firmans strictly followed Islamic law that was based on earlier Christian Roman legislation. 13 Gerber, H. The Jews of the Ottoman Empire in the 16-17th century — economy and society, Jerusalem 1983, pp. 117-9. 14 (Heb. Ma'aminim). "The faithful." See Gershom Scholem, Sabbatai Sevi: The Mystical Messiah 1626-1676 (Princeton, 1973) and “The Crypto-Jewish Sect of the Dönmeh (Sabbatians) in Turkey,“ in The Messianic idea in Judaism and other essays on Jewish spirituality (New York, 1971). pp. 142-166.. 15 Chronika 142 (1996), p. 62. 16 E. Messinas, The Synagogues of Salonika and Veroia (Athens, 1997), p. 55. 17 The essays by Kanaris Konstandines, special envoy of the newly-founded Central Board of Jewish Communities in 1946, “The Post-war situation of the Jewish Communities of Greece,” are a significant contribution to our understanding of the situation of the Jewish communities in Greece after the Occupation. Chronika 142 (1996), pp. 14-33. 18 Examples include Trikala (before the war it had two functioning synagogues, whereas only one after the war); Ioannina (before the Second World War it had two functioning synagogues and two smaller oratories, whereas only one synagogue re-opened after the war); Arta (before the war it had two functioning synagogues, whereas only one synagogue functioned after the war, for a brief period before it was torn down). 19 Chronika, 142 (1996), p. 62. 20 In Salonika, apart from the Ashkenazi synagogue that was requisitioned and used by the Greek Army, the Jewish Community was paid rent in the post war period for the following synagogues: Harilaou, Midrash BeitYaakov, Vardar and Larissinon. See below, relevant chapters. 21 On May 29 and 30, 1995, O. Saba, former chairman of the Jewish Community of Trikala and T. Kapeta gave the author an oral interview. According to the data they provided the (Sephardic) synagogue of Trikala on Kondyli Street had been converted into a bank warehouse, while the Monastirlis Synagogue (still standing today) served as a warehouse for the Red Cross during the Occupation. 22 According to survivors' testimonies and records of the Central Board of Jewish Communities (KIS), the synagogues of Komotini and Xanthi had been converted into stables during the Bulgarian occupation. After the war, however, the synagogue of Komotini was turned into a warehouse, and the synagogue of Xanthi into a (Christian) Sunday School. A fire in the synagogue of Komotini while it was used as a warehouse severely damaged the building, which, before it was torn down, had almost completely collapsed. 23 These synagogues are described in word and pictures in Stavroulakis and DeVinney, Jewish Sites, op. cit. 24 The synagogue, designed by the architect E. Lazarides (according to the architect's signature on the façade of the building) was founded in 1935. See Chronika 78 (1985), p. 49. The recent renovation of the building was completed between 1972 and 1975 by the architect Iossif Cohen from the architecture office G. Liapis. 25 The construction of this synagogue began in 1904 and was completed on June 18, 1905. Chronika 78 (1985), p. 29. 26 The synagogue was inaugurated in 1927. 27 According to the Jewish Community of Salonika, the synagogue was inaugurated
in 1984, and the architect of the synagogue was Christos Kouloukouris. 28 According to the Jewish Community of Salonika, the home for the aged of the Jewish community was inaugurated in 1981/2, and the architect for the building and the synagogue was Christos Kouloukouris. 29 The synagogue, built in the 19th century, was renovated after the war. 30 According to the sign on the western wall, the synagogue was built in 1826, barely four years after Ali Pasha destroyed the city. Some published sources give the date 1829, after the older building was destroyed in the fire of the same year, along with others dating from the Byzantine period; restorations were made in 1881 and 1987. 31 The construction of the first synagogue of Volos began in 1865 and was completed in 1870. During the Occupation the synagogue was greatly damaged. It was restored and reopened, but destroyed again in the earthquake of 1955, after which a new building, completed in 1960, was constructed using reinforced concrete (for protection from future seismic damage). The new synagogue was constructed based on the plans of the engineer Victor Bensousan. R. Frezis, The Jewish Community of Volos, (Volos 1994), pp. 23 and 30. 32 The synagogue of Chalkis dates from 1854, when the older building was burned. According to subsequent research of the author, it was again destroyed in the earthquake in 1894 (Halkis 6551/1894), and was most probably reconstructed shortly after. 33 The synagogue of Kos dates from after the earthquake of 1933, when the earlier building was destroyed. For photos see See Stavroulakis and de Vinney, Jewish Sites, op. cit., pp. 128-133. 34 According to an oral interview with I. Cohen from Drama, the wooden synagogue was apparently a residence that was converted into a synagogue. 35 This synagogue was built as a Catholic church called St. Catherine. When the Turks occupied the island the Venetians left and Jews settled in their quarter. The church was then converted into a synagogue. The synagogue was reconstructed and reopened in 1999 thanks to the efforts of Nicholas Stavroulakis, former director of the Jewish Museum of Greece, and the support of the World Monuments Fund and private donors. The synagogue was a victim of arson in January 2010 and suffered considerable damage including loss of its extensive library. 36 The dating of the building is based on its architectural style and on the fact that the first settlers outside the city walls after 1866 were Greek Orthodox families. It is unknown when the Jewish community settled outside the walls of the old city of Kavala. Considering the wealth that tobacco brought to the city after the end of the 19th century, it is possible that the city's commercial activity attracted Jews who built its splendid club. According to the late S. Tsimino, the last Jew living in Kavala, the Jewish community lived scattered (outside the walls) and had no specific Jewish quarter with boundaries. 37 For a detailed history of the early synagogue in literature and archaeology see Lee Levine, The Ancient Synagogue – The First Thousand Years (New Haven, 2000). 38 According to B. Mazur, Studies on Jewry in Greece (Athens, 1935),p. 8, by 139 BCE there were Jewish communities in Sparta, Sikyon, Samos, Knidos, Kos, Crete (Gortyn), Rhodes and Delos. 39 Acts (16, 13) “And on the Sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made (at Philippi); Acts (17, 1-2) "… they came to Thessa-
lonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: and Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures…”; Acts (17, 10) “… Paul and Silas by night (went) unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews…”; Acts (17, 15) “… And they then conducted Paul brought him unto Athens…”; Acts (18, 1) “… Paul … came to Corinth; and found a certain Jew named Aquilla…” 40 See Levine, op. cit., p. 100-105. 41 According to Mazur, a synagogue functioned in Palaiohora in Aegina during the Byzantine period after the inhabitants of the island evacuated the city on the shore and moved to fortified Palaiohora. The Hebrew inscription found there probably belonged to that synagogue. Mazur, op. cit., 35. 42 Discovered by the German historian Ludwig Ross. The floor was covered for protection and was studied again by Thiersch in 1901, Furtwängler in 1904, E. Sukenik in 1928, and finally by the German archaeologist Dr. G. Welter, in 1932. The studies were completed by the National Archaeological Service. 43 Translations from, L. Levine, op. cit., p. 250, after Frey, Corpus Inscriptionum Iudaicarum (cat 722-723). 44 Comparing the location of the synagogue and the map of the modern city of Aegina, the synagogue site was behind Hotel "Avra." 45 See Stavroulakis and de Vinney, Jewish Sites, op. cit., 228-229 and Levine, Ancient Synagogue, op. cit., passim. 46 A.Frantz, The Athenian Agora XXIV (Princeton, 1988), p. 59 and the author's discussion on this subject with John Camp, director of the museum of the American School of Classical Studies, Athens. 47 On the excavated synagogue of Stobi see: Gideon Foerster, “A Survey of Ancient Diaspora Synagogues,” in Levine, Lee I, ed., 1982, Ancient Synagogues Revealed. (Detroit, 1982), pp 167-170; Lee Levine, The Ancient Synagogue, ibid; especially pp. 252-255: and J. Wiseman and D. Mano Zissi, “Excavations at Stobi 1970-72,”, American Journal of Archaeology, 75 (1971-1972), 408-410; 77:410 and “Excavations at Stobi 1973-74,” Journal of Field Archaeology 1 (1974), 391-401. 48 In Plovdiv the synagogue remains were discovered near an ancient bath complex, a basilica and in an insula with a large residential building. Only the substructure and a few parts of the superstructure, with traces of later reconstruction visible, are still preserved.. Initially, the building was a basilica, consisting of a central nave (13.5/9.0m) and two-side aisles (13.5/2.6.0m) facing south to Jerusalem. See C. Danov and E. Kesjakova. ”A Unique Find - the Old Synagogue in Plovdiv,” Annual of Social Cultural and Educational Association of Jews in Bulgaria V (1970), 210-227 and Lee Levine. The Ancient Synagogue, ibid. 49 Synagogue remains were excavated in 2003. The building dates from the 5th or 6th century,. According to archaeologists Gideon Foerster and Ehud Netzer of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, “five stages were identified in the history of the site. In the two early stages fine mosaic pavements (2nd to 4th century), probably part of a private home, preceded the later synagogue and church. In the third stage several rooms were added, the largest of these containing a mosaic pavement representing in its centre a menorah flanked by a shofar (ram's horn) and an etrog (citron), all symbols associated with Jewish festivals. Mosaic pavements also decorated the other rooms. A large basilical hall added in the last two stages of the history of the site (5th to 6th century) represents the heyday of the Jewish
community of Anchiasmon (Onchesmos), the ancient name of Saranda'. The structure measures 20 by 24 metres and was probably last used in the 6th century as a church, as evidenced by two dedicatory inscriptions in the mosaic pavement.” See: http://www.jewish-heritage-europe.eu/country/albania/ albania.htm (accessed Nov 20, 2008). 50 The literature on synagogue architecture is large and continues to grow. Remarkable, however, Greek synagogues are rarely, if ever, mentioned in any of the standard works. For this reason alone, the current study is significant. The best overviews of European Synagogue architecture remain Rachel Wischnitzer, The Architecture of the European Synagogue (Philadelphia, 1964), and Carol Herselle Krinsky, The Synagogues of Europe: Architecture, History, Meaning (New York and Cambridge, Mass, 1985). See also Samuel Gruber, Synagogues (New York, 1999), which also contains material about synagogues in the Muslim world. 51 The German, French and Italian Jews (Ashkenazim) call the Ark, "Aron HaKodesh,” whereas the Sephardim call it "Heikhal." 52 This type of heikhal is also encountered in the synagogues of Provence and is considered to originate from Spain. See B. Narkiss, "The Heikhal, Bimah, and Teivah in Sephardi Synagogues," Jewish Art, 18, 30-47. 53 The meaning of parokhet originates from the curtain that used to separate the sanctuary from the rest of the Temple of Jerusalem. 54 Tur, Orakh Hayim, ch. 150 "… they all look towards the elderly and towards the teivah…". 55 In the Talmud (Sukka, 51 b'), Rabbi Judah describes the famous synagogue of Alexandria, a basilica that was destroyed in the 2nd century CE: "Anyone who has not seen the double-arched basilica of Alexandria, has not seen the triumph of Israel. It is said that it was like one big basilica, one arcade after the other, and that there was room for twice as many Jews who once left Egypt. It had seventy one golden thrones… and a wooden bimah at the center of the synagogue." 56 Halakhat Tefillah, 91, 11c: "and they place a bimah at the center of the room, so that the man who will read from the Torah, or he who will tell them important things will step on it, so that they will all hear him. 57 Tur, Orakh Hayim, 150 d': "… and they place a bimah at the center of the room, so that the man who will stand on it and read from the Torah, they will all hear him.…" 58 In the 14th century Sarajevo Haggadah (Bosnia National Musuem) and the Sister to the Golden Haggadah (British Library). 59 According to Rachel Wischnitzer, the bi-polar structure relates to the Sephardic synagogues of Southern Europe, Italy and Provence. In Greece, the bipolar synagogue appears in the Romaniote synagogues. See Wishnitzer, European Synagogues, p. 57. 60 J. Pinkerfeld, Synagogues of Italy, 7. Bi-polar synagogues are found in other parts of Europe, such as London, Amsterdam, and Southern France. 61 The Shulhan Aroukh does not sanction the central position of the bimah as part of "synagogue laws.” (Orakh Hayim, 150 e'). On the contrary, in his interpretation Kesef Mishnah, he wrote that "… and they built a bimah at the end of the synagogue and not at the center… and there are no rules for this issue… it depends on the place… in the past synagogues had the bimah at the center, so that everyone could hear… in our days synagogues are small and everyone can hear … it is bet-
ter that the bimah is at the end and not at the center." (Tefillah, 11c'). My thanks to Professor Meir Shweiger of the Pardes Theological Institute of Jerusalem for his assistance. 62 According to a testimony of the president of the Jewish community of Chalkis, M. Maissis, who, as a child, remembers the position of the bimah on the western wall (unpublished interview with the author, 1993). 63 Images of the interior and the exterior of the building in the archive of A. and D. Recanati, in D. Recanati, Zikhron Saloniki, volumes A' and B', (Tel Aviv, 1972), in E. A. Hekimoglou, Thessaloniki, Turkish domination and Post War (Salonika, 1996), pp. 71-72, and in G. Megas, Memory (Athens, 1993), pp. 128, 130-131. Also see the aerial photograph of the city before the fire of 1917 in the Roger-Viollet archive. 64 P. Tsolakis, The Jewish Quarter of Kastoria (Salonika, 1994), p. 17. See also his reconstruction plans and photos of the synagogue, figures 7-10. 65 The Scuola Canton (1531), Scuola Levantina (1538 ff), Scuola Italiana (1575 ff.) in Venice; the Scuola Spangola (about 1550) in Padova; and the Scuola Levantina in Ancona (16th century) among other Italian synagogues have bi-polar plans. Some Venetian synagogues have a projection at their western wall. On the Italian synagogues see Krinsky, op. cit., pp. 341 ff. 66 The synagogues of Turkey were studied by the author during his visit to Turkey in April 1997. Floor plans of these synagogues were found in the archive of the Center for Jewish Art (CJA) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The plans were made by the architect Boris Lecker, member of the scientific team of the CJA in 1994. I take this opportunity to thank the CJA for giving me access to these drawings. 67 As can be seen in the photographs of Robert Lyons taken as part of survey of Syrian Synagogues for the World Monuments Fund in 1995. See Samuel D. Gruber, Silenced Sacred Spaces, op.cit. 68 See Joel Zack, The Synagogues of Morocco: An Architectural and Preservation Survey (New York, 1993). 69 Tanzimat-i Haytiye, or simply Tanzimat, signified the reformations that determined equality of all religions in the Ottoman Empire, including Jews. The firman called Hatt-i Cherif or Hatt-i Houmayoun was issued on November 3rd. 1839, and renewed on February 18th. 1856. 70 In the 19th century Reform synagogues allowed mixed seating. On seating in the synagogue see Krinsky, op. cit., 23 ff and passim. 71 This separation probably comes from the curtain that used to separate men's and women's areas in synagogues of the beginning of the 13th century. It was common mainly in synagogues of Northern Greece and Epirus, until the end of the 19th century. Examples can be found in Ioannina (1826), the Yanniotes synagogue in Athens (1905), Komotini (19th century) and others. 72 According to information given to the author by elder members of the community. 73 See Krinsky, Synagogues of Europe, op. cit., passim, and Sergey R. Kravtsov, “Juan Bautista Villalpando and Sacred Architecture in the Seventeenth Century,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Vol. 64:3 (2005), 312-339. 74 See, Sergey R. Kravtsov, “Reconstruction of the Temple by Charles Chipiez and Its Application in Architecture,” Ars Judaica, 4 (2008), pp. 25-42. 75 Although there is no firm evidence to support this assumption, it is probable that
the tradition in the Iberian Peninsula in the 14th century of inheriting, buying and selling synagogue seats was carried to the first synagogues of Salonika and in Sephardic communities in other cities of Greece. On the seating in Spanish synagogues see Yom-Tov Assis, “Synagogues in Medieval Spain,” Jewish Art, 1992, 18-21. 76 Tur, Orakh Hayim, ch. 150 "… and the elderly face the congregation, their back to the heikhal… the first row (of the congregation) faces the elderly…" In many congregations the seats on the east wall are reserved for rabbis, sages or other community leaders. Elsewhere, when seats are sold for the High Holidays when attendance at the synagogue is greatest, prices of the seats next to the heikhal are most expensive. 77 We have similar examples in Venice and Ferrara, Italy, as well as Izmir, Turkey. A. Nar, Lying on the seashore (Salonika 1997), pp., 24-25, 42. In fact, in Salonika, there are several cases in which synagogues have not been reported in the fires, as they had not been recognized by those in charge to register the damages of the fire through the neighboring houses. 78 In Preveza, we encounter the only example where the synagogue (now demolished) was imposingly facing the street, had a decorative entrance, just a few steps away from a central church that stood opposite. Based on the archive of S. Mamaloukos, (10.3.95), and V. Audikos, Preveza 1945-1990 (Preveza, 1991), p. 192. 79 Isnaf or snaf (roufet in Arabic) was the name for artisan groups, descendents of the same groups that were organized during the Byzantine period. Eventually, the isnaf became self-ruled, and had their own regulations and codes of function, including taxation, police and judicial power. The isnaf would assist the inhabitants of the settlements not only financially, but also socially, for there was an organized care of their members and their families. The builders, artisans and craftsmen who belonged to builders' guilds were called Koudaraioi in Epirus and Western Macedonia, and Doulgerides in Thrace. The Koudaraioi of the period we are studying came from regions of Northern Epirus, such as the villages of Koritsa, Vonitsa, the outskirts of Arta and Paramithia, villages of Western Macedonia, especially from Florina and Kozani districts. Finally, Koudaraioi from Serbia, Bosnia, Herzegovina and regions of Skopje and Bulgaria worked in the construction of many mansions in Veroia. The Koudaraioi of Veroia also traveled to Kastoria, Naousa, Edessa, and Florence. The Koudaraioi used to speak their own dialect amongst themselves, just as Jewish merchants spoke Hebrew and JudeoSpanish amongst themselves, when speaking in front of competitors. 80 Articles were published extensively in the newspaper Kathimerini due to these demolitions. N. Vatopoulos, “The last traces of Jewish presence are lost,” Kathimerini (7.5.95), p. 44, Messinas, E., The building of the synagogue of Xanthi, Vima (7.5.95), p. A18, E. Messinas, “An important building is in danger, Economicos Tahydromos" (23.3.95), p. 71 and E. Messinas, The Synagogue of Xanthi, Kathimerini, (10.3.95), 14. See also Y. Sarayiannis’s review (in Greek) of "The Synagogues of Salonika and Veroia," Synchrona Themata 64 (1997), p. 142, where he writes of the demolished synagogues: "Is it a coincidence that they are all in Thrace, or has modern Greek nationalism intruded fiercely?" 81 E. Messinas, Synagogues of Salonika and Veroia, op. cit. p. 23. 82 Regarding Xanthi, "According to a Ministerial resolution (number/3497/ 3497/52480/5-11-91), that was published in the Governmental Paper (978/B/2711-91) the building was declassified as a work of art. In 1992 it was sold to be
demolished, after a demolition permit was approved. Law 151 of the Shulhan Aroukh, the essence of the interpretation of the teachings of Mosaic Law, includes a chapter on "Laws” concerning the synagogue. It states as follows: "Even after the destruction of a synagogue the area remains in a state of holiness and we have to respect it and honor it as before, with all possible care...." The area where the synagogue used to stand in Xanthi was so densely built with modern apartment buildings, that it has been downgraded both from the point of view of aesthetics and urban planning. 83 The Jewish community of Patras was declared “inactive” and on October 25, 1970, the property of the community was placed in the care of a special Administrative Committee, headed by Joseph Moissis. Apart from the synagogue and the Jewish cemetery, the property included five Sifrei Torah (Torah scrolls), prayer books, two
pairs of rimonim (torah finials), one silver pointer, seven shadayiot, one bookcase, desks, a clock, two Greek flags and one Israeli flag, talithot (prayer shawls), and oil lamps (document of 25.10.70). In 1977 the synagogue was donated to the Jewish community of Athens under the condition that if “a new building was built, then part of it should take the form of a Museum and a synagogue.” The synagogue was demolished in 1980, and an apartment building constructed on the site. No synagogue or museum has been built in Patras. Fortunately, thanks to the actions of Nicholas Stavroulakis, former director of the then-newly founded Jewish Museum in Athens, the furniture of the synagogue of Patras was saved in 1978 before the demolition. These include the wooden ornamented bimah and the heikhal, which are now on display at the Jewish Museum of Greece.
The jewish quarter in the greeK cities of the ottoman empire HISTORIC CITY CENTERS BEFORE 1856: THE JEWISH QUARTER In principal, the location of the Jewish quarter in the Greek cities is related to a number of parameters, such as the size of the initial nucleus intra muros city, the time of settlement of Jews, and the history of the fortification of each city. In antiquity, according to Josephus, the synagogue and by extension the Jewish quarter, were located close to a water source. There may also be a direct relationship in the position of the Jewish quarter and the occupation of its Jewish inhabitants: the tanning and textile industries, which require running water, have been the main occupations of the Jews of Greece in antiquity. It is quite possible that this is the main reason for the proximity of synagogues and the Jewish quarter to a water source. We have examples in Aegina, Salonika and Philippi. The Jewish community of Aegina settled near the old military port. The primary occupation of the Jews of the island was textile dyeing and leather. The location of the Jewish quarter to the southeast of the city center and the commercial port of Aegina, near the sea, enabled the community to practice its occupation. In Salonika, the Etz Hayim Synagogue, which is believed to be the oldest and perhaps the ancient synagogue of the city, is recorded to have The eastern part of the city of Serres based on the survey of 1913, after this area was destroyed by fire. The Jewish houses organized around an open courtyard, marked here in black. (Chronika, December 1985, p. 16)
The Jewish quarter (Barbouta) in Veroia after the Second World War. (Chronika 138, 1995, p. 14)
been until the end of the 19th century adjacent to the coastal walls of the city. It is believed that this was the same location of the synagogue where St. Paul the Apostle preached in the 1st century CE. The position of this synagogue near the coastal walls locates the position of the Jewish quarter near the coastal walls and therefore near the sea. Similar references to a synagogue next to a river are from Phillipi, where St. Paul preached. It is likely that the Jews in Phillipi were engaged in similar professions, and their quarter was next to their synagogue and next to the river, as he describes in Acts 16:13. During medieval times, this pattern changed and Jews lived confined within fortified cities, often somewhat distant from water sources. Veroia is an exception, when Evligia Chelebi visited the Jewish community there in the 17th century. Their main occupation was textile and the Jewish quarter was located adjacent to the river Tripotamos, which offered both protection to the quarter due to its steep slopes, and the valuable water for the dyeing of textiles. The settlement of Jews within the city walls depended on the urban organization initially determined during the Byzantine era, and the changes that took place during Ottoman times. In both cases, there were periods when cities were deserted, sections of the walls destroyed and patterns of settlement changed accordingly. The settlement of Jews within the
Detail of the Jewish quarter of Komotini inside the citadel, prior to its demolition. The Jewish houses are surrounding the open courtyard and the Synagogue Beit El is marked at bottom left. Juxtaposed on the earlier plan, is the new city plan. (City Plan, YPEHGODE, scale 1:500, September 1970.)
city walls also depended upon the settlement of other ethnic religious groups within the walls. For example Muslims (Turks) settled in the best areas of each city after these cities came under Ottoman rule, and Christians (Greeks) settled in the areas where churches existed from the Byzantine period. Another factor that affected the settlement of Jews in Greek medieval cities was the location of the city's central market.1 For example, the pattern of settlement of the Spanish Jews in Salonika after the 15th century was greatly affected by the different ethnic and religious groups in the city, and the location of its central market. Muslims (Turks) occupied mainly the upper sloped part of the city, while Jews and Greeks were restricted to the flat part near the sea. Greeks, on the one hand, settled around the churches that stood in the eastern part of the city, whereas Jews occupied the center and the western part, next to the market and the coastal walls.
The settlement of Jews in Ioannina, next to the market, was similar to that of those who settled in the walled city of Salonika: the area traditionally occupied by the two Jewish quarters in Ioannina is an area in front of the city gate, which, during Ottoman rule, served as the central square and market of the city. The reasons why Jews settled near the central market may be related to the forced transfer of Jews from northern Greek cities to Istanbul and other large cities once they came under Ottoman rule: Jews settled in the center of deserted cities. For example in Salonika, when Murat II conquered the city in 1430, he found it deserted and in ruins. When Spanish Jews were seeking shelter half a century later, Bayiazit II may have seen this as an opportunity to strengthen the city center and the commercial activity of the city. The Form of the Jewish Quarter and Its Relationship to the Synagogue Within the framework of the traditional organization of the Jewish quarter during Ottoman times, the care for public works and most of urban services was the responsibility of individuals or of the Jewish community.2 After 1839, this pattern would gradually change, as a result of the Tanzimat Reforms. In the first half of the 19th century and particularly until 1870, the territorial organization of the Jewish quarter was introverted, and the arrangement of the houses offered defense and protection. The organization of the quarter was structured along the lines of socio-economic status, including members of all social levels. In 16th-century Salonika, for example, each group of Jews formed its own separate and autonomous community. Each quarter constituted a religious unit, a social entity, with its aristocracy, its middle class and its proletariat, tied together by financial, commercial and family ties, with its leaders and administration, its records, its property and its income. Each heterogeneous group that settled in the cities of the Ottoman Empire brought along its language, its special ritual customs, its manners and customs. Therefore each settled separately from the other in different quarters, and each one built its synagogue in the quarter where it settled. The synagogue was not only the spiritual and religious center, but also the administrative center of each one of these separate communities. The role of the synagogue as a coherent center enabled each community to maintain a sense of individuality, keeping its own customs, language and religious practice. The role of the synagogue was greatly challenged and changed after the mid-19th century.
The physical condition of the Jewish quarter during the Ottoman period (before 1856), according to most published sources, was poor. These descriptions portray a Jewish quarter densely populated and dirty, where Jews lived under wretched conditions. E. Chelebi,3 who visited Salonika in the 17th century, describes it as follows: "There are fifty-six slums in Iskele Kapoutsou, beneath the wall of the castle. Their homes are shabby Jewish shacks, but their slums are in the center of the market and densely populated." The houses appear to be small and densely built and are mostly built of wood. Families lived cramped with their elderly and extended families all under one roof. In several cases, ten to fifteen people slept in the same room. Cortijos â€” courtyards are everywhere. Each one looks like a village or a camp. The families were accommodated in one of the numerous rooms that overlooked the central courtyard, where one could find carts, laundry braziers, benches, basins full of urine for the processing of dyes, lingerie drying on the clotheslines and cooking braziers. The labyrinthine alleys and dead end streets, leading to these courtyards, are also dirty and unsanitary. Within this context, though, one found also certain impressive buildings (usually the homes of the wealthy) next to shacks. The Jewish quarter was the first to benefit from the modernization of the city at the end of the 19th century. HISTORIC CENTERS OF CITIES AFTER 1856: THE JEWISH QUARTER As the Greek cities of the Ottoman Empire were modernized after the middle of the 19th century, settlement based on national-religious factors shifted to settlement based on socio-economic factors. The upper classes had the ability and choice to move to new, spacious and sanitary quarters that were established outside the historic centers, whereas the lower social and economic classes remained in the traditional quarters, thus forming a new type of ghetto. For example, at the end of the 19th century, poor Jews settled in the market and the port areas of Salonika, and benefited from the proximity to these two sources of employment. The dispersion of Jews in new neighborhoods was also the result of destruction, as in the case of Edirne (Andrianoupolis). Before the fire of 1846, the Jewish quarter was in the southeastern end of the historic center of the walled city. It had 13 synagogues built in the densely populated urban fabric. The quarter was separated from the rest of the city by a wooden fence, permitting the community to have absolute control over its members. After the fire of 1846, the quarter was demolished,
The doctors and staff of the Jewish hospital de Hirsch established in 1907 in Salonika. Sections of the hospital still exist today as part of a larger public hospital. (Avraham and David Recanati Collection)
and the situation changed radically: Jews settled in other neighborhoods and suburbs and social ties among the members of the community loosened to the extent that Jews would buy houses and live among Muslims. The efforts of urban modernization in the Ottoman Empire were applied gradually. It was mainly after 1856 that a new form was given to cities, starting with the alignment, widening and pavement of roads, the introduction of street lights and the improvement of construction methods. They also included the establishment of municipal services for the cleaning of cities, the improvement of infrastructure, the development of public transportation (facilitating the settlement outside the walls), the construction of public buildings, enactment of construction regulations and urban planning, and finally the implementation of the rectangular urban grid in areas reconstructed after they were destroyed (mainly by fires). Large cities benefited greatly from these improvements. For example, the city and port of Salonika changed radically by the demolition of the coastal walls (1869), the opening of Nikis Avenue (1870) and the opening of a number of central wide avenues in the center of the city, cutting through the dense grid of the previous centuries. With the introduction of new public transportation lines connecting the center to the east and western suburbs of the city, new neighborhoods developed rapidly along these
The Alliance IsraĂŠlite Universelle school in Salonika. It was destroyed in the fire of August 1917. (Avraham and David Recanati Collection)
new lines of transportation. For example, the suburb of Hamidye was developed to the east of the historic center of Salonika. This suburb flourished after 1886, as the fields, vineyards and orchards were gradually converted into building plots. These plots were sold and developed not only by Greek and Turkish entrepreneurs, but also by Jews such as the Modianos, the Allatinis and others. Wealthy Jewish families settled in this area and built their mansions. These mansions were originally planned as summer houses, but soon, with the accessibility that the new public transportation offered, these summer villas became permanent residences. This nucleus of prominent Jewish families in the area attracted later further Jewish settlement following the fire of 1917. As a result, the life of the Jewish community shifted towards the east of the center. The change in the traditional structure of the Jewish quarter was often a result of natural causes, such as fires. Until the middle of the 19th century, after a fire, Jews would return to the area where they had been living before the destruction, and reconstruct it along the lines of the previous settlement. On some occasions, fires were the cause for mass emigration to cities within the Ottoman Empire, such as Izmir and Monastir, and abroad, mainly the Italian cities of Livorno, Ancona and Genova. From the middle of the 19th century onwards, the wave of modernization of the Ottoman Empire changed this pattern radically. Each fire would give the Ottoman authorities the opportunity to remodel and recon-
struct the areas struck by the fire, based on a new, modern plan. For example, the fire in the Agia Sofia neighborhood of Salonika, in 1890, resulted in the complete reconstruction of the area. This neighborhood was redesigned using a new plan without any commitment to the previous city layout or use of land and property. The streets were straightened and widened, the plots were laid at right angles, dead end streets were opened, construction lines and the height of buildings were regulated. Also attention was given to the regulation on sanitation and the avoidance of fires. The result of these measures was the transformation of the area from a densely populated settlement of poor houses of porters, ragpickers, and the lowest working class of Salonika, into an area of wealthy houses. The changes of the structure in the Jewish quarter would affect the structure of the Jewish community: settlement in a quarter would no longer be based on historic, family and national-religious ties. In 1856, as new quarters were established outside the historic city, the Jewish quarter took a socio-economic character, and social classes were completely separated. The wealthy had the freedom of choice to move to any quarter they wished. The poor either stayed in the old quarters in the historic centers, under unsanitary and dense conditions, or were left to the care of the Jewish community, which assumed responsibility to establish new quarters for them. In the cases of fire this necessity became greater, and the establishment of these quarters increased considerably. In this new form of settlement and establishment of quarters, the synagogue lost its place as a spiritual, religious and administrative center. It simply became a place of worship for its members. The community board was now responsible for the establishment of the new synagogues, no longer along the lines of place of origin, but based on the new settlement patterns of the community members.
1 If we take into consideration the fact that the main occupation of Jews during Ottoman times was commerce, then it is likely that we have an immediate relationship between the position of the Jewish quarter and the Jews' occupation, which shifts from textile industry (that requires water) to commerce (which needs proximity to the city's central market). 2 Jews, like most minorities within the Ottoman Empire, avoided contact with the Ottoman authorities as much as possible. They settled their differences on their own, through their own courts, the mediation of rabbis and the elders within the community. 3 See Chelebi, E., Journey to Greece (Athens, 1991), p. 119.
salonika Jews and Salonika (Thessaloniki) Ancient Thessalonica, founded in 315 BCE by Cassandros, was named after his wife, the sister of Alexander the Great. As the capital of the Roman district of Macedonia since 146 BCE, it benefited from the Pax Romana and developed into a major commercial center, thanks to its location on the Via Egnatia. The city attracted residents from other commercial cities in the Balkan region, and especially from the metropolis of Egypt, Alexandria. The origins of the Romaniote Jewish community of Salonika, a Greek-speaking community with an Hellenistic culture, probably dates from this time.1 The significance of Roman Salonika as a Jewish center is confirmed by the two visits of Paul the Apostle to the city.2 Paul visited Salonika in 50/51 CE with his companion Silas. They stayed in Salonika for more than three weeks, during which Paul preached at the synagogue on three consecutive Saturdays. There are no confirmed surviving in situ physical remains, however, of any ancient synagogues. During the Byzantine era Salonika became the second metropolis of the Byzantine Empire and the city flourished despite frequent attacks by Slavs in the 6th and 7th centuries. In the following centuries the city fell into the hands of Saracens, Bulgarians, Normans, and the Western European Crusaders. Benjamin of Tudela described a community of 500 Jews in Salonika in 1169, which may indicate an even larger population if the number refers only to heads of households. Jews in the city were involved in the silk industry. Benjamin notes the head of the community as R. Samuel and his sons Elijah and Michael. After the Fourth Crusade of 1204, Salonika was briefly occupied by various invaders, and finally returned to Byzantine control in 1224. In the 13th century the Jewish community of Salonika achieved some prosperity when the city returned under a relatively stable Byzantine administration that favored the Jewish economic activity. Stability allowed for the pursuit of religious learning and observance, sporadically interrupted by frequent catastrophes that afflicted the city such as earthquakes and fires. We know little of the day to day life of Jews in the city during the late Byzantine period, but Jews spoke the same language as Christians, and probably pursued similar professions. Jews likely followed the Minhag Romania, the traditional ritual of Romania (still the Empire of the Romans now called the Byzantine Empire and including Greece and the southern
Balkans). A portion of the Minhag Romania was read in Greek, including piyutim (religious poems). From limited sources, we know that living conditions of Jews and the Jewish communities in Salonika, and in Greece in general, during the Byzantine period, suffered from periods of poverty, coereced conversions and persecutions, many of which were the result of restrictive legislative decrees and imperial resolutions. During the later 14th century the Jewish community of Byzantine Salonika absorbed many Jews from Germany and Hungary (Ashkenazim), who had fled persecutions in these lands. At the end of the 14th century, Jewish refugees came from Provence, northern Italy, Sicily and Catalonia. Jews settling in the city were organized according to their city and country of origin, establishing their own synagogues. Romaniotes lived around the ancient synagogue (probably Etz Hayim), while Ashkenazim founded the Ashkenaz Synagogue. Jews who belonged to the synagogues Provincia, Italia and Sicilia had come from these countries. Jews who came to Salonika later on, mainly Sephardim after their explusion from Spain at the end of the 15th century, organized themselves in a similar way. Repeated attacks by the Ottomans forced the sale of the city to the Venetians in 1423. Venetian domination of Salonika lasted between 1423 and 1430, and mostly poor Jews remained in the city.3 On March 29th 1430, the Sultan Murat II (1421-1451) conquered Salonika â€” by then a nearly-deserted city with only 7,000 inhabitants. A generation later, following the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453, the Jewish community of Salonika was forced to move to the new capital of the Ottoman Empire, Istanbul, along with other Greek Jewish communities who were deported to repopulate the city. Between 1454 and 1460, a total of 25 Jewish communities were moved from 21 cities of the rapidly-expanding Ottoman Empire (Anatolia, Turkey, Europe and the Balkans). The Jews from Salonika settled in the quarters Tekfur Seray and Suhud Kapis of Istanbul, and in the 1540 census they were referred to as Cema'ati Yahudiyan-i Selanik. In the 1478 census of Salonika, there was no reference to Jewish inhabitants. At the end of the 15th century the population of Salonika increased again, due to the arrival of Jews who had been expelled from Spain after the Expulsion of 1492. More than 100,000 Spanish Jews (Sepharadim),
Interior of Ashkenaz (Burla) Synagogue after the Second World War. The bimah belongs to one of the synagogues of the Baron Hirsch quarter, and was moved later to Yad Lezikaron Synagogue. Yad Lezikaron Synagogue was established inside an office building erected on the site of Ashkenas (Burla) Synagogue. (Avraham and David Recanati Collection)
The heikhal of Ashkenaz (Burla) Synagogue, which belongs to the Ohel Yossef (Kehila Sarfati) Synagogue, and was moved later to Yad Lezikaron Synagogue. (Avraham and David Recanati Collection)
The orphanage named after Karolo Allatini in Salonika, before the Second World War. (Abraham and David Recanati Collection)
The Haim E. Pinhas institution of Bikur Holim (Jewish outpatient infirmary) established at the turn of the 20th century in Salonika. It was located on Papanastasiou street and was demolished in the 1970s. (Avraham and David Recanati Collection)
Detail of the heikhal of Yad Lezikaron Synagogue in Salonika established in 1984. It was relocated from the Ohel Yossef (Kehila Sarfati) Synagogue demolished after the Second World War. (Elias V. Messinas Archive) Greeting card of Mair Aboav Orphanage in Salonika for the New Year 5686 (1925). (Avraham and David Recanati Collection). Reception of King George II of Greece at Beit Shaul Synagogue by Chief Rabbi of Salonika Dr. Sevi Koretz in 1935. In the center stands senator Haimaki Koen. (Avraham and David Recanati Collection)
Interior of Italia (Yashan) Synagogue in the beginning of the 20th century. The marble bimah can be seen in the center of the hall, and the decorated marble heikhal on the opposite wall. (Avraham and David Recanati Collection)
Shaul Modiano (right), a philanthropist and supporter of the Jewish religious schools of Salonika. Avraham Ben Aroya (left), instrumental in the labor movement in Salonika. (Avraham and David Recanati Collection)
Interior of Yoshua Avraham Salem Synagogue built in 1981/2. This prayer room is located inside the Modiano Old Age Home of the Jewish community. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
Monastirlis Synagogue built in 1927 by Jews from Monastir (Bitjol), among them the Aroesti family. Designed by architect E. Levy, this synagogue has been influenced by earlier synagogues, such as Beit Shaul. It still stands today on Syngrou street. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
Inauguration ceremony of the Monastirlis Synagogue in September 1927 (27 Elul 5687). Seated in front of the heikhal is Rabbi Haim Habib. (Beth Hatefutsoth Photo Archive)
Entrance to Mograbis Synagogue in the 1930s. The synagogue was located near the Hospital de Hirsch. (Avraham and David Recanati Collection)
Monastirlis Synagogue built in 1927, view towards the heikhal. The adjacent position of the heikhal and the bimah shows influences from the Reform synagogues of Central Europe of the late 19th century. The light fixtures of this synagogue have been relocated from other synagogues; for example, the chandelier in the center of the hall originates from Ohel Yossef (Kehila Sarfati) Synagogue demolished after the Second World War. (Elias V. Messainas Archive)
expelled by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Castille, spread throughout Europe and the Ottoman Empire. About half of the 40,000 Jews who fled to the Ottoman Empire came to Salonika. Bayiazit II (14471512), who was sovereign when the Sepharadim arrived, looked favorably upon this incident and saw it as an opportunity to make the cities of the Empire wealthy and strong. The Sephardim found the city depopulated with fewer than 12,00016,000 inhabitants. They settled in deserted houses, which they rented from Turkish owners. The favorable climate that Bayiazit II created for the Sephardim attracted Jews from other countries, such as Germany and Hungary, who fled the persecutions of their rulers. Jews coming from Sicily, southern Italy, Portugal and Provence followed them, altering the composition of not only the Jewish community, but the city, as well. As in earlier periods, the newcomers organized themselves by place of origin, and newly established synagogues were named accordingly. This way, regional traditions and religious rituals were preserved. Jews settled in the eastern section of the city known as “Plain” (Gr. “kabos”) near and within the eastern walls, south of the ancient Roman Via Egnatia. Rogos was the only quarter north of Egnatia inhabited by Jews. Living conditions in the densely populated Jewish quarters were often unhealthy. Houses were small and densely built, without gardens, and the streets were narrow, dirty and unsanitary. Jews also lived in the eastern section of the market, behind and between shops, workshops and warehouses. In the 15th and 16th century there is no reference to a Romaniote (also called gregos) community in Salonika, as in other cities, such as Istanbul, Patras and Sofia. Judeo-Spanish was the everyday language of the Jews in the city, and the cultural dominance of the Sephardim who were professionals and had a strong religious and secular culture, contributed to the development and prosperity of the community. The impressive development of the Jewish community in the next two centuries gave Salonika the title "Mother of Israel" and "Jerusalem of the Balkans." Jews of Salonika had formed communities that concentrated around a synagogue and were administered by an assembly. This assembly was made up of those who paid taxes (petsia). It elected the Rabbi, the spiritual and secular leader of the community (marbitz), and the seven members of the board who assisted him in his administrative duties. Apart from administrator, the Rabbi was head of the religious court (Beit Din).4 He imposed the petsia and the indirect tax (gabelah) and issued various
resolutions (haskamot). The assembly (ma'amad ha'kahal) was headed by the chairman (parnas) and the treasurer (gabai). It drew up the community budget, determined the taxes, and mediated between the community and the Ottoman authorities. It also appointed a synagogue cantor (hazan), the performer of circumcisions (mohel), the ritual butcher (shohet) and the teacher (melamed). Every community had its own elementary school (heder), a rabbinical seminary (yeshiva), a library,5 charity institutions (gemilut hasadim) and a hospital (bikur holim). At the age of five boys attended the heder. The curriculum lasted four years, but the material taught was the traditional reading, writing, arithmetic and religious studies. Each synagogue also had its own yeshiva, always led by a Rabbi. Some of these Rabbis became very famous. For example, Rabbi Mordechai Kali and Rabbi Daniel Stroumsa, directors of the yeshiva of the Portugal Synagogue, Rabbi Asher Cohen Benardout, director of the yeshiva of the Aragon Synagogue, Rabbi David Nahmias, director of the yeshiva of the Mayor Synagogue, Rabbi Abraham Ben Ya'akov Bouttal, director of the yeshiva of the Lisbon Yashan (Old Lisbon) Synagogue, and Rabbi Isaac Halevi Bar Solomon Hazaken, director of the yeshiva of the Etz Hayim Synagogue. Many Jewish communities preserved their own ritual of worship until 1564. For practical reasons they had to have a close cooperation among themselves. Thus, a committee formed by all parnasim agreed on the distribution of taxes due to the Ottoman State and issued an announcement according to which the Marranos were recognized as Jews. From the mid-16th century, a chief Rabbi held all the power over the millet (Turkish: nation) and unofficially led the Jewish community through a position reinforced by imperial decrees. In 1680, these developments resulted in the unification of the Jewish communities of Salonika, led by a triumvirate of Rabbis assisted by a seven-member lay assembly. Jews who had come from Spain and Sicily in the 15th century reintroduced the textile industry in Salonika. They dominated the area of wool industry in the region due to new methods of wool processing, dyeing — especially the blue color — and weaving. During the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, from 1520 to 1566, Jews of Salonika earned the privilege of paying the personal tax (tzizia) in the form of commodities, especially the thick blue felt favored by the Janissaries.6 International commerce was well developed, and Jews did business with Venice, the first foreign commercial partner of Salonika, as well as Genoa, Amster-
dam and other cities. This intense economic activity greatly contributed to the economic growth of Salonika and to the prosperity of the Jews of the city. The 16th century may be considered the Golden Age for the Jewish community of Salonika, not only from the economic but also from the spiritual point of view. Jews of Salonika established the first printing house of the Balkans in 1515, and a few years later they built the significant synagogue Talmud Torah Hagadol. At the end of the 16th century, Salonika had more than 60,000 inhabitants: 30,000 Turks, 16,000 Greeks, 12,000 Jews, and 2,000 foreign merchants. This prosperity, however, was of short duration. The economic decline of the Ottoman Empire, the bad administration and the continuous uncertainty undermined the economic and cultural stability of the city, and especially that of the Jewish community. From the middle of the 17th century commerce in the East declined. Commerce in Venice collapsed, and the consequences for the Jewish community of Salonika were incalculable since Venice was one of its principal partners. The serious economic crisis that followed affected cultural life, as well. The Jewish community of Salonika became inactive for two centuries. The sanctions of the Ottoman authorities against Jewish and Greek merchants multiplied, with the consequence that many well-to-do merchants moved to Izmir, Monastir or Italy. In 1655 peace and coherence in the Jewish community was severely challenged by the messianic teaching of Shabbetai Zvi (died in 1676). His condemnation by the Rabbinical authorities was unable to inhibit the messianic passion of the impoverished masses. In Salonika many people responded to his preaching; so, when Shabbetai Zvi converted to Islam in order to save his life, many Salonika Jews, including prosperous and eminent families, followed his example. These Jewish converts became known as Dönme — they called themselves ma’aminim (faithful). Since 1515, the year of its foundation, the Talmud Torah School was the only institution of the Jewish community where higher education was available. Apart from Rabbinical seminaries, there was a school (Beit Midrash) for the study of piyutim and another school for higher secular studies such as philosophy, medicine and astronomy, where the famous doctor Amatus Lusitanus taught. In Salonika, Joseph Caro (1488-1575), author of Shulhan Aroukh, studied and taught, and Solomon Alkabetz wrote the mystical hymn Leha Dodi. However, at the end of the 17th century the Talmud Torah gradually diminished in status, mirroring the general decline of Salonika. Spiritual inactivity was widespread,
and there were few to perpetuate the work of the great scholars of the 16th century. According to the Turkish traveler, Evliya Çelebi (1611-1681), 100,000 Jews lived in Salonika in the middle of the 17th century, divided in 56 Jewish quarters (as compared to 48 Muslim and 16 Greek). These quarters were in the port area, and near the city walls. During the second half of the 18th century, the felt traded by Jews was still highly competitive. But there was marked disparity in wealth in the Jewish commuity. Charity was widespread, relieving somewhat the hard living conditions of the majority of Salonika Jews. The Turkish traveler of the 17th century, Mustafa Ben Abdalla Hadji Kalfa, noted that rich Jews spent significant sums on alms and charity, and “the day of the year that they distributed clothes and money to the poor was a festival for the entire city.” By the end of the 18th century, the traditional commercial activities of the Jews diminished as a result of imports of better and cheaper textiles from Europe. As early as 1827 there were no more Jewish workers in the textile industry, and by 1875 all people of Salonika wore clothes made of European textile. Jewish carpet making suffered a similar recession. The proud self-sufficiency of the Jewish community of Salonika became a memory. The Chief Rabbi, however, often enjoyed the protection of foreign powers (mainly France and England) and thereby maintained considerable independence from the Ottoman authorities. In the mid 19th century, however, the situation of the Jewish community of Salonika improved due to increased trade with Western Europe. A majority of large trading firms were owned by Jews, whose commercial acumen was felt throughout the Empire. This supremacy expanded to the banking system, too: the great commercial firms owned by Allatini, Modiano, Fernandez and Mizrahi alone had 4,000,000 consumers and influenced local Ottoman officials. During this period, the city’s overall population increased from 50,000 to 120,000. Foreign travel for Jews became more frequent, increasing contact with emancipated Jews in the West. Foreign customs and styles, especially from France, began to be adopted by the community, though not without resistance. Since 1873, the city’s French school Alliance Israélite Universelle introduced progressive ideas of emancipated Western European Jews to the city’s Jewish population. At the end of the 19th century, the Jewish community of Salonika instituted a radical reorganization. An Administration Council was formed that limited the duties of the Chief Rabbi to religious matters. The chairman of the
Administration Council became the de facto head of the community, underscoring the increased secularization to the Salonika’s traditional society. But the system, remained oligarchic. Out of the 14,550 families that comprised the Jewish community of Salonika at the beginning of the 20th century, only 1,550 were able to pay community taxes and therefore had the right to vote. During this same period Ottoman authorities began to modernize the city. Between 1866 and 1894 the old city walls were demolished, the neighboring swamp was dried, the port was renovated and Salonika was connected by railway to Europe. It was also supplied with electricity, telegraphy and tram cars. At the end of the 19th century Salonika was at a cultural crossroads. Having acquired a cosmopolitan character as the principal entry of western capital and ideas to the East, this metropolis of the southern Balkans was now the center of movement of modern Turks and of the Federation. Salonika was an important commercial center and the most westernized city of the Ottoman Empire. But Salonika was unique, too, because of its dominant Jewish character in a period of the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire and a simultaneous emergence of Balkan nations as independent states. The effects of modern education on the broader life of the Jewish community were tremendous. Its target went beyond the limits of school population and aimed at the “rebirth” of the entire Jewish community of Salonika. The prevailing belief among its proponents was that all the privileges of the western culture that had brought emancipation to the Jews in France should be spread to the Jews of “backward” countries so that they would awaken from their lethargy and combat their economic and social degradation. By 1912 Salonika had nine Alliance schools to promote these ideas: nursery, elementary, and high schools and trade schools for boys and girls. Eight thousand and seven hundred pupils attended them, while only 2,200 students attended rabbinical schools. One aim of the Alliance schools was to inculcate modern French Jewish culture through the introduction of obligatory elementary education. Salonika’s annexation by Greece in 1912 ensured that future generations of Jews would speak Greek. The rapid population increase and the undiminished tendency of domestic emigration resulted in the quick expansion of Salonika beyond its former boundaries. This development had significant consequences to the coherence of the Jewish community: the wealthiest Jews left the Jewish quarters and moved to new locations, mainly rural areas, where the new bourgeoisie did not discriminate on the basis of national origin or
religion. The economic prosperity led not only to the construction of private villas but, thanks to private or community sponsorship, the erection of new schools, hospitals, banks, mansions for clubs and big stores. Despite the prosperity, however, a large portion of the Jewish population lived in poverty, although sanitary conditions had improved. Social welfare projects, an indication of the solidarity within the community, became a reality after the fire of 1890, and the money from the collections to assist fire victims was invested in the construction of two quarters outside the center, called Baron Hirsch and Kalamaria. Community solidarity was well organized through charity institutions, which modernized the Bikur Holim, and built the Hirsch hospital, a mental institution, orphanages and homes for the aged. Scholarly institutions, athletic associations and other associations (such as the Club de Salonique and the Club des Intimes) multiplied rapidly. The press was equally active and the first newspaper issued in Salonika in 1865, called El Lunar (The Moon) was printed in Judeo-Spanish. Social activities, however, applied only to the upper classes of the community. The poor were attracted to the socialist ideas of Federation and to the Zionist ideology. Although it seemed that religious feeling was diminishing, Jewish identity remained strong, based on a special language, distinctive manners and customs, as well as a common centuriesold history. Anti-clerical Jews were faithful to socialism, Zionism or the assimilation implicit in the ideology of the Alliance. The Balkan Wars of 1912-1913 and the incorporation of Salonika into the Greek state created obstacles to the dynamic commercial activity of the city. The Jewish community worried that the loss of the hinterland of Salonika would negatively affect its economic potential. In addition, it was feared that a premeditated Hellenization of the city would lead to the displacement of the Jews by Greeks and would finally force the former to mass emigration. The Greek government countered Bulgarian and Austrian propaganda that was based on these concerns, maintaining a proJewish policy that calmed the fears of the Jewish population about the consequences of Greek domination in Salonika. In 1915, five Jewish members were elected to the Greek parliament. The fatal blow for the Jewish community was not the incorporation of the city into Greece, or even the transformation of the city into a massive military encampment during the First World War. It was the devasting fire of August 18, 1917 that destroyed almost the entire center of Salonika â€“ almost all of the Jewish quarter â€” and that subsequently allowed the rebirth of a city without a distinctive Jewish character.7 The
Jewish community of Salonika regrouped after the fire, but throughout the years between the world wars, it never regained its physical or economic dominance in the city. Wealthy Jews were able to rebuild near the center as part of the government sponsored plan. Poorer Jews, however, who made up the Jewish majority, were forced to resettle on the edges of the city, and many emigrated abroad. The calamity and dislocation of the 1917 fire was further exacerbated by the arrival of tens of thousands of Greek refugees from Asia Minor during the Greek-Turkish exchange of populations in 1923. Their resettlement created a Greek majority in the city for the first time since the Byzantine period, and caused friction with and within the Jewish community. The influx prevented the smooth functioning of the Jewish community. For example, in a petition to the President of the Government, the community mentions that nine Jewish schools had been requisitioned in order to provide shelter for refugee families. The schools remained requisitioned until August 1924, and as a result it was impossible to use them for teaching the Jewish pupils.8 Subsequent emigration of Jews during the interwar period, mainly towards Athens, France and Palestine, reduced even more the Jewish proportion in the total population, although economic and cultural activity by Jews remained undiminished.9 At the outbreak of the Second World War, Salonika had a substantial but impoverished Jewish community of 56,000 members. Between March 20th and August 16th, 1943, the Nazis deported a total of 45-48,000 Jews from the city. Only a few Jews survived in hiding or married to Christians and a mere 800 were counted in 1946. Eventually those who survived in Greece or returned from the camps numbered 1,950. Reorganizing the community was painful for these survivors, whose number continued to decline due to subsequent migration to Athens and Israel. Today Salonika is home to about 1,000 Jews. The Fires The prevalence of building with wood combined with the location of the city in a place subject to periodic strong winds, created a situation where periodic fires wreaked havoc on the city. There are frequent mentions of destructive fires throughout the centuries. Some of these accounts are detailed, most are not. It is often impossible to judge the reliability of the information, particularly about the level for destruction reported. In all, about 15 major fires are recorded in Salonika from the 16th century until 1917. All together these events apparently destroyed thousands of Jewish houses and hundreds of synagogues. Synagogues appear to have
Reception at Beit Shaul Synagogue with representativs of the Greek church and the Jewish community. Chief Rabbi Koretz stands in front of the heikhal. (Avraham and David Recanati Collection)
Interior of Ohel Yossef (Kehila Sarfati) Synagogue, built in 1921, in the 1930s. The heikhal survives in the Yad Lezikaron Synagogue and the chandelier (wrapped) in the Monastirlis Synagogue. The raised platform of the heikhal is enclosed with iron grills. The bimah is not visible; it was most probably located in the center of the hall. (Avraham and David Recanati Collection)
Ceremony for the replacement of tombs from the old Jewish cemetery to the new cemetery in 1938 requested by the Greek government in order to enlarge the university campus, standing adjacent to the Jewish cemetery. Only four years later, in November 1942, with the support of the Nazis, the Greek government will take over the Jewish cemetery, will destroy the tombstones and will enlarge the university using the Jewish tombstones as construction material. (Avraham and David Recanati Collection)
Exterior of Ohel Yossef (Kehila Sarfati) Synagogue. The round windows were adorned with a Star of David. The synagogue was demolished after the Second World War. (Avraham and David Recanati Collection)
Interior of Beit Shaul Synagogue in the 1930s. This synagogue like other synagogues and Jewish institutions in the city offered temporary shelter to homeless Jewish families, either due to the reconstruction of the city center, which required extensive demolition of houses, or due to the attack and destruction of the Campbell Jewish quarter on June 25, 1931. The marble bimah is visible to the right. (Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People)
Beit Shaul Synagogue built in 1896 by architect Vitaliano Poselli for the Modiano family seen from the narrow courtyard that connected the synagogue to Vasilissis Olgas (later Dimokratias) avenue, in the 1930s. The synagogue was destroyed by the Nazis in 1943 following the deportation of the Jewish community. (Avraham and David Recanati collection)
Decorative marble inscription from the Beit Shaul Synagogue with the name of the synagogue and the date of its construction (1896). Today this inscription is located in the Jewish cemetery of Salonika. (Avraham and David Recanati Collection)
Interior of Beit Shaul Synagogue showing the heikhal and the bimah. (Avraham and David Recanati Collection)
Interior of Talmud Torah Hagadol Synagogue circa 1910. View towards the bimah of the synagogue. It is not clear whether the opening to the far left is the heikhal or a door leading to an adjacent room. (Beth Hatefutsoth Photo Archive)
The heikhal of Beit Shaul Synagogue in Salonika, built in 1896 by architect Vitaliano Poselli for the Modiano family. (Avraham and David Recanati Collection)
Wedding in Otranto Synagogue circa 1930s. The name of the synagogue is inscribed on the parokhet (curtain) covering the heikhal. (Avraham and David Recanati Collection)
Interior of Yad Lezikaron Synagogue on Vassileos Herakliou Street established in 1984. The synagogue is located in the ground floor of an office building built on the site of Ashkenaz (Burla) Synagogue. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
The flour mills of the Allatini brothers, established in 1897. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
been re-founded and re-built quickly. We do not know whether congregations were able to re-use older buildings and building lots, or whether they had to build entirely anew. Most likely, prior to 1917, synagogues, houses and business were mostly rebuilt on their previous locations. Thus synagogues maintained continuity in location and name, if not entirely in structure. The first recorded fire was in June 1510 when about 1,800 Jewish houses and a great quantity of merchandise (mainly textiles) were destroyed. About twenty synagogues were also destroyed. The second major fire broke out in 1545, at the same time as the plague. According to the descriptions of the historian Rabbi Yosef HaCohen,10 this fire started from the house of Abraham Katalan, killing more than 200 people and destroying 5,000 houses and 10 synagogues. According to his report, 18 synagogues and several Torah Scrolls were burnt, while Rabbi Ovadia Elkonstandini wrote that 30 synagogues and prayer houses were destroyed. We do not have detailed information on the destroyed quarters and synagogues. Just a few years later, in 1580, another fire is also reported to have destroyed the Jewish Quarter. This fire is not mentioned in any other sources. In 1620 another fire destroyed three quarters and thousands of houses where Jews lived. It also destroyed 28 synagogues, 100 prayer houses, the Talmud Torah Hagadol and the Mishnei Torah, the Talmud Torah Hakatan, many shops and the entire market. According to Benayahu11 fires struck the historic center of the city throughout the 17th century, but most of them were not recorded. Fires also struck the historic center of the city in the 18th century including one of 1734 that broke out in the city on the first of the Jewish month of Sivan (middle of May) in the Malta Quarter and quickly spread to the neighboring quarters. One quarter of the city was reportedly destroyed, including 1,500 Jewish houses, Kahal Kadosh Maâ€™aravim (Mograbis), four prayer houses, part of Talmud Torah Hagadol and the store room where the books of the synagogue were kept. In 1754 a new fire, called the fire of iskinjis (antiquers) broke out, and that same summer, a plague broke out as well. In September 1759, the city experienced an even more destructive fire in which it is estimated that 25% of the city was destroyed. Most synagogues, prayer houses and the Talmud Torah Hagadol were burnt. One of the synagogues that was destroyed was the synagogue of the piscuadores (fishmongers), located in the area of the fish market. That fire, too, was followed by a plague that devastated the Jewish population four years later.
In the early 19th century two fires were recorded: in 1840 and 1842, and subsequent fires continued to afflect the city throughout the century, culminating on August 22nd 1890, when a particularly destructive fire broke out in a liquor store and the strong wind spread it to the entire coastal section of the city, around the church of Aghia Sofia, an area covering 20 acres. The fire burned seven quarters and a total of 3,500 buildings (houses and workshops). Among others, these quarters included seven large synagogues, 25 prayer houses and 33 Torah Scrolls. The fire did not reach the area of Talmud Torah Hagadol, which, like other synagogues in the city that were not burnt, was turned into a shelter for the 20,000 homeless fire victims, 15,000 of whom were Jewish. Financial support to the Jewish community came from London, Marseilles, Bulgaria, Italy and Istanbul. After the fire this section of the city was re-planned, and the fire-prone labyrinthine and filthy quarters were eliminated. The new building blocks were regular and homogeneous and the new streets were wide with buildings facing the street. Aghias Sofias Street, rebuilt at this time, was called “the street of the wealthy households.” Still, at the very end of the 19th century a new fire devastated the Jewish community of the city. On July 21st, 1898, fire broke out in Talmud Torah Hagadol and burned it to the ground. After tremendous efforts the fire was limited to the building and did not spread to the neighboring schools and the Chief Rabbi’s house. After its destruction, the synagogue was reconstructed. This reaction to the 1890 fire set the stage for the extensive replanning and rebuilding after 1917 — an action that transformed the face of Salonika forever. Many of the old quarters, where most Jews lived, were destroyed by fire. Others were demolished in the aftermath of the fire. The fire of 1917 was the final and most devastating of the many conflagrations which struck the city throughout the centuries. One hundred twenty acres of the center of the city, or two-thirds of the city, with 10,000 buildings, mainly in the Jewish quarters, were destroyed. Out of the 70,000 fire victims, 56,000 were Jews left homeless. Institutions of the Jewish community that were destroyed included the Bikur Holim Hospital, ten rabbinical schools, five yeshivot, one seminary, the Chief Rabbinate, the five schools of Alliance Israélite Universelle and five community schools, libraries, banks and commercial shops. In addition, 32 synagogues, 17 community and 65 private prayer houses (midrashim) with 450 Torah scrolls were burnt. This would be the last fire to destroy the Talmud Torah Hagadol.
Jewish Quarters of Salonika Jewish Quarters in Antiquity and in the Byzantine Period The location of the ancient Jewish quarter of Salonika cannot be determined with certainty, due to near total lack of information. The earthquake of 620 and subsequent changes in the historic layout of the city have erased the earlier layout. According to V. Dimitriadis and A. Nar12 there are two possible locations for the ancient and Byzantine Jewish quarter of Salonika. Dimitriadis locates the Etz Hayim (or Etz HaHayim) quarter adjacent to the coastal city walls before the 16th century. This view is supported by the location of the Etz Hayim Synagogue, which, according to tradition, was the ancient synagogue where Paul the Apostle preached. At the time of the demolition of the coastal walls of the city in 1870, this synagogue abutted the walls, near the area of the Ippodromeio quarter. The demolished synagogue was not an ancient one (see below), but may have been built on the site of an earlier building. The location of ancient synagogues near water is common in other cities of Greece (Aegina and Delos), and was also the case in Ostia (Italy). A synagogue adjacent to a city wall is known from DuraEuropos (Syria). The Etz Hayim quarter was located in the streets Varsano (Pharoh), Etz Hayim Havrasi (Theodorou Laskareos), Hisar (Pausaniou) and the perpendicular street Kastilya Havrasi (Aghiou Nikolaou) that begins from the seashore and continues northwards. Before the Ottomans conquered Salonika, there are references to two Romaniotes or Griegos synagogues, Etz Hayim and Etz Hadaat. These were probably located in the Etz Hayim quarter. The Etz Hayim Synagogue was probably on the street named after it. A second possible location of the ancient Jewish quarter is north of the other location, above Via Egnatia, in the area where the later Byzantine Jewish quarter was located, next to the ruins of the arcade of the Caryatids, known as Las Incantadas (the idols). It is possible that there was an early synagogue here, later converted into the church of Lady of Halkeon. The Baru quarter was built next to the Etz Hayim quarter when refugees from Europe settled in the city. Synagogues believed to have been built in the early 15th century (Italia and Sicilia) were probably located in Baru. Jewish Quarters During the Ottoman Period (1430-1912) Local Jewish tradition maintained that Turks initially lived near the port, but later moved out of this part of the city because it was too
busy and noisy. They eventually moved to the northern area of the city, and leased their homes to merchant Jews who preferred to live next to the busy market at the center of the city. In the 16th century many Jewish houses were still Turkish property, and Jews rented them by the month or the year. After the arrival of Jews from Spain and Portugal at the end of the 15th century, the Jewish community comprised the largest group in Salonika, but still lived in a relatively small area in the city. The limits of the area were from the Akçe Mascid quarter in the east to the Vardari gate in the west, and from Egnatia Street to the north to the coastal wall in the south. Christians and Muslims also lived in these quarters. Another Jewish quarter, called Rogos, was above Via Egnatia. The traveler Evliya Çelebi, who visited Salonika in the 17th century, wrote that the city was inhabited by 100,000 Jews who lived in quarters (neighborhoods). These were located within the gate of the harbor, next to the wall of the citadel. According to Çelebi, the houses in the Jewish quarters in the market area at the center of the city were shabby and crowded and the streets were narrow and filthy. 13 Jews continued to settle in Salonika periodically and in waves, depending on persecutions, pogroms, and expulsions, that resulted in the emigration of a large number of Jews to Eastern Europe and the territories of the Ottoman Empire. For example, in the 16th century, after the Battle of Mohats and the first destruction of Budapest by the Turks, Jews moved towards the cities of Kavala, Serres, Trikala and Salonika. In Salonika, these refugees settled in the area of Aghia Sofia. In addition, at about the same time, the Liviat Hen Synagogue was built by refugees from Portugal (probably Maranos) in the Leviye quarter, east of the Baru quarter. Towards the end of the 16th century the Talmud Torah Hagadol Synagogue was built in the Kadi quarter located between the Christian quarter of Kizlar Manastir and the Agora, probably a place where a large number of Jews lived. Finally, in the mid-17th century, the Beit Aaron (House of Aaron) Synagogue was built giving its name to the Bedaron quarter (“Bedaron” is most likely a corruption). This quarter was located between the church of Aghia Theodora and the Etz Hayim quarter. The construction of the synagogue in this location signifies that Jews settled in this area.
Table I The Jewish quarters of Salonika and their year of construction (until 1890)14 Name of quarter
Year of construction
1. Etz Hayim 2. Baru 3. Pulya 4. Leviye 5. Aguda 6. Yeni Havlu 7. Kadi 8. Külhan 9. Findik 10. Salhane 11. Tophane 12. Malta 13. Bedaron 14. Rogos 15. Aya Sofya 16. Kardingoç 17. Baron Hirsch 18. Kalamaria
Before 1420 1493 1497 1560 Mid-16th century Mid-16th century Mid-16th century Mid-16th century Mid-16th century Mid-16th century Mid-16th century Mid-16th century 1631 Mid-17th century 18th-19th century 18th-19th century 1890 1890
An extensive study of the Jewish settlement in Salonika in 17-19th century, including a detailed description of the Jewish quarters and the location of the synagogues, has been published by V. Dimitriadis, Topography of Salonika during the Ottoman period 1430–1912 (Greek), Salonika, 1983.
The Jewish quarters of Salonika in the beginning of the 20th century (1875/1906), based on V. Dimitriadis (1983), op. cit. Also based on A. Karadimou-Yerolympos, The reconstruction of Salonika after the fire of 1917 (Greek), Salonika, University Studio Press, 1995, p. 18. The map of the Jewish quarters is juxtaposed on an outline of the city of Salonika, based on the map by S. Ayice published in A. Karadimou-Yerolympos (1995), op.cit., p. 20.
Postcard of the city of Salonika before the fire of 1890. (Avraham and David Recanati Collection)
Villa Allatini built at the turn of the 20th century. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
General outline of the Jewish quarters of Salonika in the 1930s based on published sources and archival research by the author. Juxtaposed on Salonika city plan, YPEHODE, scale 1:5000, 1965. Legend: (1) Baron Hirsch. (2) Kalamaria. (3) 151. (4) Karagats (5) Angelaki. (6) Quarter 6. (7) Rezi-Vardar. (8) Aghia Paraskevi. (9) Kambel (Campbell). (10) Aghia Fotini. (11) Harilaou. (12) Kalamaria.
General meeting of the Mizrahi Jewish club in Salonika circa 1930s. (Avraham and David Recanati Collection)
City plan of Salonika showing Beit Shaul Synagogue in the 1930s. Juxtaposed on the plan is the new city plan of the city. (YPEHODE, scale 1:500, undated)
Prayer service in Talmud Torah Synagogue in 1916. (Vassilis Mavromatis Collection) Kiana Synagogue in the 1980s, prior to its demolition. (The Jewish Museum of Greece)
The city center of Salonika after the fire of August 1917. (Avraham and David Recanati Collection)
Liberty square and Venizelos street in Salonika prior to the fire of 1917. (Avraham and David Recanati Collection)
The area of Salonika destroyed in the fire of 1890, based on A. KaradimouYerolympos (1995), op. cit. The outline of the area destroyed by the fire is justaposed on an outline of the city of Salonika, based on the map by S. Ayice published in A. Karadimou-Yerolympos (1995), op. cit., p. 20.
Jewish Quarters after the Fire of 1890 After the fire of July 1890, the Jewish community created two community quarters in order to house fire-stricken Jewish families. They are the following:
Ruins of Catalan Synagogue after the fire of 1890. (Abraham and David Recanati Collection)
The (Baron) Hirsch Quarter The (Baron) Hirsch quarter was established by the Jewish Community near the old railway station. It was named after the philanthropist Baron de Hirsch, who reportedly donated 110,000 gold French francs to the Jewish community for reconstruction after the fire of 1890. The new quarter was built to house homeless Jewish families. Two thousand Russian Jewish refugees also settled in this quarter, when the Sultan permitted them to move to Salonika.15 The quarter was west of Vardariou gate, near Aghia Triada, south of avenue Soguk Binar (Monastiriouâ€“Genitson) Avenue. In 1906, this area was called Cayir. The quarter was defined by Yildiz Oteli Street (later on Genistson, today Aisopou) Street to the north, by Dibsiz (Anagenisseos) Street near the torrent, Paleou Stathmou (Old Railway Station) Street, parallel to the railway lines and the old railway station to the north and east and Nea Xyladika Street to the west. Two principal roads divided the quarter into four sections: Stavrou
Voutira Street that stretched north-south of the old railway station northsouth, and Fabrika Arkasi (Sapfous) Street, extending east-west. Most buildings of the quarter were on the two blocks at the north of Sapfous Street. The western section was the larger of the two The quarter was comprised of 300 houses, each with two rooms, a kitchen and a small courtyard. They were intended to house one family in every two rooms, in order to keep the generations of each family separate, but by the time the quarter was ready two families inhabited each house; due to the enormous housing problem that still existed in the city in 1892. The houses were rectangular, parallel to the two principal roads of the quarter. Two locations were recognized for public use: one at the center of the western block and one at the northern end. A boys’ school, a girls’ school, a pharmacy and a municipal clinic founded by Baron de Hirsch in 1898 functioned in the quarter. When it was created, the quarter included the Vardar Synagogue. Later, after the fire of 1917, the Gerush (Sefarad) Synagogue, and the Talmud Torah Hirsch Synagogue were added to the Gerush (Sefarad) Synagogue The Kalamaria Quarter The Kalamaria quarter was established after the fire of 1890 to house homeless Jewish families. Rabbi Covo wanted to create a quarter that would have the form of a garden city in this area.16 Baron de Hirsch, after whom one of the streets was named, donated a large part of the cost of building the quarter.17 The quarter was located at an area called Hamidye, east of the historic center. The houses were built sometime after 1895. In 1906 it is referred to as an area that belonged to “the poor of the Jewish nation and under the direction of the Rabbinate.” The quarter covered an area of 15.5 acres, and was defined by Bülbüllü Dere (Perdika) Street to the south, the Russian hospital to the east, Mes’udiey (Athinon, today Papanastasiou) Avenue to the south and Daryo Venezya (Archimidous) Street to the west. It was divided in building units that were defined by three dead end streets perpendicular to Athinon Avenue, and one street that was parallel to it. The perpendicular streets were Parasakaki (the first one) and Baron Hirsch (the third one). The parallel street was called Havra (or Theagenous Harisi). The quarter included 164 houses, two schools (one for boys and one for girls), two shops and one bakery. The buildings were organized
based on rectangular building units, parallel to Athinon Avenue. The quarter was planned in cooperation with Alliance Israélite Universelle. The buildings were built in groups of four, 8 x 10 meters each, in an angular shape. They had a small courtyard with a well and a lavatory. Each house was comprised of two rooms and a kitchen, so that parents and children would be separated. However, the houses were finally inhabited by two families, each occupying one room, due to the housing problem that still existed in the city in 1892, when the quarter was ready. A total of 384 families were housed there. There were three synagogues in the quarter: Kalamaria, Castilia and Yahiah. Two were moved there after they were destroyed in the fire of 1917. According to the map of the city, the public buildings were at the center of the quarter, near the junction between Kaltsouni and Katsinidi streets.
Outline of the destruction caused by the fire of August 18-19, 1917. According to published sources, the fire started from the Mevlihane quarter. It spread rapidly, destroying 120 hectares of the city center, or two thirds of the city, leaving homeless 70,000 people, among them 56,000 Jews. The fire also destroyed 32 synagogues, 17 communal and 65 private midrashim. The fire destroyed also Talmud Torah Hagadol, the central synagogue and religious institution of the city.18
Jewish Quarters in Modern Period (1912-1943) Despite political changes that occurred in Salonika when it became part of the Greek State, major housing changes did not occur until a few years after the fire of August 1917. Recovery was based on the implementation of a new city plan, designed by the French architect Ernest Hébrard (1875-1933).19 The new plan imposed an entirely new street arrangement and new property lines upon the remains of the old central city. Poorer residents — mostly Jews — were excluded from resettlement in the areas which they had formerly occupied. Wealthy Salonikans, including many Jews, were able to purchase property in the new Central District for business and commercial use. The Jewish community made desperate efforts to provide new quarters to house the more than 50,000 Jews left homeless after the fire, and following the subsequent demolition of houses, undertaken to better implement the new plan. Most Jews were forced to resettle on the periphery of the city. Some found shelter in the former Entente barracks and other military buildings left from the war. Others found housing in new buildings, which was sometimes an improvement, sometimes not. Seven new quarters were founded after the fire to house homeless Jewish families. The Jewish community built the Karagats quarter, with identical buildings, near the junction between Delfon Avenue and Markou Botsari Avenue in the Hamidye area. The community also purchased the old hospital 151 northeast of the Hirsch hospital, which belonged to the Italian army. They used the barracks there to house the homeless; as well as the small Nereskin hospital that belonged to the French army. The Municipality rebuilt the Angelaki quarter between Angelaki Avenue and D. Espere Street, east of the historic center, with identical barracks. The Municipality also purchased the Hospital 6 from the French army, near the junction between Egnatias Street and 25 Martiou Street in the Hamidiye quarter. The Greek government also built two quarters: Aghia Paraskevi, west of the Anagenisis, and Vardari, north of the railway lines, to the west of the historic center of the city. From the end of the 1920s, the Turkish quarter Akçe-Mesjid was behind the church of Aghia Sofia and was defined by the church, Ethnikis Aminis Avenue, the diagonal street leading to the White Tower, Aghias Sofias Street, and Egnatias to the north. In the 1920s Jewish families lived in this quarter.20 According to an unpublished petition to the Minister of Agriculture, 900 Jewish families became homeless due to the implementation of the new city plan in this quarter. The eviction was accelerated due to the construction of a new sewer network. Many families, however, pre-
ferred to move to the basements of partially collapsing or demolished buildings, in order to remain in their own neighborhood. Table II Quarters of homeless Jews following the fire of 191721 Jewish Community quarters a. 151 (hospital) b. Karagats c. Nereskin (hospital) Municipal quarters d. Angelaki e. 6 (hospital) Government quarters f. Vardari g. Aghia Paraskevi Total
1,000 families 70 families 22 families 350 families 350 families 800 families 200 families 2,792 families
Jewish families also settled in community institutions, synagogues, rented rooms and in homes of friends and relatives. According to unpublished community documents, the distribution of these families is as follows:
Courtyard of Talmud Torah School Synagogues (2) Rezi-Vardar Synagogue Beit Shaul Synagogue barracks Matzah factory Alliance Community School
23/28 6/9 3 4 17 Unknown
families families families families families number
B. Hirsch Community School Mosque of Akçe Mesjid quarter Hor-Hor quarter Teneke Ma’ale quarter Bizaniou street barracks Aghias Sofias street barracks Maccabi Club Bialik Club Quarter “6” garage Various houses
Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
number number number number number number number number number number
Interior of Keter Torah Synagogue in Salonika in the 1930s, inside the barracks of one of the Jewish quarters of the city. It was moved to this location after an earlier synagogue of the same name was destroyed in the fire of 1917. This synagogue, like other synagogues and Jewish institutions, offered temporary shelter to homeless Jewish families in the 1930s. (Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People)
General outline of quarter 151 in the 1930s based on published sources and the archival research by the author. Quarter 151, which was adjacent to the Hirsch Hospital, was renamed the â€œEliaou Benozilio quarterâ€? in the mid-1930s. Before 1917 the barracks served an Italian hospital. Juxtaposed on Salonika city plan, YPEHODE, scale 1:5000, 1965.
Quarters established by the Jewish Community Quarter 151 Quarter 151 (known as Eliyahu Benozilio)22 was established by the Jewish Community after the fire of 1917 to house homeless Jewish families. It was northeast of the Hirsch Hospital (today called Ippokratio, founded in 1907), in the Hamidye quarter. During the First World War the Italian army had used the buildings of this quarter as a hospital.23 The quarter extended from Papafi Street to the north, to Athinon
(Papanastasiou) Street and Konstandinoupoleos Avenue to the south, and from Karaiskaki and Mitsaki Streets to the east, to Xenophondos Street and the Hirsch Hospital to the west. According to a more detailed study of the city map of the area, the quarter was defined as follows: the western section was defined by Perdika Street (north), Ymitou Street (west) and Parnithos Street (west). The eastern section reached the ditch next to the church of Trion Ierarchon. Initially, the quarter was a single plot of land bordered on two sides by the Hirsch Hospital. Later, when the new city plan was implemented, it was divided by two main streets,
General outline of Hirsch quarter (left), Angelaki and Aghia Fotini quarters (right) in the 1930s, based on published sources and archival research by the author. The Hirsch quarter, adjacent to the railroad tracks, was the last stop for the Salonika community before it was deported and annihilated in the Second World War. Juxtaposed on Salonika city plan, YPEHODE, scale 1:5000, 1965.
perpendicular to each other: Kleanthous Street (perpendicular to Konstantinoupoleos Avenue, north-south), and Athinon (or Papanastasiou Avenue, east â€“ west). According to the new city plan, smaller streets parallel to Athinon (Papanastasiou) Avenue also divided the quarter from north to south: these were Ioanninon, Karolidou, Theagenous, Harisi, Athinon (Papanastasiou), Dioskouron and Lisandrou (diagonal). The following streets were drawn perpendicular to Papanastasiou street, east to west: Priamou, Italias (28 Oktovriou), Psarron, Alkmynis (Argendi), and Ymitou. The quarter consisted of 75 wooden buildings, of which 74 were rectangular. In the northern section they stood parallel to the east-west axis. In the southern section they were built perpendicular to the east-west axis. There were also several brick buildings which were also rectangular, but slightly somewhat wider. In addition to the buildings of the Italian hospital, the Greek government granted the Jewish community 15 large concrete barracks next to the Italian buildings to the west and
south. All of these buildings were repaired by the Jewish community for the permanent settlement of Jewish families. There were also a small number of public buildings, mainly in the northern section of the quarter, surrounded by barracks. They were near Parnithos and Kleanthous streets. These included schools and other buildings for public use. There were two synagogues in the quarter, the Midrash Brudo and Beit Israel Synagogue (founded circa 1923). The Karagats Quarter The Karagats quarter was established by the Jewish Community in the Hamidye region after the 1917 fire to house homeless Jewish families. It was southeast of quarter 151 and stretched from Solonos Street to the north, to Delfon Street to the south, and from Artemidos Street to the east, to Analipseos Street to the west. The quarter consisted of eight stone buildings in a Greek "Ď€" shape. Three were connected to form a square building with a small interior courtyard. Seven buildings were built along Analipseos
synagogues, such as Miaouli, Delfon and Konstantinoupoleos streets, Quarter 151, and the central synagogue Beit Shaul. It may also be a reflection of the poverty of the district. The Nereskin quarter The Nereskin quarter was founded on the grounds of the hospital of Princess Nereskin, also known as the hospital of the French army. It consisted of three buildings. No synagogues are listed in this quarter, probably because of its small size, its proximity to other Jewish neighborhoods that had synagogues, and perhaps its poverty.
Quarters established by the Municipality
General outline of Rezi-Vardar quarter in the 1930s based on published sources and archival reseach by the author. The Hirsch hospital was adjacent to the quarter. Juxtaposed on Salonika city plan, YPEHODE, scale 1:5000, 1965.
Street, perpendicular to the street. The eighth building was in the interior, next and parallel to Artemidos Street. Each building had three apartments of three rooms and a kitchen. Their construction cost about 320,000 drachmas, including the purchase of the land. No synagogues are mentioned in this quarter, probably because of its small size and its proximity to other Jewish neighborhoods that had
The Angelaki Quarter The Angelaki quarter was founded by the Municipality of Salonika in order to house fire victims. It was at the central area of Stratou Avenue, south of the modern exposition grounds and west of H.A.N. (YMCA) Square. It stretched from the railway lines (Stratou Avenue) to the north, to Angelaki Street to the south. The precise limits of the quarter to the east and west, however, cannot be determined. Plans to demolish the quarter for the new city plan were announced in 1940. The quarter was evacuated in the 1940s, probably as the result of the deportation of the Jews. According to post-War records, the quarter was demolished after the deportation of Jews in 1943, presumably for the construction of Angelaki Avenue.24 Despite the poor construction of buildings that were hurriedly built here and the difficult living conditions in the wooden barracks, many families preferred to stay here because of its central location and proximity to work opportunities, such as factories and industries. We lack precise information on the exact size and number of barracks in this quarter, but we know that the Adar Kodesh Synagogue re-located here after its destruction in the fire of 1917. Quarter 6 Quarter 6 (or 25 Martiou quarter) was originally built as a French hospital during the First World War. After the fire of 1917 it was purchased by the Municipality to house homeless families.25 After the
deportation of Jews in 1943, the quarter was demolished. The quarter extended from Makedonias Street to the north, to Delfon Street to the south, and from Marasli Street to the east, to Paraschou Street to the west. Initially, the quarter was laid out with streets between the buildings of the hospital. Later, the new city plan subdivided this land as follows: parallel to Delfon Street (from north to south): Stromnitsis, Tipaldou and Melenikou streets; perpendicular to Delfon Street (from east to west): 25 Martiou, Philellinon and (diagonal) Karaiskaki Streets. The quarter had 45 buildings with two apartments each. Each apartment had four rooms, a kitchen and an entrance hall. The rectangular barracks were built a short distance from each other, in five parallel rows, perpendicular to Delfon Street. They were oriented so that the long façade was parallel to Delfon Street. Two areas in the center of the quarter had no barracks, but a public building was in the western section (between the second and third parallel rows). This was probably the Mayor Sheni Synagogue re-established in this quarter after its destruction in the fire of 1917. No buildings existed in the space further east.
gada Avenue and the railway lines, from east to west. These streets were Papadima, Ligdon, Mouschoundi, Koloniari, Papathanasiou and Farmaki. The Demertzi, Kapotou, Galanaki and Hatzitsirou streets were perpendicular to them, and parallel to Aghion Pandon Street, from north to south. The quarter was comprised of 1,028 rooms made of brick. Of these, 228 were converted into kitchens, and each of the remaining 800 rooms housed one family. The buildings in the quarter were arranged in groups of four or six, in a Greek "π" shape with interior courtyards. Their orientation was random, but some were aligned to Koloniari Street. Most appear between Langada and Koloniari Streets. Further west, between Koloniari and Papathanasiou Streets, The buildings were arranged in long, narrow rows, aligned to the radial streets. The quarter had a community school with 700 students, a bathhouse, and three synagogues, re-established here after their destruction in the 1917 fire. The Provencia Synagogue and the Shalom (Kehila Sukat Shalom) Synagogue were apparently destroyed in 1917, but are mentioned as re-established and functioning in the 1930s. The Beit Aaron Synagogue was also apparently destroyed, but was functioning in the 1930s in the community school of the quarter.
Quarters Built by the Greek Government
The Aghia Paraskevi Quarter The quarter of Aghia Paraskevi was created further north of the Vardari quarter to shelter homeless families after the fire of 1917. It was located in the area west of the historic center of the city, east of the (First World War) Entente cemeteries.26 The quarter expanded from Agathoupoleos Street to the north (south of the Anageniseos quarter), to Demerzi Street (former Modiano) to the south and from Riga Feraiou Street to the east to Langada Avenue to the west. Before the implementation of the new city plan, the quarter was a single cohesive entity. In the new plan, the quarter was divided in equal blocks between Stratarchou Smutch and Nymphaiou Streets that were parallel to Agathoupoleos Street (north and south) and by Didimotichou, Maditou, Aghiou Stephanou and Australias Streets that were perpendicular (east to west). The quarter consisted of 50 identical brick buildings, each with four rooms. Each room housed one family. The buildings were built a short distance from each other, in five rows parallel to Agathoupoleos Street. The Etz Hayim Synagogue was rebuilt in this quarter, at an unknown location.
The Rezi-Vardar Quarter The Rezi-Vardar (or Vardari) quarter was founded by the Greek government after 1920 to house victims of the fire of 1917. The Vardar quarter was in the region of Mustafa Arif, at the west side of the city, outside the walls, near the old gate of Vardari. It was named after Rezi Da’iresi Street (modern day Langada Street), or simply Rezie. After the deportation of the Jews in 1943, the quarter was demolished. The quarter stretched from Aghion Pandon Street to the north, to Dragoumanou Street to the south, and from Langada Avenue to the east, to Margaropoulou Street and the railway lines to the west. In the beginning of the 20th century, the Turkish cemeteries were in this area, outside of, next to and perpendicular to the western walls of the city, between Vardar gate and Yeni Kapu. The cemeteries stretched between Mevlevihane (Irinis) Street and the western walls of the city to the east, Rezi Da’iresi (Langada) Street to the west and Dragoumanou Street to the north. This triangular quarter was divided by radial streets between Lan-
Other Quarters for the Fire Victims and the Homeless In 1925, the Jewish community was again facing housing problems: 1,500 poor Jewish families were now homeless, due to the changes implemented in the city at the time. Hundreds left homeless in 1917 had found temporary shelter in half-burned houses within the boundaries of the new city plan. They were now forced to move once again as their temporary quarters were demolished for the continuing reconstruction of the city. Many buildings and land plots (with barracks) abandoned by Muslims (who had left during the exchange of populations with Turkey in 1923), for example those in the Teneke Ma’ale quarter, had been subsequently occupied by Jewish families. These buildings were now occupied by Greek Institutions as well as by the newly arrived refugees from Asia Minor and Eastern Macedonia. Large scale public projects were carried out in the city during the 1920s, such as the railway station in Mustafa Arif area (Afroditis and the area around it), the establishment of new refugee quarters (Xirokrini), the creation of parks in the center of the city and the demolition of certain unsanitary quarters (Akçe Mesjid). To address the continuing housing problem, the Jewish community created new quarters (such as Kambel) and built more houses in existing quarters (such as Vardari and Kalamaria).
On the night of June 29, 1931, during the outbreak of anti-Semitic incidents in Salonika, the quarter was attacked by two thousand armed men from the organization E.E.E. and burned down. Eleven barracks housing 54 families, the synagogue, the school, the pharmacy, the Rabbi’s house, supply offices and much medicine were destroyed. In the same week the Jewish quarters “6,” “151” and Rezi-Vardar were also attacked. After the destruction of the quarter, the families that had been housed there were forced to leave. They found temporary refuge in Jewish schools and synagogues. The government purchased the area at the price of 3,000,000 drachmas — the cost of initially building the quarter. The site was not used by the government to shelter refugees.
The Kambel (Campbell) Quarter The Kambel quarter was founded by the Jewish community at the end of the 1920s in order to shelter poor Jewish families with a decree of compulsory expropriation of land issued March 2, 1928. The new quarter covered an area of 185,446 square meters in the Hamidye quarter of the Municipality of Horio, divided into a large plot of 107,092 square meters with barracks purchased by Robert Campbell and 30 smaller private plots. Pre-existing barracks were repaired to house 210 families with the intention to expand the quarter over the entire site. The expansion, however, was never realized, since the buildings of the quarter were burned down in the riots of June 1931.27 The quarter was east of the historic center of the city, in the Votsi quarter, north of the Byzandion quarter. The Kambel quarter was designed in rectangular blocks, parallel and perpendicular to Vasilissis Olgas Avenue. Streets that connected this quarter to neighboring quarters cut the rectangular grid diagonally. The quarter had a school, a pharmacy, a shop, a café, a water pump and a synagogue of unknown name.
The Hor-Hor Quarter The Hor-Hor quarter, at an unknown location, was created to shelter Jewish families left homeless after the 1917 fire. Improvised barracks were built that probably were demolished in the 1930s.
The Teneke Ma’ale Quarter After the fire of 1917 poor Jewish families moved to the Teneke Ma’ale quarter, located at the western side of the city, where they built temporary barracks in an area administered by the National Bank of Greece (Administration Service for Exchanged Real Estate). In 1937, part of the quarter was demolished and 200 families were left homeless. The Jewish community housed the poorest 156 families in synagogues and community schools. An unknown photographer documented this quarter in the 1930s.
Other late Jewish Quarters Aghia Fotini Quarter The Aghia Fotini quarter was east of the historic city center, in the Hamidye area. It was south of the Jewish cemeteries, on Nosokomeion Avenue, near the modern day junction between 3 Septemvriou and Egnatias Streets. It was demolished in the early 1940s — presumably after the deportation of the city’s Jews. The quarter consisted of seven buildings built at a small distance from one another, on a row aligned to Nosokomeion Avenue, and three buildings in a row parallel to the avenue. Public buildings were next to these buildings on the east side.
One of these must have been the Aragon Synagogue, founded in the quarter probably after the earlier building was destroyed in the fire of 1917. The quarter was already slated for demolition in the 1930s when the new city plan was implemented. Destruction took place after the deportation of the neighborhood’s Jewish population in 1943. Harilaou Quarter Harilaou quarter was founded east of the historic center of the city, in the region of Hamidye, to house Jewish families. The precise boundaries cannot be defined. The city map marks a quarter named “Harilaou,” which is between Anatolikis Thrakis Street to the north, an unnamed street to the east, Marathonos Street to the south, and 25 Martiou Street to the west. The quarter has a square shape, and two streets perpendicular to each other divide it in four equal sections. Smaller streets subdivide it to smaller unequal blocks. The quarter had an unknown number of houses, as well as the Har Gavoah Synagogue (Kehilah Harilaou) at an unknown location. After the deportation of the Jews in 1943, the quarter was demolished. Kalamaria Quarter The Kalamaria quarter covered an area of 185,448 square meters. It was founded in 1928, south of Kambel quarter to house homeless Jewish families who had been living in the Akçe Mesjid quarter. A British park, covering 75,000,000 square meters, had been located there. The quarter was at the area east of the historic center, called Hamidye. It was laid out in a grid, parallel and perpendicular to the shore on the southwest. The precise boundaries of this quarter are unknown as are the number, location and orientation of private and public buildings. There is no information on the fate of the quarter during and after the Second World War.
The Synagogues of Salonika Knowledge about the synagogues of Salonika from antiquity to the present day is based on incomplete documentation. There is general agreement about the circumstances surrounding the establishment of a particular synagogue, but details are usually lacking, and much is left to conjecture. For the earliest synagogues, information comes mostly from much later sources which may have relied on now lost documentation, or may only be based on popular beliefs and traditions.
We often do not know the date of the founding of a synagogue, but historians have posted dates based on the synagogue’s name, location and the community it apparently served. These dates are often cited, but are often problematic. The Ashkenaz synagogue, for example, is traditionally believed to have been founded in 1376, because we know that Jews were expelled from Germany and Hungary that year, and some probably began to arrive then in Salonika. The dates of synagogue foundations, however, may not be the same as the dates of construction of purpose-built synagogue structures. More often than not, there would be some time lag between these events, during which a congregation might meet in a private house, or rent some other premise for religious use. Dating the foundation of the early synagogues in Salonika is mainly based on their name, which indicates the origin of their members. We can, therefore, estimate the date of arrival of a congregation and the establishment of a synagogue in Salonika, based on the date of historic events taking place in the country of the congregation’s origin. Therefore, we accept the foundation of the Provencia synagogue soon after 1394 when Jews were expelled from Provence, and the Italia synagogue’s date soon after 1423 when the Venetians acquired Salonika. The synagogues founded by immigrants from the Iberian Peninsula are dated following 1492, when the Catholic kings expelled the Jews of Spain. Similarly, we are uncertain about the movement of old names to new buildings, or even to new congregations, over time. Certainly synagogues were repaired and restored. Sometimes, however, new buildings were probably erected but maintained the original name. This was certainly the case late in Salonika’s history, when the catastrophic fires of 1890 and 1917 destroyed most of the old Jewish neighborhoods of Salonika, and all of the religious buildings, too. New synagogues were founded — either in existing buildings or new ones — in the new quarters built to house the population. Later, these synagogues, too, were mostly destroyed through the genocide policies of the Nazis, the expropriation of Jewish property by German collaborators, and Greek urban renewal of the 1930s and 1940s. It is not known in most cases what, if anything, other than a synagogue’s name survived the calamity. The precise chronology of later synagogues is based on comparing information in published sources and unpublished documents, whenever available. In certain cases the only possible precise chronology is based on lists of synagogues destroyed in fires, such as that of 1917.
Another important source of information about synagogues in the period after the fire of 1917 is the 1919 list of synagogues, listing the cantors.28 We have no exact location for the earliest synagogues since there are few original documents or maps. Identifications and descriptions in this section have been compiled from these scant sources and various secondary accounts. The identification of later synagogues is based on lists and tables prepared by the Jewish community before the Second World War. These have been compared to information in various published sources, to better determine the exact location of synagogues in the 1930s. Most of these synagogues, however, are late re-establisments â€” often in new locations â€” of synagogues destroyed in 1917. The various sources are often not in agreement. When it is impossible to reconcile accounts, more than one description is included. The synagogues of Salonika were founded and erected during several periods. The earliest were established in antiquity. Later synagogues were founded in periods before and shortly after the arrival of Jews from Spain after 1492. The Etz Hayim Synagogue is commonly believed to have been founded in antiquity, and is believed to be the synagogue where Paul the Apostle preached in the first century CE. There is, however, no firm evidence for this. There is also epigraphic evidence from a Late Antique Samaritan synagogue in Salonika.29 Much later, synagogues were founded by Jews from Eastern Europe (Ashkenazim), from Southern France in the 14th century, by Italian Jews in the 15th century, and by Spanish Jews (Sephardim) in the years following 1492. These buildings were rebuilt several times, frequently in new locations, because of fires that frequently destroyed the historic center. Before the Tanzimat Reforms (1839 and 1856) the synagogues of Salonika were little noticed outside the Jewish community. They were part of the fabric of the city and did not stand out from the surrounding houses. They were often not mentioned in official documents, nor were they mentioned in official reports of losses during major fires. From 1839 and again after the abovementioned fires of 1890, 1898 and 1917, the Jews of Salonika hired architects to reconstruct synagogues. In this period Salonika synagogues became more recognizable through their adoption of contemporary architectural styles including neoclassicism and an eclectic historicism that incorporated aspects of Spanish, Byzantine, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture. These influences came by way of Western Europe, especially France and Italy. For
example, the Beit Shaul Synagogue (1898) was designed by the Salonikabased Italian architect, Vitaliano Poselli. The Monastirlis Synagogue (1927) was designed by the Salonika-based Jewish architect E. Levi. Other synagogues, whose architects remain unknown, clearly show the influence of contemporary European synagogue architecture. These include the eclectic Vardar Synagogue (1890); the neo-classical Talmud Torah (1905) and Kiana (beginning of 20th century) synagogues; and the neo-Baroque Ohel Yossef (Sarfati) Synagogue (1921). According to an account of the Jewish Community, the fire of 1917 destroyed 32 synagogues, 17 communal and 65 prayer houses (midrashim) and 450 Torah Scrolls (sefarim). However, in spite of the destruction, by 1919, 53 synagogues and midrashim had been rebuilt on new sites. Although most of these were rebuilt far from their historic original location, in most cases they kept their historic names, such as Gerush (Sefarad), Aragon, Portugal, and Etz Hayim. In 1927, 35 synagogues and 19 midrashim functioned in Salonika. In the 1930s a number of synagogues, community institutions and quarters still housed Jewish families, left homeless by the fire of 1917. Records mention that the synagogues that housed homeless families were Beit Shaul and Beit El (1934). On the eve of the Second World War 32 synagogues and 26 midrashim functioned in Salonika. After the German invasion in 1941 and the occupation of Salonika, the Sonderkommando Rosenberg report was published in November 1941, providing detailed information on Jewish institutions and activity in Greece. It included a list of synagogues throughout the country, including 35 synagogues and midrashim in Salonika.30 The individual fate of the synagogues and midrashim during the German occupation is not known in all particulars. However, after the systematic deportation of the Jewish population of the city in 1943, there was extensive looting and destruction of Jewish property and synagogues by Germans, local Greeks and refugees from other areas settled in the city. The Nazis blew up two synagogues: Beit Shaul and Beit Israel. Presumably many others were demolished. Most of the small synagogues mentioned after the War were subsequently demolished during the reconstruction of the city. Active Synagogues Today, there are three functioning synagogues in Salonika. One survived the destruction of the Second World War. Another has been created
using salvaged parts of earlier synagogues and prayer houses. A third, located in the Jewish Old Age home, is an entirely new construction. Monastirlis (Monastirioton) Synagogue The Monastirlis Synagogue, founded in 1927 by Jews who settled in Salonika from Monastiri, is located on Syngrou Street, in Zone 5 of the new urban plan of Salonika. It was designed by architect E. Levi. The synagogue had a significant rabbinical and judicial library, donated by Ya’akov Israél, from Monastir (Bitjol). The surviving masonry synagogue is an imposing structure of architectural interest. The main entrance on Syngrou Street is marked by two marble pillars that create a rectangular alcove leading to the main hall, the beth midrash, and the closed stairway in the women’s section. This type entrance is similar to what existed at the earlier Beit Shaul Synagogue. The façade is imposing and symmetrical, influenced by Byzantine architecture and by older local synagogues (such as Mograbis). A horizontal decorative molding divides the main façade into two horizontal sections and the line that crowns the façade follows the arched pediments that emphasize the middle and the two side aisles. The exterior dimensions are 18 x 15.75 meters, with a maximum height of 12.30 meters. The synagogue has two levels, the first of which (ground level) includes the floors of the main prayer hall and as well as a beth midrash. The second level is comprised of the gallery which serves as the ezrat nashim (women’s section) as well as auxiliary rooms (lounge, guards’ room, and staircase leading to the roof). The floor plan is a basilica, with a central open space flanked by side aisles above which is the women’s section, which wraps around three sides of the hall in a "π" shape. The interior dimensions are 2.8 x 14.7 meters (188 sq. m.) with a height of 11.25 meters. A courtyard with the stairway to the women’s section surrounds the synagogue. During the Occupation, the building was used by the Red Cross, which is why it was preserved. The interior of the synagogue was renovated after the war, and the plain white glass on the arched windows around the building was replaced by colorful, richly decorated stained glass windows. The building suffered slight damage in recent earthquakes. Since the Liberation (November 1944), the Monastirlis Synagogue has served as the official community synagogue of Salonika. The imposing synagogue has been the scene of almost all of the major community events, including life cycle events as well as daily, weekly and
holiday prayer services. Today, the synagogue is surely the practical and spiritual home and heart of the remnant of the centuries-old Salonika Jewish community. Yad Le’Zikaron Synagogue Yad Le’Zikaron Synagogue was founded in 1984 at 20, Vasileos Irakliou Street, combining surviving elements of earlier synagogues. The architect was Christos Kouloukouris. The main hall is on the ground floor of an office building built on the site of the Plassa Synagogue. The synagogue consists of the main prayer hall, an unobstructed space with a parallelogram plan. The entrance to the hall includes the stairwell to the women’s section above and some auxiliary rooms. The balcony of the women’s section is on the mezzanine, above the auxiliary rooms and opposite the heikhal. The neoclassical style heikhal, is set against the east wall, and raised on a platform four steps above the main floor level. Two wide fluted pilasters flank the doorway to the heikhal (kept covered by a curtain (parochet). The pilasters are surmounted by a straight lintel above which is a round-headed arch. Within the arch is a representation of the Decalogue set in front of parted curtains. This heikhal belonged to the former Ohel Yosef Synagogue (Kehila Sarfati). There are two free-stanidng (electrified) menorahs on elaborate bases at the edge of the heikhal platform, flanking the steps. A balustrade, similar to that of the bimah, encloses part of the platform. The marble bimah at the center of the room belonged to the Plassa Synagogue. It is a simple, low platform surrounded by a balustrade notable for the rectangular shape of the balusters. Seats in the synagogue are movable, but they are arranged along the perimeters walls, and in a few short rows in the space between the bimah and heikhal platform. The interior walls of the synagogue are decorated by a series of inscriptions listing the 32 synagogues destroyed in the fire of 1917. A series of stained-glass windows decorates the south wall, which borders on the courtyard. Today, the synagogue functions on a daily basis. Yoshuah Abraham Salem Synagogue The contemporary Yoshuah Abraham Salem Midrash, founded in 1981/2 in the Shaul Modiano Home for the Aged, is on the ground floor of the building at 83, Kimonos Voga Street. The interior was designed by the architect Christos Kouloukouris, and consists of a single room,
with an elevated section in one corner for heikhal and bimah. The heikhal is surmounted by a semi-circular arch on the eastern wall. Three colorful stained-glass windows with Jewish symbols brightly illuminate the interior. Destroyed Synagogues and Prayer Houses Using all available sources, the following list has been compiled of the destroyed synagogues believed to have existed from antiquity to the present. The names of these synagogues are based on their Hebrew pronunciation. They are listed according to their estimated date of initial foundation. Many synagogues and prayer houses when destroyed were refounded elsewhere, or their name was applied to a different prayer location. It is often difficult to ascertain the original location of synagogues from the Ottoman period. When an address is listed in this report, it refers, unless otherwside noted, to the location listed in documents of the 1930s. If the specific fate of a synagogue is not mentioned in the following descriptions, then nothing more is known of the synagogue. Some names are not mentioned after the 19th century. Some are not seen again after the fire of 1917. Most synagogues and prayer houses appear to survive — at least in name through the 1930s and until the Nazi occupation. After the deportation of the Jews of Salonika, most synagogues are forgotten. Presumably, if there is no subsequent mention of a building or congregation, it was destroyed during the Occupation or after the war.
Synagogues of Salonika Etz Hayim (or Etz Ha-Haim) Synagogue The foundation of the Etz Hayim Synagogue is traditionally dated to antiquity and purported to be Salonika’s oldest synagogue foundation. As noted above, despite any precise evidence, it is likely that the site of Etz Hayim Synagogue next to the harbor walls of the city was the same, or close to, the synagogue that Paul the Apostle visited. The original Etz Hayim Synagogue was probably destroyed in the passage of time, either in one of the invasions of the city, or in one of the fires after the 16th century. According to published sources, it was again destroyed in the fire of 1890, after which a new building was erected on the old foundations. One of the synagogue walls was shared by the harbor wall of the city.
The community of Etz Hayim was divided at an unknown date into two synagogues, thereby creating the Etz Ha-Da’at Synagogue. In the 16th century and early 17th century the two communities were referred to as one, and community members prayed in a common synagogue called Etz Hayim ve Etz Ha-Da’at. During the 19th and 20th centuries the nickname31 of Etz Hayim Synagogue was ajo (garlic). By the end of the 19th century the synagogue was in Etz Hayim quarter on Etz Hayim (Theodorou Laskareos) Street. The synagogue was destroyed again in the fire of 1917 and was rebuilt. In the 1930s, the synagogue was located in the Aghia Paraskevi quarter opposite the Entente cemetery. After that, its fate is unknown. According to most sources, the community of Etz Hayim was Romaniote. The spoken language was Greek and services followed the Mahzor Romania ritual, in Hebrew and Greek. However, certain views assert that Etz Hayim Synagogue had no relation to the Romaniote community because the Romaniotes were moved to Istanbul by the Ottomans. Others have argued, however, that the synagogue — at least from the late 15th century — was Sephardic, as indicated by the names of the community members. The Ashkenaz (or Eshkenaz) Synagogue The Ashkenaz Synagogue is thought to have been founded in the 1370s by Jews from Germany and Hungary who settled in Salonika, after the capture of the city by the Turks in 1378. But Jews from Northern Europe arrived from the 15th century onwards in larger numbers, and it is more likely that the synagogue was founded between 1470 and 1475, when Jews returned to the city after their forced resettlement in Istanbul. Sometime between 1430 and 1440, Rabbi Isaac Sarfati, who had settled in Edirne (Andrianoupolis), sent letters to all the communities of Central Europe inviting them to settle on the territory of the Ottoman Empire.32 In 1566, after the Battle of Mohats and the first capture of Budapest by the Turks, Jewish refugees arrived in Kavala, Serres, and Trikala. A large number may have also come to Salonika, in the quarter of Aghia Sofia. The 1525 census of Jews shows the existence of two groups: Allemande (from Germany) comprising 68 families and España (from Spain) comprising 539 families. The synagogue, then, may have been founded earlier than 1525. Its nicknames were mosca (fly), synagogue of Kahal de los Locos (the crazy) and synagogue of Kahal de los Chicherones (the loud). The synagogue housed a rabbinical school.
The Ashkenazi community prayed according to the Mahzor Ashkenaz rite (Minhag) published by Benjamin Halevi Ashkenazi in Salonika in 1555 and was the only synagogue in the city where this rite was used. At the end of the 19th century, the Ashkenaz synagogue was located in the Bedaron quarter. It was destroyed in the fire of 1917, but is listed among functioning synagogues in 1919. In the 1930s the synagogue existed at 47 (or 57), Vassileos Irakliou Street. It was used for an unknown purpose after the deportation of the Jews from the city. After the Liberation (1944), the building was requisitioned by the Greek army. After the War, the Ashkenaz Synagogue was re-established on 20 Vassileos Irakliou Street, on the site of the former Plassa synagogue. It was donated by Samuel Bourla in memory of his son, Daniel.33 Based on period photographs the interior of the synagogue was austere, embodying the elaborate marble heikhal of the Sarfati Synagogue, and the marble bimah of an older (unidentified) synagogue.34 According to photographs of the 1930s that depict the interior of Ohel Yosef (Sarfati) Synagogue, the heikhal of Bourla Synagogue is the same. It was most likely taken and transported to a new synagogue after the Occupation, in the 1950s. The building was demolished in 1978 and an office building was erected in its place. The ground floor today houses Yad LeZikaron Synagogue and the heikhal and bimah of the Bourla Synagogue. Provencia (or PrevanĂ§u) Synagogue The Provencia Synagogue has been thought to have been founded after 1394 by Jewish immigrants from Provence, France. It is more likely, however, that it was established a century later, possibly in 1493 or 1497, when Jewish refugees from France fleeing persecutions of King Charles VIII found shelter in Salonika. According to some sources, Provencia Synagogue was founded in 1497. The congregation would have been augmented by French refugees who had fled persecutions by Louis XII in 1501 and new arrivals 50 years later. The synagogue was also called Kahal Kadosh Provincial and its nickname was synagogue of Kahal de los Proves (the Poor). By 1906, the synagogue was located in the Pulya quarter, on Pulya Havrasi (Grigoriou Palama) Street. It was destroyed in the fire of 1917 but in 1919 it was functioning once more. In the 1930s it was located in the Rezi Community School, in the Rezi-Vardar quarter. Shalom Synagogue (or Shialom) The founding of the Shalom Synagogue, also called Kahal Kadosh
Shalom, by Western European refugees and members of the Provencia Synagogue, is traditionally dated to 1606. There, in 1659 Shabbetai Zvi declared himself the Messiah. The heikhal of the Shalom Synagogue had a marble plaque to commemorate the day when the Shalom community asked for forgiveness for the blasphemy of accepting Shabbetai Zvi as the Messiah. At the end of the 19th century the Shalom Synagogue was located in the Baru quarter, on Salom Havrasi (Vassileous Irakliou) street. After its destruction in the fire of 1917, it functioned again in 1919. In the 1930s, the synagogue functioned in the Reziâ€“Vardar quarter, near Xirokrini, and was also perhaps housed in Kehila Soukat Shalom Synagogue. Italia (Yashan) Synagogue The Italia Synagogue is commonly dated to 1423, when it is thought to have been founded by Jews who came to Salonika with the new Venetian rulers. In 1510 Jewish refugees from Naples and Sicily reinforced the community. The newcomers were educated, affluent and belonged to high social ranks. They established numerous significant charity institutions in the city. The nickname for the Italia Synagogue was raton (mouse). In the 16th and 17th centuries the Italia community was divided into three synagogues: the original one was renamed Italia Yashan; the other two were Italia Hadash (1582) and Italia Shalom (1606). It is unclear whether these congregations used the same synagogue building, or whether they established separate premises. At the end of the 18th century, the Italian community absorbed a number of families from Livorno (Italy), who subsequently played a significant role in the economic life of the city in the coming centuries. These included the Allatini, Morpurgo, Modiano and Fernandez families. Six years after the fire of 1890, which destroyed the Italia Synagogue, the foundation stone was laid for the new building on Kapanaca (Tsimiski) Street, in the Baru quarter. The only evidence of the architecture of the Italia (Yashan) Synagogue is a postcard from the beginning of the 20th century. According to this photograph, the interior was in a basilica form, with three aisles defined by a colonnade with semi-circular arches. The open balcony of the ezrat nashim was elevated from the ground floor, behind the arcade. The bimah, made of white marble, was heavily ornamented and was in the center of the room. The heikhal, located probably against the eastern wall, was on an elevated floor made of white marble that had three marble steps. The door of the white marble heikhal was ornamented with
double Corinthian columns on each side, and was crowned by a semicircular pediment.35 The interior walls were separated by pillars, painted to imitate marble. The floor was covered with decorative terrazzo tiles, probably in rich colors. The Italia Synagogue was destroyed again in the fire of 1917, and was rebuilt. In 1919 it functioned again. In 1930, it was located in the area east of the historic center of the city, at 38 Spartis Street. In the mid-1930s it was located in the Rabbinical school Joseph Nissim on 43 Velissariou Street. Italia Hadash Synagogue Tradition dates the Italia Hadash Synagogue to 1582, founded by members of the Italia (Yashan) Synagogue. Its nickname was the same as that of Italia Yashan, raton (mouse). At the end of the 19th century, and beginning of the 20th, the synagogue was in the Baru quarter. According to the report of the Jewish community, the Italia Hadash Synagogue (referred to with Italia Shalom) was destroyed in the fire of 1917. In 1919, it functioned again. In 1930 the Italia Hadash Synagogue was located on Gravias Street; and in the mid-1930s it functioned in the Ohel Yossef Synagogue (Kehila Sarfati). Italia Shalom (or Shialom) Synagogue The Italia Shalom Synagogue was founded according to tradition in 1606 by members of the Italia (Yashan) Synagogue. Its nickname was gameo (camel). In the beginning of the century, the Italia Shalom Synagogue was called Kucuk Italia Havrasi (Small Italia Synagogue) and was on the street with the same name in the Baru quarter. Within the synagogue, the bimah was reportedly set against the wall opposite the heikhal. The heikhal was oriented towards the coastal walls of the city. The Italia Shalom Synagogue was destroyed in the fire of 1917 and was re-established after the fire. In the 1930s, it was located at 13 Konstantinoupoleos Street, east of the historic center of the city. Sicilia Yashan Synagogue The Sicilia Yashan Synagogue is thought to have been founded soon after 1423 by Jews who came to Salonika from Sicily, for commercial reasons, when the city was ruled by the Venetians. Jewish refugees joined the community after they fled Sicily when the Spanish King Ferdinand passed the decree for their expulsion in January 1493. The synagogue was also called Kahal de los Piscadores (Synagogue of the Fisher-
men), named for the fishermen who came from Sicily. In the middle of the 16th century the community divided and two new synagogues were added to Sicilia (Yashan): Sicilia Hadash and Beit Aaron. By the end of the 19th century, Sicilia Synagogue was in the Baru quarter, on Kastilia Havrasi (Aghiou Nikolaou) Street. It was destroyed once again in the fire of 1917, and functioned once again in 1919. In 1930, Sicilia Yashan Synagogue was at 11 (or 3) Rogoti Street, whereas in the mid-1930s it is reported that it functioned in Midrash Estroumtza on Rogoti Street. Sicilia Hadash Synagogue Tradition dates the founding of the Sicilia Hadash Synagogue to 1562 by members of Sicilia Synagogue. Its nickname was madero (beam). In the beginning of the 20th century it was in the Baru quarter, near modern day Aristotelous Street. It was destroyed in the fire of 1917 but by 1919 it was functioning once again. In the 1930s it was functioning on 13 Sarandaporou Street. Beit Aaron Synagogue The Beit Aaron Synagogue is thought to have been established in 1575 (or 1631) by members of Sicilia Synagogue. It was named after the Aaron family that either built the synagogue or was an important family in the community. By the end of the 19th century the synagogue was in Rogos quarter. It is possible that it was originally constructed in the Bedaron quarter (corruption of the name Beit Aaron), south of Egnatias Street, when it was destroyed by a fire. After its destruction in the fire of 1917 the synagogue was reconstructed, and in 1919 it was functioning once again. In 1930, Beit Aaron Synagogue was functioning on Tati Street and in the mid-1930s it is mentioned that it was located in the Joseph Nissim Rabbinical School on 43 Velissariou Street. Gerush Sepharad Synagogue The Gerush (Sepharad) Synagogue was the first synagogue to be founded after 1492 by Jewish refugees from Spain. Its nickname was meskita (minaret). At an unknown date the community was divided into two new synagogues, Gerush Gadol (Great or Large Gerush/Expulsion) and Gerush Katan (Little Gerush). We have no proof about the site
of these two synagogues. After the fire of 1917 the synagogue was re-established. In 1930, it was in the Baron Hirsch quarter and in the mid-1930s there is mention that it functioned in Midrash Botton on Ptolemaion Street. Aragon Synagogue The Aragon Synagogue, one of the most important of Salonika’s synagogues, was founded soon after the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492, by Jewish refugees from Aragon and Galicia. At the same period, synagogues with the same name were established in Istanbul, Edirne and Kastoria and elsewhere. Its nickname was gato (cat). Based on descriptions of the Days of Awe, before Yom Kippur, when worshippers were divided into three groups, we have some data on its architecture. One group stood on the spacious bimah, the second stood in the heikhal, and the third stood in a circle at the center of the room, surrounded by the “wooden pillars.”36 Though the size of the synagogue is unknown, it was probably rectangular, with pillars at the center forming a rectangular shape. The synagogue had a circular courtyard, in the middle of which was a well that was re-used in the reconstruction of the Aragon Synagogue, when the Gatenio family rebuilt the synagogue after the fire of 1890. From the beginning of the 18th century, the Aragon Synagogue was the largest in the city. Eighteen Torah scrolls were kept in its heikhal. It is believed that in the fire of 1917 thirty Torah scrolls were destroyed, some of which were many centuries old. By the end of the 19th century the synagogue was located in the Baru quarter, near Aragon Havrasi (or Vassileos Irakliou) Street. In the fire of 1917 it was destroyed, but it was re-established and functioning once again in 1919. In 1930, The Aragon Synagogue was functioning on Stratou Avenue, and in the beginning of the 1940s it was located at the quarter of Aghia Fotini, number 24. Castilia Synagogue The Castilia Synagogue was founded some time after 1492 by Jewish refugees from Castille. It was also called Kahal Kadosh Gerush Castilia. In the beginning of the 20th century the synagogue was probably situated in the Baru quarter, on Kastilya Street. It was destroyed in the fire of 1917, but was re-established by 1919. In 1930, it was located on Baron Hirsch Street, and in the mid-1930s it functioned in Netah Na’aman Midrash, in the Kalamaria quarter.
Catalan (Yashan) Synagogue The Catalan Yashan synagogue dates after 1492, founded by Jewish refugees, including many significant scholars, from Catalonia, mainly from Barcelona and Gerona. The synagogue was also called Kahal Kadosh and Kahal Kadosh Catalunya. Its nickname was figo (fig). In the middle of the 16th century, the community divided, creating two new synagogues: Catalan Yashan (Old Catalan) and Catalan Hadash (New Catalan). In 1875, the Catalan Yashan Synagogue was in the Pulya quarter, on Petraz Havrasi (Joseph Kleidi) Street. A photograph of the exterior of Catalan Synagogue, after its destruction in the fire of 1890, provides precious information on the shape of the building that was probably built in the 18th century. The shape of the building was rectangular, with a row of pointed arches surrounding at least three sides. These arches must have been the windows (or partially window and partially built). No pillars are shown in the interior. Perhaps the most important part of the building shown in this photograph is the base of the bimah of the synagogue which appears next to the western wall, in a bipolar arrangement to the heikhal. After it was destroyed in the fire of 1917 it was reconstructed on Ifaistou Street. In 1930, the Catalan Yashan Synagogue was located at 58 Ifaistou Street. It is not mentioned in later documents, and probably stopped functioning in the mid-1930s. Catalan Hadash Synagogue Catalan Hadash Synagogue was founded, according to tradition, in the middle of the 16th century by members of the Catalan Synagogue. At the end of the 19th century it was in the Pulya quarter near Egnatia Street. It was destroyed in the fire of 1917, but was re-established by 1919. In 1930, it was located at 14 Amalias Street, and in the mid1930s it was functioning in the Joseph Nissim Rabbinical School at 43 Velissariou Street. Mayor Synagogue The Mayor Synagogue was founded some time after 1492 by Jews from Majorca. Some writers have dated its founding to 1391 under the name of Kehilah Kedoshah de Ba’alei Teshouvah (synagogue of those returning to religion). The nickname of the synagogue was ladron (thief). In the mid-16th century the synagogue divided into two new congregations, Mayor Rishon (first) and Mayor Sheni (second). In the mid-17th century an important yeshiva functioned in Mayor Rishon Synagogue.
By the end of the 19th century, the Mayor Rishon Synagogue was in the Salhane quarter, on Mayor Havrasi (Georgiou Stavrou) Street. After its destruction in the fire of 1890, a new synagogue, which had two floors, was constructed in its place. After its destruction in the fire of 1917, it was re-established by 1919. In 1930, the Mayor Synagogue was located at 38 Spartis Street and in the mid-1930s it is documented that it was located in the Joseph Nissim Rabbinical School on 43 Velissariou Street. Mayor Sheni Synagogue Mayor Sheni Synagogue, attributed to a mid-16th century secession from Mayor Synagogue, was located at the end of the 19th century in the Tophane quarter, near the junction between Eski Pazar (Tsimiski) and Eski Karantina (Hiou) Street. The synagogue is not mentioned among those destroyed in the fire of 1917. In 1919 it was still in use. In the 1930s it was located in Quarter 6, where it had been transferred at an unknown date. Portugal Synagogue (Kehila Portugal) The foundation of the Portugal Synagogue is attributed to refugees from Portugal and the State of Naples who began to arrive in Salonika ca. 1500. The first synagogue was perhaps located in the house of Rabbi Samuel de Medina who was personally given permission by the Sultan of Istanbul to construct a synagogue. Its nickname was calabaza (pumpkin). By the end of the 19th century, the Portugal Synagogue was in the Baru quarter, on Haham Matalon (Vassileos Irakliou) Street. It was destroyed in the fire of 1917, but was re-established by 1919. In 1930, the Portugal Synagogue was active at 24 Megalou Alexandrou Street and in the mid-1930s it is reported on Kassandras Street, next to the new prisons. Neve Shalom Synagogue (Calabria) Neve Shalom or Calabria Synagogue was probably founded shortly after 1497 by Jewish refugees from Calabria and Apulia. It was also known by the name Kehila Kedosha Calavrezim, Kehila Kedosha Calorizim and Kehila Kedosha Calavrizis. Its nickname was trevdika masieka (three-legged poker). In the mid-16th century, the Calabria Synagogue divided into two congregations: Calabria Hadash (or Yishmael) and Kiana. According to all indications, in the 19th century the Calabria Synagogue was the Yanik
(burnt) Synagogue located in the Rogos quarter, on Yanik Havra Street. It was destroyed in the fire of 1917, but was re-established by 1919. In 1930, the synagogue was reported on 40 Platonos Street and in the mid-1930s it was placed in Kastorias Street, in the (private) Midrash Bitti. Yishmael (Kalabria Hadash) Synagogue The Yishmael Synagogue is thought to have been founded in 1537 by members of the Neve Shalom (or Calabria) Synagogue. Its nickname was Cahal de los Jinganos (synagogue of the Gypsies). By the end of the 19th century, the Yishmael Synagogue was located in Malta-Cedide quarter. After its destruction in the fire of 1917, it was re-established, and in 1919 it was functioning again. In the 1930s, the synagogue was located in the Mizrahi Association at 6 Kyprou Street. Kiana Synagogue The Kiana Synagogue may have been founded in 1545 by members of the Neve Shalom (or Calabria) Synagogue. Its nickname was trevdika masieka (three-legged poker). All that is known of the architecture of the synagogue is that the bimah, at the center of the room, was built at a lower level than the rest of the floor. In 1550, Kiana Synagogue divided into two congregations: Kiana and Neve Tsedek. At the end of the 19th century, Kiana was in MaltaCedide quarter. It was destroyed in the fire of 1917 and was re-built in 1923 on the same location. But in 1919 it is reported that the synagogue functioned — perhaps in a temporary location. The only information still available concerning the architecture of the building is a post-war photograph of its façade from Valaoritou Street. The building consisted of one floor and its façade was arranged symmetrically towards its main axis. This façade had neo-Renaissance elements and was ornamented by two arched windows, to the right and left of the main entrance. Each of them had a round skylight. The façade was ornamented by a cornice and had pseudo-pillars at the corners. It was probably made of stone covered with a thick coat of plaster. The roof was sloped and covered in ceramic tiles. The Kiana Synagogue suffered damage during the German Occupation (its building materials were looted). It can be seen in post-war photographs standing closed and deserted. It was demolished in the early 1970s. Neve Tsedek Synagogue It is traditionally believed that the Neve Tsedek Synagogue was
founded in 1550 by members from the Kiana Synagogue. At the end of the 19th century, the synagogue was in Malta-Cedide quarter, near the modern-day courthouse. It was destroyed in the fire of 1917, but was reconstructed and in 1919 was functioning once again. In the 1930s, the building was on 43 Spartis Street, east of the historic center of the city. Pulya Synagogue The Pulya Synagogue was probably founded around 1502 by Jewish refugees from Apulia, Italy who had been expelled by King Charles VIII of Naples. Its nickname was macarron (macaroni). The Pulya community divided twice in the middle of the 16th and in the 17th century, creating three new synagogues: Estroug, Otrando and Har Gavoah. In 1906, Pulya was in the quarter with the same name, on Pulya Havrasi (Grigoriou Palama) Street. It was destroyed in the fire of 1917 and was re-constructed. In 1919, it was functioning once again. In the 1930s, the synagogue is reported at 117 Aghiou Dimitriou Street, in the center of the city. By the end of the decade, it must have been neglected to the point that in September 1940 it was considered dangerous with an occupancy of more than 20-25 people, and even then not until the floor was repaired.37 Estroug Synagogue The Estroug Synagogue likely split in 1535 from the Pulya congregation. Its original location is unknown. After its destruction in the fire of 1917 the synagogue was reconstructed, and in 1919 it was functioning once again. In the 1930s, it was on 14 Kalvou Street, and it is reported that it functioned in the (private?) Midrash Varsano. Otrando (Onturanto) Synagogue It is traditionally believed that the Otrando Synagogue was founded in 1537 by Jewish refugees from Naples, Italy, and by members of Pulya congregation, probably originally from Otranto, Apulia (Italy). It was named Kahal Kadosh Otrando and its nickname was gallo (rooster). At an unknown date after its foundation, it divided into three congregations that finally re-united. In 1906, Otrando was in Pulya quarter, at the location of Onturanto Havlusu. After its destruction in the fire of 1917 the synagogue was reconstructed, and, in 1919 it was functioning once again. In the 1930s, the synagogue is reported in the Karagats quarter at 34
Markou Botsari Street. Har Gavoah Synagogue The Har Gavoah Synagogue is believed to have been founded in 1636 by members of Pulya congregation and a few members from the Provencia Synagogue. The exact location is unknown. After the destruction of the synagogue in the fire of 1917 it was reconstructed, and in 1919 it was functioning again. In the 1930s, the synagogue is reported in Harilaou quarter in the building that housed the synagogue in this quarter (Kehila Harilaou). Lisbon Yashan Synagogue It is traditionally believed that the Lisbon Synagogue was founded in 1510 by Jewish refugees who arrived in Salonika from Lisbon, Portugal. The synagogue was also called Kehila Kedosha Lisboa and Kehila Kedosha Lisbona. Its nickname was magrana (pomegranate). In the mid-16th century the community was divided into two new synagogues: Lisbon (Yashan) and Lisbon Hadash. At the end of the 19th century the synagogue was in the Abdulah Kadi quarter, near the junction between Filippou and Venizelou Streets. After its destruction in the fire of 1917 it was re-constructed and in 1919 it was functioning once again. In 1930, the synagogue was at 56 Vassileos Petrou Street and is not mentioned in later documents or other sources. Lisbon Hadash Synagogue The Lisbon Hadash Synagogue seceded in 1536 from the older Lisbon Synagogue. By the end of the 19th century, the synagogue was in the Rogos quarter. After its destruction in the fire of 1917 Lisbon Hadash was reconstructed by 1919. In 1930, it is reported at 64 Dimokratias Street. In the mid-1930s it was located in the house of Hayim Ezrati, at 74 Vasilissis Olgas Avenue. Evora (or Ă‰vora) Synagogue The Evora Synagogue is named after refugees from Evora, Portugal. They first affiliated with the Lisbon Synagogue but soon seceded to form their own congregation in either 1512 or 1536. Its nickname was arros (rice). In 1906 the Evora Synagogue was in the AkĂ§e Mesjid quarter. It was destroyed in the fire of 1917 but was functioning again in 1919. In 1930, Evora was at 3 Navarinou Street and in the early 1940s it was still at the same location.
Yiahia (or Liviat Hen) Synagogue The Yiahia Synagogue was founded around 1560 by members of the Lisbon Synagogue or, according to some sources, by Dona Gracia Mendes. Yiahia was also called Kahal Kadosh Orhim (synagogue of the visitors), Kahal Kadosh Liviat Hen (Gracia’s synagogue) and Kahal Ba’alei Teshouvah (synagogue of those returning to Judaism). Its nickname was vela (veil). A prominent building next to the synagogue housed a yeshiva. By the end of the 19th century, the Yiahia Synagogue was near the Kadi quarter, near Talmud Torah Hagadol. It was destroyed in the fire of 1917 but by 1919 it was functioning again. In the 1930s, the synagogue functioned in the Kalamaria quarter, at 6 Katsinidou Street. According to some documents it was located in the Midrash Han Yossef Benveniste, possibly a private prayer house. Mograbis (or Mograbes) Synagogue The Mograbis Synagogue is thought to have been founded in 1578 by Jewish refugees from North Africa who fled the persecutions by Philip II of Spain. The name originates from the name Morocco (Magreb or west). Its nickname was sia (chair). Its original location is unknown. After its destruction by fire in 1917, it was functioning again in 1919. In the 1930s the Mograbes Synagogue is reported in the courtyard of Hirsch Hospital, at 65 Konstantinoupoleos Street. It is also referred to as “Midrash of Hirsch Hospital.” The only information available from the synagogue is an undated photograph of part of the façade probably taken in the 1930s. The building appears symmetrical around a central axis with a paved narrow yard in front. It was of modest size but richly decorated, probably built of stone covered with plaster. Two arched windows placed symmetrically flanked the entrance. An oculus window is visible in a niche of the wall. There were similar windows on the façade of Monastirlis Synagogue. Talmud Torah Hagadol Synagogue The Talmud Torah Hagadol Synagogue was founded in 1520. It was part of the Talmud Torah complex that included a theological school (founded in 1583) and libraries. It was administered by a 24-member committee, representing all of the communities (synagogues) of Salonika. The Talmud Torah was destroyed in the fires of 1545 and 1620 and
was rebuilt in 1623. It was not damaged in the fire of 1890, when it was used as a shelter for many homeless fire-stricken families. In 1891, 40 families from Corfu fleeing the “blood libel” and its aftermath found refuge there. The synagogue was completely destroyed, however, in the fire that broke out on July 21, 1898. The foundation stone for the new building was quickly laid on July 30, 1899, on Ravineias Square, near the modern day Vlali marketplace. Its construction cost 4,500 gold pounds, collected thanks to the efforts of a committee led by Rabbi Samuel Simha. Among many others, all members of the Jewish communities of the city participated in the financing, each contributing half a Turkish pound. Money was raised through lotteries and charities. Prominent Jews from Salonika and overseas also contributed. Baron Edmond de Rothchild and his wife donated 10,000 French Francs. The widow of Alfredo Allatini, the widow of Shaul Modiano, Fakima, and the widow of Jacques Pessah donated the money to construct and decorate the heikhal. In memory of their father, Shabbetai, the brothers Solomon and Samuel Hassid offered the money for the construction of the marble bimah, where the names of the members of Rabbi Simha’s committee were carved. A donation of the Amaratzi family, a marble water fountain with six pumps was constructed in the courtyard of the synagogue. Construction of the new Talmud Torah took five years. The building covered a total of 1,600 sq. meters, and included the offices of the Chief Rabbinate of Salonika, community offices and the Talmud Torah School. The imposing building measured 38 meters in length, 24 meters in width and was 14 meters high. The new Talmud Torah Synagogue was inaugurated in December 1904 amidst festivities that attracted 1500 visitors. During this ceremony, the fifteen sefarim that had been kept in the neighboring Catalan (Yashan) Synagogue during construction, were brought back to the heikhal of the Talmud Torah. The Talmud Torah Hagadol was considered the greatest, most beautiful and most significant synagogue constructed in Salonika up until that time. It was used for the most important ceremonies, including the inauguration ceremony of Alliance Israélite Universelle, on April 28, 1910. Surprisingly, despite research, the architect of the building remains unknown. Some photographs of the synagogue survive to allow the identification of the building’s architectural elements. The exterior was a
simple rectangle without projections. The roof was covered in tiles, and elevated at the center. In the interior of the synagogue was a colonnade of Tuscan order, with semi-circular arches in a "π" shape. This colonnade separated the central area from the side aisles. The balcony of the women’s section was above these aisles. The women’s section consisted of an open balcony. The richly ornamented bimah, made of white carved marble, was set against the western wall and projected almost to the center of the room. The entrance of the building was probably at the southern wall and an open courtyard was at the front. The building was destroyed in the fire of 1917. After the fire two new synagogues functioned using the same name: the Talmud Torah Hagadol (Midrash Pinto) on Edmondou Rostan Street, and the Talmud Torah Hakatan, in the Kalamaria quarter. In 1930, another synagogue called Talmud Torah Hirsch, functioned in the Baron Hirsch quarter, close to the old railway station. The Jewish community was planning to build a principal synagogue in section A of the new city plan in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Towards the late 1930s the Jewish community also planned to establish a Midrash Talmud Torah in the center of Salonika for the daily services of Jews who worked there. These plans were never realized. Talmud Torah Hagadol (Midrash Pinto) A synagogue called Talmud Torah Hagadol is listed in 1919. In the mid-1930s a synagogue by the same name is reported at 3 Edmondou Rostan Street, in the eastern suburbs outside the historic center of the city. This synagogue, also mentioned in 1941, was also called Midrash Pinto and was housed in the Pinto School. Talmud Torah Hakatan (Kalamaria) In 1919 a synagogue called Talmud Torah Hakatan functioned in the new Kalamaria quarter. The name Talmud Torah Hakatan does not appear in more recent documents, whereas a Kalamaria Synagogue (in the Kalamaria quarter,) appears throughout the 1930s and early 1940s. Talmud Torah Hirsch A synagogue called Talmud Torah Hirsch appears in a post-war bibliography. In the 1930s it functioned in the quarter bearing the same name. It is not reported in community registers of the 1930s; it is therefore difficult to verify its existence and location.
The “Community” Synagogues of Salonika Vardar Synagogue The Vardar Synagogue was founded in the Baron Hirsch quarter after the fire of 1890. Since it was outside the burnt zone, it survived in the same location even after the fire of 1917. In the 1930s the synagogue was at 43 Stavrou Voutira Street, in the Hirsch quarter. Based on an undated photograph of its exterior, some conclusions regarding its architecture can be made. The building was prominent, especially compared to the surrounding buildings at the time the photograph was taken. The interior layout was probably a basilica, divided into three aisles. The outside of the building had a similar arrangement: the main façade was imposing, divided into three bays, the central one being taller and culminating in a triangular pediment. The Ten Commandments (Decalogue) were carved on this pediment (as was the case in Beit Shaul and synagogues built throughout Europe in the 19th century and early 20th centuries). The window arrangement indicates the existence of the women’s section above the side aisles, in a "π" shape, or in two parallel balconies. After the Jews were deported in 1943, the Hirsch quarter was purchased by the Nazi collaborator, P. Nikolaidis, and reportedly demolished. Apparently however, the synagogue was not demolished since post Liberation documents report that the Jewish community was renting the building out, although it is not clear for what use. Beit El Synagogue The original date of the Beit El Synagogue or Midrash is unknown. In 1882 a trade school was established next to it. The trade school functioned until 1890, when it was destroyed in the fire along with the synagogue. Beit El was rebuilt in the Kaldirgoç quarter, most likely on Bedel Havrasi (Peta?) Street, in 1891 in its previous location. In 1906, the council of Talmud Torah Hagadol founded a nursery school in the synagogue’s courtyard. In 1908 the nursery school was filled with refugees who stayed there until 1917. The school and synagogue were destroyed in the fire of 1917. Only the synagogue was rebuilt on the same location, and was functioning in 1919. In 1940, the vacant land next to Beit El at 109 Mitropoleos Street, was used as a courtyard for the synagogue. The only known photograph of Beit El, dating from the interwar period, shows two rabbis sitting in
front of the heikhal. The synagogue seemed to be richly decorated with marble panels on the wall around the heikhal, which was designed in simple lines in a neoclassic style and was different from the ones in the Italia and Talmud Torah synagogues that were built at about the same period. The elevated platform did not include the bimah, which was most likely at the center of the room or against the opposite wall. Several inscriptions in Hebrew covered the surface of the heikhal as well as the area around it. This decorative element appears in other synagogues too, such as the Talmud Torah. In the 1930s, Beit El functioned at 111 Mitropoleos Street. In September 1934, six homeless families reportedly lived in Beit El. Beit Shaul Synagogue Beit Shaul Synagogue was built from 1895-1898 within a previously open area owned by Samuel Shaul Modiano in the newly founded quarter of Hamidye. This area in the eastern part of the historic center had, by the end of the 19th century begun to develop and it attracted Jewish institutions and wealthy Jewish families. For example, the rabbinical school and the official home of the rabbi were two blocks to the south. Several synagogues and midrashim were also in the area, the offices of the Jewish community were to the west, and the later Hirsch Hospital to the north. The masonry synagogue was designed by the Italian architect Vitaliano Poselli. Poselli settled in Salonika between 1870 and 1910 and designed a number of important structures in the city. His elegant and richly decorated buildings made him one of the most significant architects in Salonika. The construction of Beit Shaul Synagogue was undertaken by Fakima, the widow of Shaul Ya’akov Modiano, who dedicated it in 1898 in memory of her late husband, Shaul. The synagogue was also known by the name of Kahal de la señora Fakima (the synagogue of Mrs. Fakima). Photographs and other visual sources38 allow a detailed reconstruction of the building. Its exterior dimensions were 24.5 x 15.5 meters, and 14 m. in height. The main façade of the synagogue was approached through a small courtyard. The synagogue exterior gives evidence of two levels within. A prominent string course divides the building horizontally, and there are rows of arched windows on each level. The lower level — into which was set the main entrance — appears to support the upper level which was fully visible from a distance and from outside the courtyard. The two levels reflect the main
floor level of the sanctuary, and the level of the womens’ gallery situated on three sides of the interior. The principal façade was divided into three bays by applied pilasters. The central bay was wider. Below was the recessed entrance, set in an alcove behind a three-arched opening of central arch — wider and slightly higher — and two narrow arched side openings. Above the entrance in the wide central bay was a large arched widow. Somewhat narrowly and slightly lower side windows flanked this in the other façade bays. Similar windows filled the building’s façades. The applied pilasters supported a simple frieze and cornice running above the height of the windows. This entablature was broken only in the central facade bay, where it rose in a great arch into which was set an oculus with an inscription and above which was set a carved Decalogue (Ten Commandments). This form was familiar in many 19th century synagogues in Western Europe; especially the main synagogues of Paris at rue de la Victoire (1865-74) and rue des Tournelles (1868-1876).39 In Greece, the typology of the entrance, as well as other structural and decorative details, influenced the newer Monastirlis Synagogue. According to visual evidence,40 the interior was an essentially unified space, with dimensions that can be estimated at 14 x 18 meters (252 sq. meters) and a height of 12.5 meters in the central space. with an interior volume of 3,150 cubic meters. The women’s gallery was "π" shaped, parallel to the side and entrance walls. There is an additional space around the heikhal which was highlighted by a grand arch. The heikhal and the richly decorated marble bimah were both set at the east end of the sanctuary, reflecting the now-common arrangement in synagogues in France and in Western Europe. The bimah projected from the space of the heikhal towards the center of the room. The heikhal was raised above the sanctuary floor level, and its base was decorated with black marble. The lower parts of the inrerior walls were also painted black, while the the walls themselves were painted to imitate marble. After the fire of 1917, when almost all synagogues of the city were destroyed, including Talmud Torah Hagadol, Beit Shaul became the official community synagogue of Salonika. The communal life shifted away from the city, centered near this new community synagogue. All official ceremonies and receptions organized by the community, including the ceremony in honor of King George II on November 29, 1935, were held at Beit Shaul. Sadly, the impressive Beit Shaul Synagogue
was blown up by the Nazis in 1943 after the deportation of the Jewish community. Plassa (Bourla or Plassa Judia) Synagogue The Plassa Synagogue was founded before the fire of 1917, during which it was destroyed and subsequently re-established by 1919. In the 1930s it was on Franginis Street, a side street of Vassileos Irakliou Street in the city center. The convenient location made it easily accessible for daily services to Jews who worked in the center of the city. In February 1941, the synagogue suffered serious damage from Italian aerial bombing. After Liberation the Ashkenaz Synagogue functioned in the space of Plassa, supported by a donation of Samuel Bourla. The synagogue was demolished in the 1980s and a modern office building was constructed in its place, with space given for the contemporary synagogue Yad Le Zikaron on the ground floor.
Community and Private Midrashim of Salonika Allatini Synagogue Founded by the Allatini family in the Kebir Manastir quarter, an area near the church of Nea Panaghia inhabited mainly by Christian families. In the late 19th century it is mentioned on Dimitri Nano (Vlassiou Tsiroyianni and later Pavlou Mela) Street. Nearby, in the same quarter, was a Jewish school, owned by the synagogue. There is no further information on the synagogue. Saiaz Synagogue Founded by Shalom Saias in the Baru quarter, near the building that housed his textile factory, which functioned since 1878 across from the Metropolis church, at the junction between Mitropoleos and Aghias Sofias Streets. The synagogue was on Kapanaca (Tsimiski) street. As it is not mentioned in later sources; it was probably destroyed in the fire of 1890 and not rebuilt. Varsano Synagogue Founded at an unknown date by the Varsano family, on Etz Hayim Havrasi Street, in the Etz-Hayim quarter. It probably stopped functioning before 1917.
Midrash Tchenyo (Beit Yaâ€™akov) Founded by the Tchenyo family at an unknown date, before 1890, on Cenyo Havrasi (Smyrnis) Street, in Tophane quarter. Destroyed in the fire of 1917, it was re-established by 1919. In the 1930s it was at 32 (or 22) Philippou Street, in the historic city center. After the war, the building was mentioned once again, in a table of resettlement of Jewish survivors of the Nazi persecution as a shelter for needy Jews. Midrash Beit Isaac (Itzchak Errera) Founded after the fire of 1890 by the Errera family. It was a private prayer house, at an unknown location. It was destroyed in the fire of 1917 but was refounded by 1919. In 1930 it functioned at 73 (or 95) Makedonias Street, east of the historic center of the city. Ezrati Synagogue Founded by the Ezrati family at an unknown date before 1890, it was located in the Baru quarter, on Idare-i Askeriye (Vassileiou Voulgaroktonou) Street. The synagogue is not mentioned in the document listing synagogues destroyed in the fire of 1917, even though the Baru quarter was devastated by the fire. In 1919 it is listed as functioning. In 1930 the Ezrati Synagogue functioned at 73 Vassileos Petrou Avenue. Midrash Carasso Founded by the Carasso family as a private prayer hall, shortly after the fire of 1890. It is not mentioned among the ones destroyed in the fire of 1917 but it is listed in 1919. In the 1930s it was at 16 Spartis Street. Yeniserli Synagogue (Larissinon) Founded in 1913 after the annexation of Salonika to Greece, by Jews who came from Thessaly. In the 1930s the synagogue was at 38 Promitheos Street. After the liberation of 1944 the Jewish community received rent for its use. Midrash Adar Kodesh (Adrat Kodesh) Founded before the fire of 1917, it is listed among those synagogues destroyed. In 1919 it was functioning again. In the 1930s the synagogue was located in the barracks of the Angelaki quarter. In the mid-1930s the municipality of Salonika requested that the Jewish community evacuate the quarter (probably including the synagogue) due to the scheduled demolition of the quarter in September 1940.
Ohel Yossef (Sarfati) Synagogue Founded by the Sarfati family in 1921, in the Hamidye quarter, at the junction between Pittakou and Thalitos streets. According to certain sources, the Italia Hadash also functioned in the same synagogue. According to preserved photographs of the interior and the exterior of the synagogue, the building featured a richly decorated rectangular prayer hall with an octagonal apse for the heikhal, which was raised at a higher level. The decoration of the building, both in the interior and the exterior, was elaborate, and influenced by the baroque style. The faรงade was crowned by a curved pediment, at the top of which was a marble representation of the Ten Commandments. Today, the marble heikhal of the Sarfati Synagogue is preserved in Yad Le Zikaron Synagogue, and the chandelier in Monastirlis Synagogue. An extant photograph of the courtyard depicts a carved and richly decorated fountain made of white marble, consistent with the style of the rest of the building.
early 1940s.43 Presumably they stopped functioning before 1917.
Beit Israel Synagogue Beit Israel Synagogue was founded in 1923 in quarter 151. Its appearance is known only from an undated photograph of the exterior. The single storey building had a rectangular floor plan. The exterior was comprised of an arched main entrance flanked by arched windows on each side. The gable of the sloped roof created created a triangular pediment, on which was set a marble Decalogue (Ten Commandments). Beit Israel was blown up by the Nazis in 1943, after the Jewish population had been deported from the city.
Synagogues and Midrashim Listed in 1919 or 1930s
Midrash Keter Torah Midrash Keter Torah was destroyed in the fire of 1917. According to the single known photograph, probably from the 1930s, Midrash Keter Torah was reestablished in a pre-existing barrack in some unknown quarter. It may have also functioned under a new name, since it is not mentioned in documents. The photo shows the simple interior serving as a dormitory for refugees. The heikhal is visible, but partially obscured by furniture. There is no bimah, possibly because it was moved to allow refugees to settle as comfortably as possible. In the early 1930s a number of refugees had found refuge inside the synagogue, as in other Jewish institutions of the city.
Midrash Arditi (Arditti) Location: Kastilya Havrasi Street, Pulya quarter. Samoel Synagogue Location: Bank Osmanli Street, Malta-Cedide quarter. Midrashim Samoel Mison Cohen Location: Aya Sofya Meydani, Pulya quarter (founded 1906). Sarah Synagogue Location: Sarah Havrasi Street, Kadi quarter.
The following synagogues or prayer houses are mentioned as destroyed in the 1917 fire, but as functioning again in 1919 with street addresses listed in the 1930s and early 1940s.44 Serrero Synagogue Location: 5 Kalvou Street (1930s). Midrash Beit Abraham Location: Tobazi Street (1930s). Midrash Beit Yehuda Location: 2 Menexe Street (1930s). Midrash Marmoles (Mormoles) Location: 17 Omirou Street, corner of 4 Ayialeon Street (1930s). Midrash Bezez (Bezes) Location: 1 Filias Street (1930s).
Midrash Bello Location: 66 Miaouli and Delfon Streets.
Several midrashim are mentioned in late 19th-century sources, but not in later documents, such as in the lists of synagogues destroyed in the fire of 1917,41 and those functioning in 1919 42 and in the 1930s and
Midrash Broudo Location: Community school, quarter 151.
Midrach Or Ha-Hayim Location: 64 Vassilissis Olgas Avenue east of the historic city center.
destroyed by fire in 1917 or functioning in 1919.45 Presumably they were founded after 1919.
Midrash Angel Location: 17 Filias Street, probably named for the founding family.
Midrash Ahavat Olam Location: 42 Ptolemaion Street.
Midrash Baruch Berakha Location: 12 Afroditis Street.
Midrash Solomon Hassid Location: 37 Andgonidon Street. In 1930 located at 48 Megalou Alexandrou Street.
Midrashim Established Between 1919 and 1940
Moshe Hirsch Synagogue Location: Unknown.
These midrashim are not included in lists of prayer houses
1 On the history of Salonika see most recently M. Mazower, Salonica: City of Ghosts, Christians, Muslims and Jews 1430-1950 (New York, 2004). For the Jewish history of Salonika see J. Nehama, Histoires des Iraeilites de Salonique (French) (Salonika, 1935-78), and A. Nar, Lying on the seashore ... (Greek) (Salonika, 1997). Also, N. Stavroulakis and T. de Vinney, Jewish Sites and Synagogues of Greece (Athens, 1992), pp. 159-189, and E. Messinas, The Synagogues of Salonika and Veroia (Athens, 1997), pp. 35-51. 2 In Acts (Acts, 17:1), and his two letters to the Thessalonians (Thessalonians, 1:1). 3 See Steven B. Bowman, Jews of Byzantium 1204-1453 (University, AL, 1985), pp. 172 ff. 4 In the middle of the 19th century four religious (or rabbinical) courts functioned in Salonika: (a) For matters concerning widows and orphans (b) For state and commercial issues. (c) For issues concerning real estate property and (d) for religious issues. Before the destruction of the community during the Second World War, the Beth Din of Salonika had a rich consulting library. This was confiscated by the Nazi Rosenberg Commission (1940-41). The fate of the books remains unknown. In M. Molho, In Memoriam (Salonika, 1974) (Greek), pp. 159-160. 5 In spite of the damage they suffered in the great fires in the city, libraries of the Jewish community were famous until the destruction of the community in the Second World War. In the first days following their occupation of Salonika in May 1941, the Nazis systematically confiscated the valuable Judacia that remained (books, manuscripts, megilot, records and Torah scrolls). Approximately 200 Torah scrolls were confiscated from synagogues: 150 were carefully packed and sent to Germany. The rest were destroyed and burned. Some of these treasures had been brought centuries earlier by Jewish refugees from Spain and Italy. In M.
Molho, op. cit., pp. 155-7 and 159-160. 6 Jews were also known for carpet making, especially for cheap, colorful carpets. Another area of Jewish activity was the manufacture of aba and blue material made of silk. Consumers throughout the Ottoman Empire, but also in other countries, appreciated their products. Evliya Çelebi wrote: “The works of all industries — and nationalities — are magnificent and products of sacred labor. However, the felt carpets (that the Jews manufacture) that have beautiful and colorful depictions are very special. In the market they are known as “made in Salonika”. They are fantastic creations. They also manufacture “sobrama” felt of Salonika, in blue and green colors absorbed by the janissaries of the Turkish government, with forty thousand men. They even make “English type” felt and blue silk pestimalia. They are the exclusive producers and international exporters of small rugs that they especially fabricate here in Salonika.” In E. Chelebi, Travel in Greece — with commentary by Nikos Chiliadakis (Greek) (Athens, 1991), p. 125. 7 For a good general English account of the fire and the subsequent plans presented for rebuilding see Mazower, Salonica, op. cit. 299-310. 8 The schools mentioned in the petition are the following: Aghias Paraskevis, Hirsch quarter, quarter 6, Kalamaria quarter, Angelaki barracks Boys’ School in Exohis, Girls’ School in Pedion Areos, Othonos Street and Allatini High School (Salonika 235/10.8.1924). 9 For example, in the early 1920s, and later, following the anti-Semitic attack on the Jewish Kambel (Campbell) quarter in June 1931, thousands of Salonika Jews left for Palestine. B. Rivlin (ed.), Pinkas Hakehillot: Greece (Hebrew) (Jerusalem, 1998), pp. 265-6.
10 M. Benayahu, Relations between Greek and Italian Jewry (Hebrew) (Tel Aviv, 1980), 82. 11 M. Benayahu, op. cit., p. 84. 12 See V. Dimitriadis, Topography of Salonika during the Ottoman period 1430-1912 (Greek) (Salonika, 1983), p. 115, and A. Nar, Lying on the seashore (Greek) (Salonika, 1997), p. 99. 13 According to Evliya Çelebi, in the 17th century Salonika had 56 Jewish quarters as opposed to 16 Christian and 48 Muslim ones. As A. Nar correctly mentions, the number of the 56 Jewish quarters may correspond to the number of synagogues in the city of that time, if we take into consideration the fact that every quarter had a synagogue, or that every synagogue corresponded to one community (mainly based on its provenance). In E. Chelebi (1991), op. cit., pp. 118-9, and A. Nar (1997), op. cit., p. 95. 14 Table based on V. Dimitriadis (1983), op. cit., p. 160. 15 With the deportation of the Jewish population of Salonika in 1943, the quarter was purchased by the reputed Nazi agent Pericles Nikolaidis, “at a very low price.” He demolished the buildings and sold the land. In R. Camhi Fromer, The house by the sea (San Francisco, 1998), p. 159. Also, in M. Mazower, “The consequences of the deportation of the Jews for the city of Salonika” (Greek), abstract in conference The Jews of Greece during the Occupation (Salonika, 1996), p. 58. 16 The theories for the creation of a garden city as opposed to the situation of the old urban centers of industrial cities were developed by Ebenezer Howard (18501928) in England. They were widespread at that time, and it was believed that they would provide a solution to the housing problem at the end of the 19th century. The definition of a garden city was a small town for sanitary inhabitance and industry that would be run by an association. The area is surrounded by an agricultural space, and the land belongs to the state or to the association of the community. The target of the garden city is the better exploitation of the city’s advantages on the one hand, and of the rural part on the other. The notion of the garden city comes from the urban planning of another Englishman, the architect and urban planner Raymond Unwin. 17 After the deportation of Jews by the Nazis during the Second World War, it is not known what happened to this quarter. According to references in post-SecondWorld-War documents, it was “demolished.” Salonika 232/undated. 18 The area of Salonika destroyed in the fire of 1917, based on A. KaradimouYerolympos, A. (1995), op. cit. The outline of the area destroyed by the fire is juxtaposed on an outline of the city of Salonika, based on the map by S. Ayice published in A. Karadimou-Yerolympos (1995), op cit., p. 20. 19 The French architect and urban planner Ernest Hébrard (1875-1933) was head of the Archaeological Service of the French Army in the Eastern Front. Hébrard, and T. Mawson, A. Zahos, Z. Ginis, K. Kitsikis and Mayor K. Angelakis were members of the International Committee of the New Urban Planning of Salonika. For a good overview of the implementation of the plan see A. KaradimouYerolimpos, Poverty and Marginalization in a changing urban space — The Jewish quarters in Salonika 1870-1920, lecture manuscript, Athens, 1998. 20 Salonika 235/10.3.1927. 21 Based on table in A. Karadimou-Yerolimpos (1998), op. cit., p. 10. 22 In the mid-1930s quarter 151 was renamed Eliyahu Benozilio. According to a let-
ter of the Jewish community to the Mayor of Salonika, the reasons that led it to change the name are the following: “… In 1917 a Royal Decree appointed Mr. Benozilio member of the Organization Committee for the care of victims of the big fire. He was treasurer of the Committee and as such he contributed to a great extent to the relief of thousands of Jewish families. In 1918, Mr. Benozilio served as a member of the Municipal Council. As such, he worked for the Municipality for the foundation of the Angelaki-Stratou quarter and for the purchase of quarter 6. The above quarters were exclusively reserved for Jewish fire victims. During 1919-1920, assisted by the contribution of some of his friends, Mr. Benozilio mediated through the State, and achieved the foundation of Rezi Vardar and Aghias Paraskevis quarters for the housing of thousands of Jewish families. After this period, Mr. Benozilio and his colleagues in the Community Council, worked continuously and achieved the purchase of the barracks of the 0151 Hospital from the Italian military Authorities. He also acted for the expropriation of these pieces of land in favor of the Community. For many years Mr. Benozilio worked for issues concerning the Community and served as a member of the Community Council several times. He served as vice-Chairman for three years and as Chairman for five years. He was truly committed to every matter concerning the Community and always worked with zeal and dedication. He always mediated between every government or municipality and the Community, for all issues concerning the benefit of his fellow Jews. In the last five years, during which he served as a Chairman of the Community, Mr. Benozilio, always equally active, whenever the opportunity arose, proved his usefulness to the Jewish population of our city.” (Salonika 204/5.5.1936). 23 Postwar records indicate the demolition of the quarter following the deportations of 1943. (Salonika 232/undated). 24 In 1940 permission for its demolition was granted, and the Municipality asked the Jewish community to evacuate the barracks for this purpose (Salonika 72/3.6.1940). In another document, the Jewish Community asks the Railway and Electricity Association of Salonika to move the electricity meter (number 5125) from the synagogue that would be demolished in the Angelaki quarter to the Sicilia Hadash Synagogue on 13, Sarandaporou Street (Salonika 220-2 / 26.8.1940). 25 According to Lease Number 19649 of May 27. 1922, the Jewish community rented the barracks of this quarter as of 1922. (Salonika 207/0.11.1928). 26 In the city maps it appears “quarter of the Fire Vicitms” of the Municipality of Neapolis. According to references in post-War records, after the deportation of the Jews during the Second World War, the quarter was “demolished.” (Salonika 232/undated and Salonika 336/11.6.1930). 27 In June 1931, the synagogue was destroyed in a fire set by arson, together with sacred objects, books, and seats of the synagogue that the Jewish Community valued at 44,000 drachmas, and for which it requested indemnity from the General Administration of Salonika (Salonika 73/12.11.1931 and Salonika 73/undated report). 28 Based on document Salonika 211/10.12.1919. The author has published a version of this list with full names and years of birth of the hazanim in E. Messinas (1997), op. cit., pp. 142-145. 29 As published by Yaakov Schibi; other unpublished fragments and epigraphs have yet to be studied and published. Oral communication from Steven Bowman to the author.
30 It was studied out of a non-registered copy in Wiener Library, London, England, offered by Mark Mazower. I take this opportunity to thank Mark Mazower for referring me to this important document. The reason why this report includes only a limited number of synagogues is not clear. The report indicates that almost 60 religious houses functioned in the city. The reason must not be the lack of information on the part of the conquerors. The Nazis had access to all records of the Jewish community in addition to the keen assistance of Jewish collaborators. There were Greek documents that have been translated into German (for the conquerors’ information), additional tables publishing synagogues of the city, their precise location, and notes in German. Therefore, one of the reasons may be the loss of material, between its collection and its entry in the Rosenberg report. Another possible reason could be that the Germans did not verify promptly the precise location and report of each one of the synagogues entered in the data they collected. (This is rather improbable). Finally, an additional reason may be the fact that the conquerors paid little attention to synagogues. Instead, they concentrated on the recording of Jews and their properties, spending little time on the collection of data on synagogues or visiting each one of them. The thirty five (35) synagogues and midrashim mentioned in the Rosenberg report, are the following: Beth Shaul, Beth Itsak (Errera), Monastirlis, Plassa, Beth El, Ashkenaz, Beth Israél, Kiana, Hassid, Ahavat Olam, Beth Yaakov (Tseniyio), Ezrati, Evorah, Adar Kodesh, Aragon, Karasso, Sicilia Yashan, Talmud Torah, Lisbon Hadash, Otrando, Italia Hadash, Bello, Har Gavoah, Marmoles,Yiahiah, Kalamaria, Castillia, Mograbis, Neve Shalom, five anonymous (referred to as “synagogue”), and Bet Israel Synagogue that has not been recognized. 31 The nicknames given to the synagogues of Salonika were a tradition probably begun in the 19th century. They were pronounced only during the holiday of Simhat Torah, the Hebrew month Tishri (September – October). In M. Molho, Usos y costumbres de los Judios de Thessaloniki (Spanish) (Barcelona, 1951), p. 23. 32 See Joseph R. Hacker, “Ottoman Policy toward the Jews and Jewish Attitudes toward the Ottomans during the Fifteenth Century,” in Benjamin Braude & Bernard Lewis, (eds.) Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Empire, Vol. I (London: Holmes & Meier Publishers Ltd., 1982), pp. 117-126. Rabbi Sarfati wrote: “I proclaim to you that Turkey is a country where nothing lacks and where, if you want, everything would go well. The road to the Holy Land is open via Turkey. Is not it preferable to live under domination of Muslim than that of Christian?” The letter has been traditionally dated (since Heinrich Graetz) to 1454, but Hacker places it earlier, sometime between 1430 and 1440.
33 The Plassa Synagogue was on 24, Vassileos Irakliou Street according to the caption of the photo from Ido Simsi’s Bar Mitzvah (1936) in the Diaspora Museum Archive (322/111-51/23629). According to the photo of the entrance of Ashkenaz (Bourla) Synagogue, probably in the 1950s, the signpost on the door refers to the donation of S. Bourla (Avraham and David Recanati Collection and Diaspora Museum Archive, number A-8). 34 The marble bimah is shown in photos of the interior of Bourla Synagogue (Diaspora Museum Archive, op. cit.) According to N. Stavroulakis, the bimah belonged to one of the synagogues in Baron Hirsch quarter. In N. Stavroulakis (1992), p. 180. 35 The heikhal in the Italia Synagogue was very similar to the ones in its contemporary synagogues Beit Shaul and Talmud Torah Hagadol (reconstructed after the fire of 1890, as well as to that in the later synagogue Ohel Yosef Sarfati (reconstructed in 1921). This resemblance tells us of a uniformity in design and aesthetics, which leads us to three possible conclusions: a) all of the above synagogues were designed by the same architect (or the same “school” of architects), b) they were all influenced by the same European models; c) it is a special local architectural tradition encountered in Salonika at the end of the 19th century. 36 A. Rousso (ed.), Salonique: Ville Mere en Israel (Hebrew) (Tel Aviv, 1987), p. 178. 37 Salonika 290/23.9.1940. 38 A number of photographs of the building belong to the archive of A. and D. Recanati. Some photographs illustrate the ceremony in honor of King George II of Greece, on November 29th 1935 (Salonika 204/1935). 39 See D. Jarrassé, L’Age D’Or des Synagogues (Paris, 1991), 100-101. Another example of synagogues with the raised central arch, also influence by Paris, is the old synagogue of Vitry-le-François, Marne (1885). 40 The dimensions derive from the reconstruction of the building by the author, based on photographic archival material, and the footprint of the building shown on the city plan of Salonika in the 1930s. (YPEHODE, scale 1:500, undated). According to Kolonas, the total area of the building was 280 sq. meters. In V. Kolonas, L. Papamattheaki, The architect Vitaliano Poselli: his work in Salonika 19th century (Greek) (Salonika, 1980), p. 78. 41 Salonika 141/1933. 42 Salonika 211/10.12.1919. 43 Salonika 336/11.6.1930 and Rosenberg Report (15.11.41). 44 Salonika 336/11.6.1930 and Rosenberg Report (15.11.41). 45 Salonika 141/1933 and Salonika 211/10.12.1919 respectively.
veroia A Brief History of the City of Veroia (Caraferia) Veroia is first mentioned by the Greek historian Thucydides (1, 6164), with reference to the Athenians' unsuccessful attempt to conquer the city in 432 BCE.1 The geographer Strabo (67 BCE–23 CE), is the first to give its precise strategic location at the foot of Mt. Vermion. Its neighborhood has a natural water supply, the Aliakmonas River, and its tributary Tripotamos (also "Barbouta") flows at the south of the city. The city walls, built and repaired by Macedonian kings (9th century–168 BCE), Romans (168 BCE–395 CE), Byzantines (395–1436) and Crusaders (1204–1220/2), protected the city. The city’s commercial and cultural peak came during the Roman period, when it was the seat of the Koinon ton Makedonon (Assembly of Macedonians), representing neighboring cities. Its prosperity soon attracted Jews. The earliest references to an established community are those in the New Testament in Acts (10, 17). During the Byzantine era, Veroia had developed into a significant religious center of churches and monasteries. More than 72 churches of various sizes still stand today, some of which date from the Byzantine period. Veroia fell to the Turks in 1430. During the Ottoman era the city flourished and supported the important administrative position of Kadi (judge). New public works including markets, baths, and mosques revived its urban fabric, and the city walls were also repaired. At the end of the 15th century, Jews who had been expelled from Spain found refuge in Veroia, via Salonika.2 The city flourished and gained wealth and fame for its production and export of "white, dainty and fluffy materials," for facial towels (havlu), bath towels (makramas),3 bathrobes and cotton linen made in Serres. The existing synagogue was erected at some time during Ottoman rule. Veroia, and the region of Macedonia was unified with Greece in October 1912. During the following decade the massive exchanges of populations between Greece and Turkey transformed the demographic, religious and social makeup of Macedonian cities, including Veroia, and greatly affected the status of Jews. In 1943, during the German occupation, most Jews of Veroia were deported to their deaths (see below).
The City of Veroia The historic center of Veroia is surrounded by Byzantine walls and lies at the heart of modern Veroia. As a result of a long process of growth
and change, each quarter took an irregular form. Streets, squares and mainly the market were the places where the different groups met and interacted. The city assumed its final form during the era of Ottoman rule: each religious group lived within its own quarter, around its church, mosque or synagogue. Three disastrous fires of July 19, 1772, August 14, 1864, and in 1873, ruined much of the city. The most destructive was that of 1864 (or in some sources, 1862), when the market and much of the city center — but not the Jewish quarter — were destroyed. The city was substantially reconstructed after that fire. The historic city center has also changed considerably since the Second World War. Old houses were demolished, new residential areas were constructed, and streets have been widened following the new urban plan first promulgated in 1936. Although the existing traditional urban fabric has changed dramatically, two quarters survive mostly intact: Kyriotissa, and Barbouta (the Jewish quarter) that extends along the Tripotamos River to the south. These quarters are preserved due to the intervention of the Ministry of Culture in 1978.4
The Jewish Presence in Veroia A Jewish community is mentioned for the first time in the Acts of the Apostles 13, which mentions the visits of Paul the Apostle, at least twice, probably around 50 CE and again 57 CE.5 There is almost no documentary or archaeological evidence for Jews in Veroia through the entire Byzantine period, until the 15th century. During his travels in Greece in the 12th century, Benjamin of Tudela, Spain, does not list Veroia in his itinerary. Before 1453, however, there appears to have been a Jewish community, most likely Romaniote, and these Jews were forcibly moved to Istanbul (together with other Jewish communities) to help repopulate the city recently conquered by the Ottomans, and now designated to be the capital of the new Empire. In Istanbul a new synagogue founded in the Balat quarter was known as the "synagogue of Veroia." In the 17th century the community of this synagogue was called Kehilat Caraferia (or Veroia) and had 45 members who were sürgünlü ("forced to move"). It is thus unlikely that there were Jews in Veroia when Sephardi refugees arrived in the city in the late 15th century. We do not know what they found — we know nothing of the Romaniote community of Veroia, the disposition of any Jewish quarter, or of the architecture of
any synagogue. The Sephardim brought their own culture, language and religious traditions. Wherever they settled within the city, they created an entirely urban world all their own. Favorable decrees and tax exemptions for the newcomers in combination with their spiritual, social and professional culture, especially their valuable knowledge of the textile industry, resulted in the economic and social prosperity of the Sephardi community which created in turn an economic boom for all of Veroia. The Sephardim brought with them the arts of textile, carpet weaving and iron metallurgy. They even brought the so-called "frames" from Toledo, on which they wove all kinds of woolen material. These new industries stimulated new economic development in Veroia until the 18th century, when similar products were imported from England and Izmir, better in quality and lower in price than the ones made in Veroia. The textile industry must have been the reason for the great number of water mills that Leake refers to in his travel reports.6 Apart from the grinding of wheat, the water-mills were used for the processing The Jewish cemetery in Veroia after the Second World of flax and the last stage of processing the carpets that War. Tombstones are scattered throughout the site. were made in the surrounding villages and by Jews of (The Jewish Museumn of Greece) Salonika. In addition to water mills Jews also exploited Veroia's natural water resources where they cleaned the textiles and beat the well-to-do Jews, Christians and Muslims, and city populations began them with two beaters. The use of water for textile factories (an occupation to segregate as much by class as by religion. exclusive to Jews) on the one hand, and the Tripotamos river that was the The unity of the Jewish community of Veroia, as in the rest of Greece, was jeopardized and profoundly disturbed in the 17th century city's main source of water, on the other hand, may help us understand by the appearance of the pseudo-Messiah, Shabbetai Zvi, who converted why Jews chose this specific location in Veroia. The textile industry had to Islam in 1666. A group of Dรถnme (also called ma'aminim) apparently also been one of the principal occupations of Jews in the Byzantine period. emerged in Veroia, as in other Greek cities. The Dรถnme were groups of The mansions built in the southern end of the Jewish quarter are surJews, often of Marrano ancestry, who followed their messiah Shabbetai viving evidence of the wealthy Jews. These buildings were influenced by Zvi and converted to Islam. They openly practiced Islam including sepbuildings abroad and reflected the economic prosperity of the owner. arate mosques, while secretly maintaining their own mystical interpreThroughout the Ottoman era, Veroia was inhabited by Jews, Christation of Judaism. This heterodox movement, which had its own splintians and Muslims. Jews lived between the walls of the city and the tered divisions, often occupied a middle group (figuratively and literally) Tripotamos River; Christians lived in the northeastern and southern section of the city, and Muslims lived on the highest point of the city, near between Muslim and Jews. the two medieval towers. Co-existence of different Jewish social and ecoDuring his visit to Caraferia (Veroia) in 1668, Evliya รelebi refers to nomic groups was probably the norm in Jewish quarters of Greece two groups of Jews, most of whom were "Frangoi," so-called perhaps before the Tanzimat Reforms, when new suburbs were established for because they lived near the Franks' mosque, or that they were Western
The Jewish Quarter of Veroia (Barbouta)
Tombstones found at the site of the Jewish cemetery in Veroia in 1993. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
European (or Frankish) origin, perhaps referring to the existence of two Jewish groups based on the origin of their members, like the Sephardim and Ashkenazim or the Sephardim and the Romaniotes.7 By the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century Veroia had 1,300 Jews in a total population of 18,000-20,000 people. By the end of the 19th century the number of Jews fell to 149, due to the economic difficulties and to fires that plagued the city and the Jewish quarter. At the beginning of the 20th century the Veroia community grew to 600 Jews—up from 500 in 1904—and supported a Jewish school with 40 pupils.8 In May 1943, the Germans rounded up 424 out of the 460 Jews who were registered inhabitants of Veroia and deported them to concentration camps in Poland. Very few succeeded in escaping to areas controlled by the Resistance or hiding among their non-Jewish compatriots.9 The Jewish quarter was deserted after its inhabitants were arrested. Jewish homes and shops were looted and then allocated for the housing of refugees and other homeless people, mostly villagers who came to the cities during the difficult years of the German occupation. When the Jewish community members of Veroia re-assembled after the war there were only 131 survivors. Most of them later settled in Salonika or emigrated overseas. The newly established Jewish community sold the houses to new owners.10 In 1970 the community was declared inactive. By 1973 Veroia only had three Jewish families; today there is only one left.
Barbouta, the Jewish quarter named after Tripotamos River (or Barbouta) is outside the walls at the southwestern end of the Byzantine city. It has a triangular shape measuring about 100 x 80 x 120 meters for a total area of about 3,600 meters.11 The sides of the triangle are defined by the river to the west, the Byzantine walls to the north and Dekatis Merarhias Street to the east, all of which combine to fortify the quarter. The quarter consisted of an open courtyard at the center, surrounded by houses that formed a protective wall around it. The courtyard had two gates: one at the east on Dekatis Merarhias Street, and the other in the southeast, next to the bridge over Tripotamos. The gate was made of stone and one side was joined to the wall of the ground floor of one of the mansions in the southern end of the quarter. It was later demolished. During the Ottoman era these gates must have been closed at sundown and opened at sunrise.12 The walled appearance of the Jewish quarter was similar to Greek quarters. Christian and Jewish quarters were built around centers (such as churches and synagogues), sometimes in a square form (Kyriotissa) and sometimes in a triangular form (Barbouta). The open-air enclosed courtyard was at the center of the quarter, a triangular form surrounded by houses. The houses were built along the irregular street line (a result of a centuries-old urban growth). The number of floors of each house varied, and there were a number of closed and open spaces (mainly towards the closed courtyard). Windows and sahnisi 13 were similar to the ones of other houses and mansions of Veroia. Jewish merchants and professionals listed in the 1921 Greek Guide.14 • Money-changers: Daniel Asher. • Silversmiths: Daniel Aran. • Leather merchants: Reuben Stroumsa & Sons and David Stroumbas. • Ready made clothes merchants: Samuel Mois Tambo. • Tobacco merchants: Reuben Stroumsa & Sons and Ischai Stroumsa. • Carpenters: Samuel Mourdochas. • • • •
Grocers: Bouhoratos Asheris, Haleodis Isaac, and Hanania Asher. Shoemakers: Bindas Baruch, and Sebetos Moissis. Drapers: Asher Ovadias. Haberdashery: Azariah Salfasi.
Construction detail of a traditional house in Veroia. The damaged thick layer of plaster, reveals underneath the structural composition of the exterior wall and sahnisi. These construction methods were commonly used by the snaf, in Veroia, and in Northern Greece in general. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
The Jewish cemetery site in Veroia in 1993. In the foreground a basketball court. In the background, on the slopes of the site, a building that was built to house the few tombstones that survived. Despite the fact that building on a Jewish graveyard is strictly forbidden by Jewish law, the Central Board of Jewish Communities (KIS) offered this Jewish graveyard to the local Municipality in exchange for the renovation of the synagogue. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
The courtyard was paved with pebbles, characteristic of the streets (kalderimi) and courtyards of Veroia and other northern Greek cities. Similar to other quarters built around courtyards, the ground floors of the houses in the Jewish quarter connected to each other by doors onto a common corridor.
brought about changes in its traditional appearance. The houses built in these periods did not follow the defensive model. They were south of the gate of the Tripotamos River, outside the boundaries of the closed courtyard of the quarter. They had closed ground floors, fenced courtyards and gardens, asymmetrical faĂ§ades, and they bear decorative elements that show a baroque influence from the urban centers of Europe.
The Houses Despite various differences, the houses follow a common typology as a result of their construction method. The houses of the Jewish quarter resemble those in other quarters of Veroia. They are constructed in a similar manner by the koudaraioi, with similar architectural features and materials. Some Jewish houses, however, are distinctive, with a closed ground floor, and with decorative inscriptions in Hebrew painted on the exterior walls. The inscriptions included texts from the Psalms, and the date of construction of the house (based on the Hebrew calendar).15 The biggest difference between Jewish houses and others is that Jewish houses had no fireplaces. Instead they were heated by portable heaters. The expansions of the Jewish quarter in 1859, in 1882 and in 1883,
The Synagogue of Veroia The synagogue, located at 6 Olganou Street,16 is at the northwest end of the open courtyard of the Jewish quarter (Barbouta). It is built on a site adjacent to the Tripotamos River, next to a steep slope. It is oriented along the north-south axis. The synagogue was recently restored; and now also serves as a museum.17 Over the centuries there has been speculation that the location of the synagogue today may relate to Veroiaâ€™s synagogue where Paul the Apostle is said to have preached in the first century C.E. But other than the one line in the New Testament (Acts 17:10), there is no other mention of the ancient synagogue.18
The Jewish quarter (Barbouta) after the Second World War. To the lower left is the south gate leading from the Tipotamos bridge to the Jewish quarter. It was demolished later. (Published in Chronika 138, 1995, p. 14)
Site plan of Barbouta (the former Jewish quarter in Veroia). The synagogue is located at the bottom left. (Published in H. Zarkada, and K. Trakasopoulos, Preservation and Revival of the Jewish quarter in Veroia, Architectural Issues, 13 (1979), pp. 80-83, and in N. Kalogirou, Veroia, Athens, 1989, p. 20)
A house in Barbouta (the former Jewish quarter in Veroia) in 1993. The house is built in the local traditional style. Floral compositions and the Hebrew inscription â€œIn memory of the destruction (of the Second Temple) 5642, 1882â€? adorn its front elevation. Similar decoration adorned many of the Jewish houses. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
The main street of Barbouta (the former Jewish quarter in Veroia) in 1993. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
erected anew in this form, or if it was built on the foundations of an older building. The foundations of the synagogue, like the ones used for the traditional Veroian house, were shallow, not exceeding one stone on which each pillar of the building rests. For this reason, if the present building replaced an earlier synagogue on this site, then the new building must have been built to the same dimensions as an older one, since investigations have revealed no earlier remains. The synagogue was built before 1850 according to an imperial decree issued in Istanbul; the land belonged to Hadji Zeiram, a Turk.21 Only if the relationship between the stone masonry façade wall and the wooden structure of the synagogue can be clarified, will a more precise date for each component be determined. At present, it appears that they may not have been built at the same time. The five stone windows of the stone wall may suggest something about the layout of the earlier phase. An earlier wooden structure was probably built at the same time as the The synagogue in Veroia after its restoration in 1997. (Elias V. Messinas Archive) stone wall and was replaced by the present structure at an unknown date. The stone wall may have been saved when an older wooden building was either destroyed in a fire or colThe synagogue is the work of the koudaraioi (snaf ), who also built lapsed. But according to dates on the exterior façades of Jewish homes, the houses of the Jewish and other quarter quarters of Veroia. The syn(e.g. 1858), more recent fires that afflicted a large portion of the city, such agogue is one of the last remaining examples in Greece of a Jewish relias the one of 1862/4, did not affect the Jewish quarter. gious building within a preserved urban context, built in the tradition of It is easier to recognize the development of the women's section the snaf. Presumably the synagogue was designed by the head craftsman (ezrat nashim). It was moved from its original position in the north of the (arhitehnitis–architect) with the guidance of the community leaders responsible for its construction or reconstruction.19 building to the south by enlarging the original square plan of the synaThe building on the outside measures 16.15 x 12.30 meters, and the gogue into a rectangle (perhaps related to a possible enlargement of the height of the roof is 5.50 to 8.20 meters. There is a basement with two rooms synagogue in the 18th century). The change is evident by the closed winand the main prayer hall, which is divided into the men's prayer hall and a dows of what used to be the women's section at the northern wall (inteseparate space for women. The women's section (ezrat nashim) is elevated rior),22 the outline of the roof of the older women's section on the northfrom that of the men and is covered with wooden lattice. ern wall (exterior) and the expansion of the roof over the women's secThe floor plan of the building consists of a square with four columns tion in the southern. Finally, the portico of the main entrance is a relaat the center; it was later expanded into a rectangle. The interior dimentively recent change in the original building form, but dates before the sions are 5.70 x 11.05 meters (173.50 square meters) and the interior Second World War. The element is unusual in its context, since the traheight is 4 meters. The interior volume is 768 cubic meters.20 ditional houses of Veroia did not have entrance porticos. The square floor plan, also called the “Ottoman” type, is found The plan of the synagogue is rectangular, with entrance from the throughout northern Greece. We don't know whether the synagogue was east. Within the original square area of the synagogue, there are four
The heikhal of the synagogue in Veroia. The doors were painted in bright colors. Under the whitewash of the cornice and columns of the heikhal, floral patterns in bright and golden colors were discovered in July 1997 during the restoration study by the author and his team. The whitewash dated from before or after the Second World War. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
lime mortar, then treated with goat hair and smoothed flat. The different construction methods of the walls suggest the possibility of different phases of construction of each wall, a supposition also possibly supported by geometric irregularities that appear mainly in the floor plan. For example, the central axis of the heikhal and the central axis of the prayer hall as defined by the four columns are not aligned. Since this irregularity appears neither in Greece nor abroad, it is possible that the stone masonry wall was constructed much earlier than the wooden hall. The reason for this irregularity may be that because the hall had an equal depth towards the river, it was originally smaller. In its recent phase it was enlarged to the south Interior of the synagogue in Veroia in 1995. Behind the blocked openings to the left was the ezrat and its axis was moved in relationship to the axis of the nashim. The heikhal is to the right. Decorative terrazzo tiles emphasize the center of the hall, defined by the four columns. (Photographer Socratis Mavromatis; Elias V. Messinas Archive) heikhal, which, being part of the main wall remained consistent. The shifting of the axis was inevitable, since it columns made of tsatma. Two additional columns (the original exterior seems the craftsman wanted to preserve the square ground plan of the four walls of the square) separate the interior into the entrance area and the central columns in the hall. main prayer area. The foundations of the building are shallow, like all The main entrance of the synagogue is in the stonewall and is defined by six semi-circular steps and an entrance portico. The entrance traditional houses in Veroia, and the columns in the basement that supportico, which is foreign to the traditional architecture of Veroia, is an port it have stone bases for foundations, set on the ground. influence from Kastoria and Pilio. Thick nails support the double woodThe east walls are made of stone. The north and west walls are made of bagdati. The south walls are made of tsatma. Bagdati is a method of inteen doors of the entrance, which is ornamented with a decorative lock. rior wall construction where wooden laths of a trapezoid section are nailed The main elements in the interior are the wooden and colorful at small distances on the wooden frame. The surfaces created on either heikhal, which is set against the eastern wall, and the bimah.23 The woodside are covered with plaster, reinforced with chopped straw or with light en steps to the heikhal appear to have been added later, perhaps after the
Second World War. The permanent bimah of the synagogue was probably destroyed during the occupation. A temporary mobile pulpit, a table, is now placed in the middle of the room, following Sephardi tradition and halakhah. The floor is made of wooden boards and is ornamented in the center (as defined by the four columns) with decorative terrazzo tiles. The rest of the floor is simple, and was probably covered with carpets throughout the year, according to the Veroian tradition. The balcony of the ezrat nashim is at the southern wall, raised 2.20 meters above the interior floor of the sanctuary. It is separated from the rest of the hall by wooden lattice, of the type found in the women's sections of the synagogues of Ioannina and Komotini. Until the middle of the 19th century, the wooden latticed window served to visually separate men from women inside the synagogue. The entrance to the womenâ€™s section is from the courtyard, through a separate door at the southern wall of the synagogue. The women's section was moved from the northern part of the building to the southern one sometime before the Second World War. This change was made when the house adjacent to the synagogue was donated as a gift for the expansion of the synagogue. The older women's section in the northern part of the synagogue, whose outline was preserved in the exterior wall plaster surface before the repair of the exterior, was demolished after the construction of the new women's section in the southern part. Evidence of its existence are the three blocked windows of the north wall: these windows were plastered over when the women's section was demolished and so still preserve the wooden lattice under the plaster. This wooden lattice was similar to that of other synagogues in Greece, and was necessary for the visual separation between men and women.24 Wooden seats were constructed along the length of the eastern and northern walls and traces still exist at the western wall. Some seats have armrests typical of the built-in seats found in traditional houses of Veroia. The ceiling of the sanctuary, made of simple board and decorative trim, is similar to traditional ceilings of northern Greece. The ceiling has two octagonal domes ornamented according to the Turkish tradition: one is at the center of the room, between the four columns, and the second is near the western wall, opposite the heikhal. If this dome determined the position of the bimah, as in other synagogues, then the bimah was placed near or against the western wall according to Romaniote or Italian tradition. The limited space available for the bimah leads us to believe that it was, as it is today, a light mobile pulpit, and not a perma-
Interior of the synagogue in Veroia in 1995: the decorative terrazzo tiles in the center of the hall and the blocked openings to the (original?) ezrat nashim to the left. (Photographer Socratis Mavromatis; Elias V. Messinas Archive)
nent wooden structure (as in other parts of Greece). Romaniote synagogues still standing today, such as the ones in Ioannina and Trikala, have a similar arrangement: decorative elements on the ceiling emphasize the bi-polar alignment of the heikhal and the bimah. In the case of Veroia, however, the bimah was to be a simple podium, since the space does not permit a spacious bimah such as in Ioannina and Trikala. In a study by the preservation experts before the restoration25 of the synagogue, a floral decoration with rich colors was revealed hidden under layers of later paint. This was obviously the work of koudaraioi, who constructed and decorated the building. This decoration is an expression of the same tradition found in the exterior of the houses of Barbouta, with floral motifs, Jewish symbols and scripts. Mansions owned by non-Jews in Veroia have similar decoration, e.g. the Sior Manolaki Mansion. The interior walls, columns, capitals, and decorative beams are all coated and painted in faux-marble. This decoration is probably of a period after the initial construction, and is similar to the decoration found in the interior of synagogues in Salonika at the end of the 19th century. The earlier decoration of the building may have included colorful Jewish motifs similar to the traditional technique of the mansions of Veroia, as well as the synagogues of Eastern Europe and Turkey.26
1 The city is also mentioned by Skymonas of Chios (2nd century BCE), Claudius Ptolemius and others. For a summary of the early history of the city in English see R. Barber, Blue Guide: Greece (London and New York, 1990), pp. 584-585. 2 Salonika was a significant stop for 20,000 Spanish Jews who found refuge there, turning it into a major Jewish city. See previous chapter on Salonika. 3 Leake refers to them and specifies that there was a great use for these towels, because every time one visited the public baths one needed four of them (makramas). W. M. Leake, Travels (Athens, 1968). 4 The Jewish quarter of Veroia (Barbouta) was protected by laws 5351/1932 “for archaeological sites” and 1469/1950 “for the protection of buildings and works of art built after 1830.” Also by the building regulation 8/1973 and the new building regulation 1337/1983. In N. Kalogirou, The historic center of Veroia—A proposal for restoring the urban fabric (Greek), in Poli kai Periferia (Salonika, 1983), p. 116. 5 Acts (17, 10) “… Paul and Silas by night (went) unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews…” 6 W.M. Leake, K. Dimaras, Travels in Greece (Greek) (Athens, 1968), 291. 7 V. Dimitriadis, Evliya Chelebi (1611–1679) (Greek) (Salonika, 1973), p. 254. 8 G. Alexopoulou, M. Kiniclis, Disegno rilieva e recupero di un ghetto ebraico a Veria (Italian) (Degree thesis, 1988-89), p. 21. 9 One of the few families to escape the persecution and survive in entirety was the Mordochai family. They were rescued by a non-Jewish family who helped them escape to the attic of the mosque near the Jewish quarter. After the end of the war the Mordochai family immigrated to Israel. M. Mordechai, “Years of the Occupation,” Chronika 131 (1994), pp. 5-18. 10 The Jewish homes were sold by the Jewish Community of Salonika. According to records of the Central Board of Jewish Communities (KIS), after the Second World War the Jewish Community of Veroia was revived with 111 members, who gradually declined to 36. In 1970, the community was legally declared inactive. During its short re-operation, the community, assisted by the Organization for the Rehabilitation of the Jews of Greece (OPAIE) headquartered in Salonika, sold all the properties (houses, shops, land plots), which had belonged to owners who had been murdered in concentration camps. As in the rest of the country, OPAIE usually represented the relatives of the deceased. There is valuable data in the OPAIE archive on the work of OPAIE in the years after the Occupation. Unfortunately this data has not yet been classified and studied in depth. Chronika 11, p. 3 and Chronika 142 (1996), p. 62. 11 Based on the ground plans published in H. Zarkada, and K. Trakasopoulos, “Preservation and Revival of the Jewish quarter in Veroia,” Architectural Issues, 13 (1979), pp. 80-83, and in N. Kalogirou, Veroia, Athens, 1989, p. 20. 12 The gate appears in a rare photograph which was printed on postcards of 191718. It was recently republished in Chronika, 138 (1995), p. 14. From published sources we know that the doors of the gates leading to the Jewish quarters, were wooden and heavy, made in a traditional way, braced by thick nails. Most cities of Europe had similar examples of Jewish closed boundaries. In the ghetto of Venice, Italy (1516), for example, gates were opened and closed at sunrise and sundown. The confinement of the Jewish community within a closed area was not always a municipal resolution for the alienation of Jews. It was often a decision of the Jews themselves in order to protect the community and keep their traditions. We have a similar example in Edirne (Andrianoupolis), where the Jewish community had a wood-
en fence (tahta-kale) around it that restricted Jews in their interactions with their non-Jewish neighbors. In D. Cassuto, The Scuola Grande Tedesca in the Venice Ghetto, Journal of Jewish Art, 3-4 (1977), 40, and A. Karadimou-Yerolimpos, A contribution to the topography of 18th century Adrianople, in Balkan Studies, 34 (1993), p. 58. 13 The sahnisi was probably an architectural element that the Ottomans inherited from the local Byzantine tradition. Its name derives from a Persian word sahnissin, meaning "seat of the Shah," suggesting an earlier borrowing from the East by Byzantine architects. It is every area that “projects from the façade of the building." This type was created in order to cover certain basic needs, such as better lighting and ventilation of the house. The sahnisi also satisfied "social needs," as these projections were the "eyes of the residents to the outside world," mainly for the women of the house who were forbidden to circulate in the streets. In N. Moutsopoulos, The Vernacular architecture of Macedonia 15th-19th century (Greek) (Salonika, 1993), p. 45. 14 Kyrieris-Yiannopoulos, Greek Guide (Athens, 1921), pp. 60-1. 15 For example, the inscription of the house that belonged to the Mordochai family before the Occupation and the annihilation of the Jews of the city, included Psalm 137, 5: “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, Let my right hand forget her cunning,” and the date 5619 (1858/9). 16 Gazette 383/20.4.1994 17 See E. Messinas, et al, Conservation of the Synagogue of Veroia–Identification Phase Report, (October 1995), p. 39 (unpublished report to Getty Grant Program, entered in the Getty Conservation Library, and included in the general data networks RLIN, CIN and AATA).The original plan for the conservation work at the synagogue was upon completion to create a permanent photographic exhibition in the preserved basement of the synagogue. The intention was, that this exhibition would be open to visitors to Barbouta (the former Jewish quarter) and to the synagogue. The conservation identification and preparation studies were funded by the Getty Grant Program and the Municipality of Veroia. The proposed exhibition would be realized thanks to a pledged donation by the Hellenic Society Paideia of Connecticut. Unfortunately, the conservation study of the author and team of experts was never properly implemented by the Municipality of Veroia, resulting in the cancelation of further funding. The exhibition was never realized. 18 Any identification is made more difficult by traditions associated with different sites, including the so-called "bimah of St. Paul the Apostle" in the city center, southwest to Orologiou–Ractivan–Dikastirion square, which antiquity would have been outside the city walls. There is also a mosque in Veroia called in Greek "Mendrese," which, according to tradition, was built atop of the foundations of an early Christian church dedicated to Paul the Apostle. It is possible that the church itself was built over the earlier synagogue, as often happened in ancient Stobi (former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia). 19 The synagogue in Veroia, as with all traditional buildings and mansions in Veroia, was the work of the snaf that built in the regions of Naoussa, Edessa, Veroia, Florina and Kastoria. Regarding the synagogue, questions are raised regarding the planning of the building. The planning of the synagogue was a collaboration between the snaf leader(s) (arhitehnitis—architect) and the community representatives. Based on archival records of the Jewish communities of Greece, there is evidence that the construction (or reconstruction) of a synagogue was the
responsibility of the administrative board of the community and a designated committee of elders. The elders, beyond their considerable financial contribution for this purpose, also had the necessary acquaintances in the local and foreign Jewish communities and in the state bureaucracy to collect the resources required. This custom can be found in records on the construction of the synagogues in Volos (1930s) and Xanthi (1920s). Neither of these cases mentions the participation of a rabbi as being involved in these works. The cases mention the participation of a rabbi as being involved in these works. The community agents seem to be the only ones who decided on the form and religious orientation of the community’s new synagogue. (Volos 28/1934-5 and Xanthi 1/1919-31) 20 The dimensions of the building are based on the survey and plans by architects P. and M. Koufopoulos, in 1995, within the framework of the reconstruction work of the synagogue, coordinated by the author. 21 Based on an oral tradition passed from generation to generation, and is published in Chronika 11, p. 4 22 Based on the in situ observation by architects and conservators, the wooden-partition latticed window of the eariler women's section was revealed beneath a layer of plaster that covers it today. E. Messinas, et al, Conservation of the Synagogue of Veroia, Preparation Phase (unpublished report, August,1997). 23 According to Azariah Hanania Sabbetai, one of the last hazanim of the community before the Second World War, the synagogue of Veroia had 12 sefarim. Nine were subsequently donated to new synagogues constructed in Israel. According to an article in Kathimerini (newspaper) of 1951, Isaac Kabelis mentions that he had visited the Veroia synagogue in 1940 and saw an ancient sefer, probably written in Aramaic, which was not used for services. He says that in the corner of this sefer were handwritten notes referring to a shaliah, who had preached in the synagogue, as well as to the date of his visit. Specialists and Chief Rabbi Dr. Hirsch (Sevi) Simha Koretz (1894-1945) examined this sefer in Salonika. The Germans stole it in 1943, but Jews retrieved it and it was preserved by Jews in Hungary, who used it for services. According to Kabelis it was later sold to a rich merchant from Austria. The article also mentions that the Jewish community of Veroia had officially denied this article, claiming that eight out of the 12 sefarim of the synagogue were presented to synagogues in Israel, and the other four remained in use in the synagogue of Veroia. Today they are no longer kept there. The remaining sefarim have been taken to Athens, to the Jewish Museum of Greece, where they have been cleaned and preserved. See Isaac Kabelis, "Notes of an Athenian," in Kathimerini (newspaper) (May 13,1951). 24 This is evident from the construction of the roof, since the original outline and construction have been preserved in the attic. The extension is also apparent from the different construction methods of the wall in the women's section (bagdati) compared to that of the other walls (tsatma). 25 The synagogue in Veroia a national historic monument registered by the Ministry of Culture, and characterized as "Maintainable at 1st degree" (Presidential Decree no. 450/20.4.1994 / Gazette 383D/1994), was in disrepair for many years. In view of the fate of other historic synagogues, such as in Didimoticho and Komotini, that collapsed and were demolished, a conservation effort was urgent. N. Stravroulakis first brought international attention to the plight of the building at the New York Conference “Future of Jewish Monuments” in 1990. At the time, in situ preserva-
tion of the building seemed an impossibility, and arrangements were discussed to move surviving fittings and furnishing to the Jewish Museum in Athens, as had been done with the synagogue of Patras shortly before that building was demolished in the early 1980s. In 1994, invited by the Municipality of Veroia, the author begun a conservation effort in collaboration with the Municipality (initially with deputy mayor Konstantinos Vafides and later mayor Yiannis Hassiotis). In 1995 and 1997 the author secured two matching grants from the Getty Grant Program: the first, in 1995, for the identification of the synagogue; and the second, in 1997, for the preparation of the construction documents of the conservation work. The Preparation phase also included limited Emergency Work, in order to maintain the building safely until the complete conservation work was implemented. Upon the successful completion of the identification phase of the project and as the expert team was completing the preparation phase, the Municipality implemented a restoration of the exterior and roof of the building, to be ready on time for the celebrations of Salonika as the Cultural Capital of Europe 1997. That intervention repaired the outside of the building and protected it from further deterioration, but did not fully comply with the proposed preservation plans and historic character of the building – among others, it erased traces of earlier phases of the building, important for the documentation of the evolution of the building through the ages. It also affected the authenticity of the historic character of the building, by adding elements foreign to the character of the building – such as the entrance portico and the water fountain in the SE corner. Nevertheless, the interior was spared, save for the women’s gallery which was rebuilt fairly faithfully to the original. In the early 2000s the Central Board of Jewish Communities (KIS) and the Jewish Community of Salonika, decided to intervene in the interior of the synagogue. The author realized this in 2005, and immediately contacted the relevant authorities. Apparently, according to the Ministry of Culture Authority for Contemporary Monuments of Central Makedonia which visited the building on 27.6.2005, escorted by representatives of the Municipality of Veroia and the Technical Office of the Municipality (DETEB Ifaistos) the work performed in the synagogue among others “destroyed the faux marble interior finish of the synagogue”; the interior was painted “in a variety of colors,” and the work “was performed by employees of the Municipality with the scientific direction of representatives of the Central Board of Jewish Communnities (KIS).” According to the Authority’s report “there is no doubt that the work performed in the interior of the synagogue in Veroia, as previously [in 1997], is illegal, as they do not have the approval of our Office [... and] in an empirical manner without a proper study.” The report concluded that “regarding the correctness of the work, it can be examined by our Office, once KIS submits the scientific study or relevant documentation.” (ENMKM 1811/30.6.2005) According to the Advocate of the Citizen (StP), who handled the case vis-à-vis the public authorities - due to the severity of the act - the building “has lost part of its authenticity and for primarily historic reasons, the building has to be restored with very specific and targeted interventions.” The Central Board of Jewish Communities (KIS) did not respond to these requests (StP 361/2.2.2010), leading the Advocate to request from the Ministry of Culture “according to law 3028/2002 to proceed to the partial restoration of the building.” (StP 4911/07/2.27/12.4.2011) 26 For the wooden synagogues of Eastern Europe see M. and K. Piechotka, Wooden Synagogues (Warsaw, 1959).
alexandroupolis lexandroupolis (Dedeagats), founded in 1871 on the shores of the Thracean Sea, is the capital of the prefecture of Evros. In 1869, the Ottoman government granted to Baron Hirsch the rights to construct and exploit the railway line connecting Salonika and Istanbul. Subsequently, the Turkish government granted the Hirsch Company permission to construct a commercial port. The result was a new port city, west of the mouth of the Evros River. From the founding of the city until the partition of Thrace, Alexandroupolis has been the main seaport of Edirne (Andrianoupolis) and the station for commercial ships to and from Istanbul. The city is connected to Salonika both by railway and by road. Initially named Dedeagats, the new city’s name was changed in 1920, following this region’s unification with Greece (1919). Dedeagats/Alexandroupolis was built according to an organized urban plan. The foundation of the city was a direct result of Ottoman modernization efforts and of the new regulations implemented in co-operation with foreign investors. The original city plan was an orthogonal grid stretched along the sea, 150 x 500 meters, with building blocks organized along three avenues, parallel to the seashore. In the later implementation of the plan in the 1920s, the city's public buildings were mainly concentrated in the western section of the city, along the shore. There is no reference to a Jewish quarter when the city was founded. Following 1872, when the railway and port began to operate, many merchants settled in Alexandroupolis, coming from Ainos which, at that time, had lost its commercial significance. This new immigration resulted in the growth and expansion of the new city. The railway connection between Alexandroupolis and Istanbul was concluded in 1895 and extended communication to Salonika. As a result, Alexandroupolis was now connected by railway to the rich hinterland of Thrace and major cities of Europe, as well as to major Jewish centers.1 Thrace and Dedeagats/Alexandroupolis were surrendered to Greece by the Treaty of Neilly (1919).
The Jewish Presence in Alexandroupolis When the city was founded, there was apparently no organized Jewish settlement. However, by the end of the 19th century, when the city was undergoing continuous growth and commercial expansion as a major center of export commerce in Thrace, we have the first reports of Jewish settlement. In 1888, 180 Jews were settled in the city and sufficiently
organized as a community to undertake the building of a school. By 1910, 280 Jews lived in Alexandroupolis out of a total of 4,926 inhabitants, of whom 2,310 were Greek, 1,542 were Turkish, 369 were Bulgarian, 325 were Armenian, and 100 were Catholic.2 There was a synagogue and a Hebrew school with 30 pupils and one teacher. We have the following information on the commercial activity of the Jews in the 1910s: • Supervisor of United Railways Salonique – Istanbul: Raphael • Raw leather: Alattini brothers. • Cashmeres and ready-made garments: Hatem Abraham. • Textiles: Navorach Abraham, Navorach Kemal, and Nissim Bachar Yehuda. • Tailors: Hatem Abraham. • Bankers: Yako Bolul. In the 1920s, 250 Jews lived in Alexandroupolis, out of a total of 6,800 inhabitants, 5,290 of whom were Greek, 400 were Turkish, 400 were Bulgarian, and 550 were Armenian.3 The Jewish community had a synagogue administered by Rabbi Solomon Azouz, and a Hebrew school with 35 pupils and one teacher. The community council was made up of the following members: President: Yako Bazoul Vice-president: Yodaf Matazon Treasurer: Yaakov Magrisio Secretary: Mois Hatem Councilors: Raphael Levi and Michael Reitan Substitute councilor: Elias Carasso We have the following information on the commercial activity of Jews in the 1920s: • Money-changing: Abraham Hatem & Sons and Solomon Bronstein. • Insurance companies: "Union" agents Kortelis & Hatem Sons and "National Union of Istanbul" agents Matalon Mitrani & Geron. • Shipping lines: “Fratelli Rossi and Co.” representatives in Istanbul and Salonika: Matalon Mitrani & Geron. • Ready-made garments: Hatem Abraham & Sons. • Tobacconists: Albert Bechar and Matalon Sadi. • General commerce agents: Matalon Mitrani and Geron. • Innovations and Draperies: Abraham Hatem & Sons and Jacques Makrisio.
were arrested, the Bulgarians arrested all Jews of the Bulgarian occupied region of Thrace. They first sent them to a concentration camp in Skopje, and then transferred them by train to Treblinka via Lom (Danube, and then to Vienna).4 Following the war the community was never re-established. Out of 137 Jews who were deported to the Nazi death camps, very few survived and returned to the city. The Jewish community of Alexandroupolis was officially dissolved in 1972. Today, no Jews live there.
The Jewish Quarter and Synagogue There is no data on where Jews lived at the end of the 19th century. The still-extant synagogue, which was probably built at that time, is located at the first zone of expansion south of the original city plan, close to the Town Hall square. The synagogue is situated on Konstantinou Mazaraki Street, which is oriented north-south, ending at the port. The synagogue is between the parallel streets Vizvizi to the south and Anatolikis Thrakis to the north. Jews were not required to live on any particular streets, but considering the organization of Jewish quarters in other towns and their The synagogue in Alexandroupolis built circa 1888 on Mazaraki street. The original building relationship to the synagogue, it is likely that Jews lived was altered after the Second World War, but the exterior walls were preserved. (Elias V. Messinas Archive) mostly in the area around the streets Dekatis Tetartis Maiou and Mazaraki, close to Mazaraki Street. Jewish shops were opened along the main street (Dimokratias Avenue) of the • Commission agents: Matalon Mitrani and Geron. city, and the Jewish cemetery was at the north, in the area where the • Haberdasher: Abraham Mevrach. British or Allies cemetery is today.5 A building in this area which now According to the above information, the commercial activity of the Jews in Alexandroupolis significantly increased following the First World houses the Greek Military Headquarters is said to have been the resiWar, although the number of community members declined. dence of a rich Jewish ship-owner named Balul. The Jewish community of Alexandroupolis was destroyed and its The synagogue was probably built around 1888, shortly after Jews settled in the city. It today houses the "Christian Estia.” It is an almost members deported and killed during the Second World War. From April square building set in a courtyard (dimensions are 28.30 by 21.15 1941 through 1944 Alexandroupolis and the entire region of Thrace was meters), surrounded by a fence and an iron gate. The building measures occupied by the Bulgarians, allies of the Germans. Once Thrace was occu(inside) 11.80 x 13.80 meters (162,84 sq. m.); and is 4.45 m. high.6 The pied by the Bulgarians, the Germans reinforced anti-Jewish measures building’s exterior dimensions were approximately 13.0 x 15.0 m., with throughout the entire region of Eastern Thrace next to the border with a roof height of 7.78 m. Turkey. On March 3, 1943, they arrested the Jews of Eastern Thrace, a total of 1,250 persons, and sent them by train to the concentration and The Jewish community of Alexandroupolis used the building until death camp of Treblinka. Apart from 40 Jews from Nea Orestiada and 33 1943 when members of the community were deported to the Treblinka from Didimoticho who escaped, the rest of the Jews who were deported Death Camp in Poland. The synagogue is said to have been bombed durwere completely annihilated. The day after the Jews of Eastern Thrace ing the war,7 and from 1945-49 during the Civil War it sheltered refugee
families.8 Beginning in November 1947, a Christian Sunday school was established in the building,9 and in 1949, Commander Officer Stefanos Prokos of the Military Command of Thrace, granted the building to the Parents Association of "Christian Education," since his military unit "did not intend to use the building of the synagogue for its needs."10 In the 1950s, the original building was repaired and altered. Changes were made to the roof, the floors and the painting of the building.11 According to a study of the building by the author in 1995, and based on engineer Giouvanakis' plans (1958), the building underwent significant changes. Today, only the exterior walls retain their original form. The following changes were most likely made: • The rectangular and three-directional staircase from the courtyard to the main entrance was demolished. In addition, according to oral accounts, a two-pillar entrance porch was demolished, and the staircase was replaced by a new two-directional concrete staircase. • The floor was demolished and was re-built lower than the original. The wooden floor construction was replaced by a concrete slab. • The above modification also changed the level (not the position) of the windows. • The building's hipped ceramic tile roof was demolished and replaced by a concrete slab, supported in the interior by four concrete pillars. • The four pillars in the interior have altered the original sense of space. According to the engineer's plans and descriptions of the building,12 wooden and plaster partitions originally divided the interior into four parts. They were low and were to the left and the right as one entered the hall.13 • A new gate replaced the entrance to the courtyard. The original gate was of cast iron. Still, something of the original plan and appearance of the synagogue can be reconstructed (see Appendix). The rectangular-shape synagogue was not entered directly from the street. It was protected within a courtyard surrounded by a high wall and the synagogue entrance faces the courtyard. This design continues from restrictions and traditions that still applied in this region of the Ottoman Empire, in spite of the legal and political reforms declared earlier in the century. These restrictions, combined with the political instability at the time when the synagogue was founded, probably influenced the community to build its synagogue protected, rather than exposed. Today, the building has no exterior decoration or elaborate detailing. Their original appearance is unknown. Most likely, the exteriors
One of the surviving original openings in the interior of the synagogue in Alexandroupolis, inside an otherwise significantly altered interior. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
were simplified when the building was adapted for Christian use in the modern period. The rectangular floor plan is not very different from other synagogues in northern Greece (Macedonia and Thrace). The entrance of the building faced west, and was used for men and women. It was reached from the courtyard by eight wide steps. Worshippers entered the building and
walked eastwards through a narrow corridor with two doors. The door to the left led to an office, and the one to the right led to the women's section. The women's section was on the same level as the men's section, but was visually separated by a low wall and a wooden lattice window. The main prayer area was on the eastern part of the building. We can determine its size based on a still-extant opening in the east wall, 92.5 cm. high and about 40 cm. deep that must have been the niche of the heikhal, where the Torah Scrolls were kept. Based on this location and assuming that the room was arranged symmetrically in relationship to the heikhal, the dimensions of the room are estimated to have been 8.30 x 13.80 m., an area of 114.5 sq .meters. Based on this size and on a spacious arrangement of seats, the prayer area probably accommodated about 96 men and 28 women. More people could probably be accommodated for the High Holidays. According to the drawings by engineer Giouvanakis (1958), there were three additional auxiliary rooms in the basement of the synagogue. There is no firm evidence for the bimah, but it was most likely locat-
ed in one of two places – either the center of the room, or adjacent to the heichal. Other aspects of the synagogue, especially its relation to the street, show that the builders followed the early 19th-century typology of the region, with the synagogue protected inside a courtyard and surrounded by a high wall. In keeping with tradition for the interior arrangement, the synagogue would probably have had a central bimah, and the women's section near the entrance of the synagogue (see reconstructed plans in Appendix). Even though little survives of the original synagogue of Alexandroupolis, the building raises many questions. Particularly, to what degree was this new Jewish community still following older architectural and liturgical patterns? Why did the community build a synagogue at the end of the 19th century that appeared to follow older models, when so much of the new city of Alexandroupoulis expressed modernity in adopting Western European trends in architecture and urban planning? I hope that future research will shed some light to these questions.
1 Salonika was connected by railway to its hinterland in the north in 1871 (Skoplje), and 17 years later to Europe's railway network (Vienna and Paris). By 1893 the city was linked to western Macedonia (Florina) and the Balkan cities in the northwest (Monastir). The investment in the railway network of Salonika by Baron Hirsch increased tremendously the economic activity of the regions around it, which were until then in an economic and commercial vacuum. 2 Apostolopoulos, Guide of Greece (1911). 3 Karieris-Yiannopoulos, Greek Guide (Athens, 1921), pp. 98-102. 4 Martin Gilbert, Atlas of the Holocaust (Bnei-Brak, 1989), p. 151. 5 Based on interviews with local inhabitants by the author, on Sept. 7, 1995. 6 The dimensions of the building are based on the plans of the engineer G. Giounavakis (19.7.1958) and on the survey by the author. 7 Based on interviews with members of the Executive Board of the "Christian Estia” (Home) by the author on Sept. 7, 1995. 8 OPAIE (Didimoticho) 9 1.2.1952. (Documents “OPAIE” belong to the archive of OPAIE in Athens. I take this opportunity to thank OPAIE for the permission to review their archives.) OPAIE of Didimoticho requested rent of 100,000 drachmas for that period. 9 Christian Estia Document 44460/F74-9.9.1949 (Archives of the association "Christian Estia.”) The author takes this opportunity to thank the “Christian Estia” board for the permission to review their archives.
10 Christian Estia Document 213/29.3.1957. In 1957 the sum of 30-35,000 drachmas was spent for repairs to the floor and roof and for painting the building. The engineer who undertook these works was George Giouvanakis, resident of Salonika. The author visited Giouvanakis at his home in 1995, but Giouvanakis did not provide information on the changes done to the building. 11 At that time, according to members of the Executive Board of the "Christian Estia" as related to the author on Sept. 7, 1995 (and also based on a document of 9.9.1958 and the purchase contract), OPAIE (see OPAIE (Didimoticho) 46/19.7.1957) was renting the building at the price of 400 drachmas a month. In August 1958, a Christian organization of Alexandroupolis purchased the building for 110,000 drachmas to house the “Christian Estia.” At the end of the Second World War the Jewish communities of Orestiada, Alexandroupolis and Didimoticho merged into one, that of Didimoticho. The property was therefore managed by the community of Didimoticho. OPAIE (Didimoticho) 30.5.1950.51.383 of 4.8.1958. 12 Based on conversations with members of the Executive Board of the "Christian Estia" with the author on Sept. 7, 1995, and on the plans of engineer G. Giouvanakis (19.7.1958). 13 Based on the oral account of M. Malaki, pharmacist in Alexandroupolis, to the author on Sept. 7, 1995.
he city of Didimoticho located in Thrace, in the prefecture of Evros is on a tributary of the Evros River, that defines the natural border between Greece and Turkey.1 During the Byzantine period, Didimoticho and Edirne (Andrianoupolis) were two major cities and strongholds in the region of Thrace. They offered the region commercial activity in times of peace, and protection within their walls in times of invasions and attacks. When the Turks occupied the fortress of Didimoticho in 1361, the city was renamed Dometico or Demotica.2 It no longer served as a significant stronghold since the borders of the Ottoman Empire shifted north. While the Turks maintained the Byzantine fortifications of the city, Didimoticho became an insignificant subordinate town with a small garrison. At that time the town was known for its pottery trade and silk industry.3 Didimoticho was greatly damaged in the earthquake of September 14th, 1509. In the 17th century it was referred to as waqf, i.e. property of the Sultan Bayiazit administered by the prefect of Edirne (Andrianoupolis). The urban organization of the town at that time was as follows: "At the citadel … there were 100 houses belonging to wealthy Greeks, and a church. There was also a Sultan's palace in the area. The Kato Varossi quarter of Didimoticho included 12 neighborhoods and 600 one-storey and two-storey houses, 12 mosques, five bars, bathhouses, charity institutions, and 100 shops. Didimoticho was known for quinces and porcelain containers."4
In the 17th century Istanbul had a Jewish community that was called Kehilat Dematoca,7 comprised of 62 sürgünlü.8 This designation identifies the origin of this congregation of Jews in Didimoticho that was forced to move to the new capital Istanbul, presumably in the mid-15th century, when the Ottoman rulers forcibly resettled Jews, Greeks and Armenians to repopulate their new capital city. In 1935, there is a report that the Jewish community of Didimoticho found a tombstone in the Jewish graveyard dating to 1456.9 If the dating is correct, it supports a local oral tradition that the Jewish community dates to the Fall of Constantinople (1453), or even earlier. There were only a few dozen Jewish families in Didimoticho at the time of the Greek Revolution (1821). Around 1862 there were 30 families; and in 1892, 485 Jews. By the 1930s, 1,000 Jews were registered in the municipality of Didimoticho. In the 1920s, the community supported a six-grade Jewish school with 225 pupils,10 four Jewish and three Greek teachers.11 The Jewish community was led by Rabbi Joseph Pesach, son of Rabbi Mois Pesach from Volos, and in the 1930s by Rabbi Ya'akov Meir Alkabes.12 The Jews had the exclusive selling and management of meat exports, leather and 1,000 cattle that were sent each year to Istanbul and Alexandria. In addition, we have the following data regarding the commercial and social activity of Jews in the 1920s:
The Jewish Presence in Didimoticho
• • • • • • • • • •
There was a Jewish community in Edirne (Andrianoupolis) 5 before the settlement of Sephardim in the region of Thrace. But the 12th-century Spanish traveler Benjamin of Tudela did not mention a Jewish community in Didimotico. The only possible reference to Jews in Didimoticho in the Byzantine period is the fact that the personal doctor of the Emperor Manuel I Komninos, who, on many occasions traveled to and stayed in Didimoticho, was a Jew called Judah Solomon the Egyptian.6 Ashkenazi Jews came to Thrace in 1376, and French Jews arrived in 1394. The existence of Ashkenazi names in the Jewish community of Didimoticho may indicate that certain families came from Western Europe, Germany and (mainly) Poland, but whether these arrived before the large influx of Sephardim from the end of the 15th century is unknown. The Sephardim mostly settled in Edirne (Andrianoupolis). There is no firm evidence for a settlement of Sephardi Jews in Didimoticho at that time.
Associations: "Jewish Association," Vitali Gibre, chairman. Salt merchant: “Western Thrace monopoly,” Davi Taraboulous, agent. Flour merchants: Eliezer Gibre, Toledo brothers. Merchants of colonial products: Toledo brothers, Arion Taraboulous. Money-changers: Bochor Moarav, Shimon Eshkenazi. Fire insurance companies: Mois Margrizo (Union de Paris). Raw leather: Isaac Menashe Degonias. Crops: Toledo brothers, Eliezer Gibre, Bochor Gibre. Cheese merchants: Toledo brothers. Draperies and innovations: Nachmias M., Israél Gibre.
Before the Bulgarian occupation (1941-45) about 1,000 Jews lived in Didimoticho. During the Occupation many of them left. In 1943, 867 Jews were arrested by the occupation forces and were deported from Alexandroupolis to Auschwitz with the Jewish deportees from Salonika.13 Only 33
The Jewish school in Didimoticho. The school was used until April 1943, then used as a hospital during the Second World War and until 1965. The grand hall of the school on the second floor was also used for receptions. (Photograph by Vassilis Hatzipaschalis, employee of the hospital. Courtesy Tasos Kehagioglou) The synagogue in Didimoticho circa 1930s, dating from the late 19th century. View from the east. After the synagogue was demolished, the retaining wall was preserved, identified by the author by the projection of the heikhal. (Published in N. Vafides, The Jewish Community of Didimoticho (Athens, 1954)
Jews survived and returned to Didimoticho. They were joined by Jews drafted for forced labor on railroad construction by the Bulgarians. After the war the community was revived with 40 to 50 people until 1956-57, when most of them emigrated to America and Israel. By 1970, the activities of the community had faded and it was officially dissolved in 1987.14
The Jewish Quarter According to the register of the Holy Metropolis of Didimoticho, Jews first settled near the Church of the Holy Virgin, among Greeks, in an area called Yiahoudei Roum Mahalasi (Jewish Greek quarter). They later spread to the area of the Market, behind the central mosque of Bayiazit I 15 and the city's central square. The Jewish quarter, located south of the city's central square and the central mosque, is the area which the locals today call Ovreika.16 The Jewish quarter may be roughly defined by Theotokopoulou and Riga Ferraiou Streets to the north, Mavromichali and Vassileos Georgiou Streets to the east, Dioikitiriou Street to the south and Katakouzinou Street to the west. The main streets of the quarter were Katsandoni and other smaller streets that had no name on the survey diagrams available. The Jewish cemetery,17 founded during the Ottoman period, is located beyond the stone bridge of Erythropotamos.
The Synagogue The synagogue was on the eastern end of Katsandoni Street, at number 13, and occupied an area of 800 square meters.18 According to a survey map of the site of the synagogue, the property of Chaim Kemal Alkabes 19 was west of the synagogue and the majority of buildings around the synagogue were single-storey (wooden buildings with ceramic tile roofs). On Riga Ferraiou Street, the buildings were mostly two stories in height. Before 1862 an older synagogue 20 is mentioned functioning in a room in a small building on the site where a splendid Turkish school was later built. The new synagogue on Katsandoni Street was built toward the end of the 19th century. There may have been a period during which the two synagogues were in use at the same time.21 The new synagogue was not built in the heart of the Jewish quarter, but rather as the very last building on the eastern end of the quarter, with a low retaining wall that supported the ground due to the steep topography. After the Second World War the synagogue was given to the Metropolis to be used as a Sunday school,22 with the agreement that it be preserved and cared for. Nonetheless, the synagogue at 13 Katsandoni Street was demolished in 1984.23 There is no specific data on the date of construction of this synagogue before its last restoration in 192424; but its approximate date can be surmised based on comparison to other synagogues of the same peri-
od in Greece and Turkey. The synagogue was rectangular in plan, and oriented along the east/west axis.25 The interior was divided into two areas: the almost square eastern section, with four columns at the center of the space (joined by arches), and the western section, which is separated from the eastern part by two square piers. The balcony of the women’s section (ezrat nashim) was located in the western section of the synagogue in a Greek "π" shape. It was supported by eight thin, metal circular columns. The heikhal was set against the eastern wall and decorated in neoclassic style. According to oral evidence, in the building’s last phase the bimah was connected to the heikhal.26 The synagogue floor was paved in stone along the perimeter of the hall, and was decorated with terrazzo tiles at the center.27 A similar floor design is found in the synagogue of Veroia, but instead of a stone-paved perimeter, the floor is wooden, and covered with carpets. It is worth comparing the building to the Sinjora (or Geveret) synagogue in Izmir, Turkey,28 which dates from the mid-19th century. The Sinjora synagogue also has a rectangular floor plan that measures 16.70 x 9.54 meters and is separated into two areas. The eastern zone has four columns at the center, linked by arches. The western zone is separated from the eastern one by two columns that support the balcony of the women's section. The heikhal is set against the eastern wall, and according to researchers from the Center for Jewish Art, the bimah was originally at the center of the synagogue. The comparison between the synagogue of Didimoticho (which was in Turkish territory until 1919) and that of Izmir, suggest that the synagogue of Didimoticho may have been altered over time. Based on the form of the Sinjora synagogue, we may suggest the following changes that took place in the synagogue of Didimoticho: The synagogue may have been originally constructed as a rectangular building, divided into two areas: the eastern section in a square floor plan with four columns at the center served as the main prayer area for men, and a western zone separated from the eastern one by columns, which served as the entrance area of the synagogue, and as the women's section. It is also possible that the women's section was separated from the men's area by wooden lattice, similar to the example of the Synagogue Beit El in Komotini. A similar arrangement has been found in other places, including the Algazy synagogue in Izmir (Turkey) and the synagogue of Veroia, where the organization of the entrance/women's section was similar. Although the different parts of the synagogue appear contemporaneous, a closer examination of their relationship in the floor plan suggests that they were constructed at different periods. For example:
Site plan of Didimoticho, with an approximate outline of the Jewish quarter marked with heavy line. Legend: 1. The Jewish quarter, 2. The synagogue, 3. Jewish community center, 4. The central square and the Mosque. (Source: YPEHODE, scale 1:2,000, 1987).
• The axis of symmetry of the interior and the axis of symmetry of the exterior of the synagogue are not aligned.
House within the boundaries of the former Jewish quarter in Didimoticho. (Courtesy of Tasos Kehagioglou)
The house of Jewish doctor and author Markos Nachon in Didimoticho. (Courtesy of Tasos Kehagioglou)
• The position of the four columns at the center of the eastern area has no symmetric relationship to the northern and southern walls, as far as the position of the windows is concerned. • The beam that separates the western from the eastern area does not have a harmonious relationship to the northern and southern walls, and as a result it is above a window instead of above a wall. • One can observe a similar relationship between the two beams of the roof that link the two columns between the eastern and western areas and the main elevation from the west. The beams are above windows, too.
• The structure and style of the windows on the northern and southern walls have no geometric connection to the interior structure of the building. On the contrary, they seem to follow some kind of rationale that is no longer obvious in the building (possibly linked to a previous phase of the building).
Remains of the terrazzo tile floor of the synagogue in Didimoticho after the demolition of the synagogue. The floor remained exposed for a long time until the city covered it with gravel and the site was used as parking space by the neighbors. (Courtesy of Tasos Kehagioglou)
The ceiling of the synagogue was made of wooden planks and decorative trim. In the middle of the four columns there was a carved centerpiece, which probably corresponded to the centerpiece of the floor. Based on the original floor plan of the synagogue of Didimoticho, this is another example of the "Ottoman" type synagogue — in other words, the rectangle or square with four columns at the center. Another important aspect in the synagogue’s typology was the relation of interior to a courtyard. In Didimoticho, similar to the Beit El synagogue of Komotini, there was no courtyard next to the synagogue and no exit from the interior to an exterior courtyard. Instead, there was a courtyard at the front, which is separated from the street by a gate. This lack of a courtyard is an exception to the rule of the synagogue typology in Greece, but not an exception compared to examples of synagogues located outside Greece, but geographically and culturally close to the region of Thrace, for example, the Sinjora (Geveret), Aydenle (Shalom), Bikur Holim, Etz Hayim and Algazy synagogues in Izmir (Turkey), which all date to about the middle of the 19th
Interior of the synagogue in Didimoticho in August 1980, prior to its demolition. Four columns mark the center of the synagogue. (The Jewish Museum of Greece)
century. The lack of a courtyard next to the synagogue may be part of a typology different from the one usually encountered The synagogue in Didimoticho from the front courtyard, in August 1980, prior to its demolition. in Greece, but common in cities such as Izmir in Turkey. (The Jewish Museum of Greece) The exterior of the building was symmetric towards the central axis (east-west), which links the main entrance to the heikhal. On the exterior, pilasters divided the faรงade into symmetrically placed Based on the above observations, we can conclude that the synabays that either had two windows (on the ground and the first floor), or gogue of Didimoticho dates to the end of the 19th century and probably one arched window. The eastern wall had four windows and the prohad a direct connection to the synagogues in Izmir. It is evident that the building underwent changes in various periods, and as a result the intejection of the heikhal, above which there is a small window. The western wall had four bays with three windows, the main entrance and the rior and exterior, and the various parts of the building have lost their harprojection of the staircase to the women's section. The north wall was monious relationship. divided into two horizontal sections: three single windows and three double windows, based on the position of the balcony of the women's 1 There are many opinions and legends in relation to the origin of the name of section. The southern wall was divided into three single windows. the city. The most likely is that the name Didimoticho originates from the two The eclectic character of the exterior of the building did not quite fortresses that were built across from each other: the fortress of Didimoticho to the west, and the walled Roman town Plotinopolis to the east, built by match the traditional type of similar synagogues in Izmir or other parts Emperor Trajan in the 2nd century CE, and named after his wife, Plotina. of Greece dating from the middle of the 19th century. However, it was According to the Greek Guide (1921) the city was also commonly called Demotsimilar to synagogues dating from the end of the 19th century, such as ica, Dimotoca, Dimoticha, or Bala Dimodouca. Talmud Torah Hagadol in Salonika. Thus, we may assume that the syn2 This is the name by which the city was referred to in all records of the Jewish agogue was first built at the end of the 19th century, a period when community at the end of the 19th century, in other words when the city was still part of the Ottoman Empire. eclecticism was common practice in this geographical area.
3 In the beginning of the 19th century these two flourishing industries of Didimoticho were primarily in Greek hands. Oral tradition attributes their collapse to the massacres of numerous Greeks during the Greek Independence War (1821-1832). K. Vakalopoulos, Epirus—History of Northern Greece (Greek) (Salonika, 1992), p. 112. 4 Didimoticho was also known for its professional guilds of tailors, jewelers, furriers, masons, grocers, sellers of bread rolls, and house painters. K. Vakalopoulos, op. cit., p. 62. 5 Between 1520 and 1535 Edirne (Andrianoupolis) had a Jewish community of 1,005 people (in a population of 20,305 people in the city). Istanbul also had a Jewish community called Kehilat Karaei-Edirne comprised of 38 people who had been forced to move from Edirne to the new capital Istanbul in the middle of the 15th century. H. Gerber (1983), p. 47. 6 M. Vafides, The Jewish Community of Didimoticho (Greek) (Athens, 1954), p. 6. According to Vafides, Jews of various specialties were in the Emperors' court. They used to come and stay in Didimoticho, but did not constitute an organized community. 7 Hebrew for "Community of Didimoticho." 8 It means "forced to move" in Turkish. 9 Vafides, op. cit., p. 8. 10 Kyrieris, Giannopoulos, Greek Guide (Greek) (Athens, 1921), p. 106. 11 The courses were in Greek, while French which was introduced as a foreign language, stopped being taught in 1936-7. Hebrew was taught instead of the Judeo-Spanish language. The most outstanding teacher was the French teacher Joseph Reitan. Vafides, op. cit., p. 14. 12 Komotini 13/Letter 1938 — Jewish year 5698. 13 M. Mazower, Inside Hitler's Greece (New Haven, 1993), p. 249 and M. Gilbert, Atlas of the Holocaust (Bnei Brak, 1988), p. 150. 14 Chronika 142 (1996), p. 62. 15 The mosque was built by Mohamed I (1402-1421), around 1420, much later than the most commonly accepted period of Bayiazit I. 16 This is how the locals referred to the area to the author, during his visit to Didimoticho in 1994. The same term was also used in other cities. 17 In April 1994, the author visited the two Jewish cemeteries, guided by T. Kehagioglou, former mayor of Didimoticho, whose house was next to the plot of the synagogue. The cemetery consists of two sections on a hillside: the upper section is 470 square meters and the lower is 250 square meters (according to data in the archives of the Central Board of Jewish Communities (KIS)). It is a significant cemetery: the tombstones are shaped like small sarcophagi, similar to those found in cemeteries of Sarajevo, Bosnia, and Izmir and Istanbul, Turkey. In Greece a sample of such a tombstone still exists in Salonika and the recently restored Jewish cemetery in Chalkis. I take this opportunity to thank Tasos Kehagioglou for his contribution in my research on the Jews and the synagogue of Didimoticho. 18 Based on documents in the KIS archives, the plot of the synagogue, an area of 800 square meters, was offered to the mayor of Didimoticho on May 10, 1994, at the price of 8,000,000 drachmas. According to the proposition, the site remained unexploited, because "it was designated as green open space"
(decree 418/5.6.90). (KIS 363/18.5.94) 19 Survey map of the settlement "prior to 1923" on a scale of 1:500 of the local assistant civil engineer Vasilios Kana[…]opoulos, of March 10, 1982. Some neighboring properties are indicated along with their owners' names. The building of the synagogue is marked clearly. The survey map is courtesy of T. Kehagioglou. 20 N. Vafides claims that the building of the Turkish school was used by the Greek government for offices, barracks, and a warehouse of the Frontier Defense Sector of Evros. The building was burned in 1933. See Vafides, op. cit., p. 10. 21 It was not uncommon for two or more synagogues to function simultaneously. Before the Second World War, two or more synagogues functioned in most cities of Greece. The reason for the existence of two synagogues, frequently in communities where the size did not require this, was the different tradition or origin of the Jewish communities in the same city. For example, in Trikala the Romaniotes and the Sephardim had different synagogues. Similarly in Salonika, as the Jewish population moved and new Jewish quarters and settlements were founded, new synagogues were constructed. Hence the number of synagogues was not necessarily determined by the size of the community. 22 This information was provided to the author by David Gibre from Didimoticho, who settled in Salonika after the war, in an interview on March 14, 1995. After the war, the use of the synagogue buildings by Christian organizations and Sunday schools was very common. From the architectural point of view, the synagogue building can hold a large number of people (it even provides the possibility for gender separation, as they have a women's section). In addition, the depleted post-Liberation communities often had neither the financial possibility to reconstruct the damaged synagogues, nor the need to operate buildings designed for larger communities. After the war, the few Jews frequently used a smaller building for their daily services, and the synagogue buildings were usually given to Christian organizations for their own needs. Apart from Didimoticho we have known examples in Xanthi ("The Three Bishops" Association) and in Alexandroupolis ("Christian Estia"). 23 Based on documents in the archives of the Central Board of Jewish Communities (KIS), the synagogue was demolished on July 16, 1984 "due to the danger of collapse, detected by the City Planning Office of the Evros Prefecture." The Municipality had been offered the purchase of the synagogue building at the price of 6,200,000 drachmas, but the Municipal Council of Didimoticho decided "it is not interested in buying the property of the synagogue … as it is not considering using it for any purpose." (KIS 2/21.2.90) 24 Vafides, op. cit., p. 12. 25 Published sources, survey maps, and photographs by Timothy de Vinney at the Jewish Museum of Greece, enabled the autor to attempt a detailed reconstruction of the synagogue building (see Appendix). 26 Based on information given by David Gibre to the author on March 14, 1995. 27 Photographs of T. Kechagioglou show the floor of the synagogue before it was covered with gravel and soil, and the site used for parking by the neighbors. 28 In April 1997 the author studied the Izmir synagogue in situ, based on the architectural plans on a scale of 1:50 of the Center of Jewish Art (CJA) of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. I take this opportunity to thank the CJA for the permission to study these unpublished plans.
Komotini he city of Komotini is in Thrace, in the prefecture of Rodopi, and is administered by the Municipality of Komotini. On the east it is close to the city of Xanthi. As early as the Byzantine period, the city was in a strategic position near the Via Egnatia, which crossed the valley of Philippoupolis to the north.1 During the mid-16th century (1546-1549), Komotini (Commercine) had ruins of a small fortress with a Greek Orthodox church inside. It was inhabited by Greeks and a few Turks, but by 1591, its fortress, surrounded by a wall with preserved ancient turrets, was unguarded and barely inhabited by Turks, Jews and Christians. During the Ottoman period, the city was divided in quarters, including the important Varossi - the Greek quarter. There was also an Armenian quarter, the so-called “new” quarter (Yeni-mahalle), the quarter of the suburb (Kirmahalle), the Jewish quarter (within the walls), the Turkish quarter, and the “quarter of the Gypsies” (Bohemians). Evliya Çelebi visited the city in the 17th century and wrote: "[Komotini] is a lovely square fortress … as a whole it is a solid, stone and plinth, beautiful citadel. Its perimeter is a thousand steps. Although it is a small stronghold, it is inhabited by no one except for Jews. Half of this stronghold is constituted of inns, (used as) hotels for those coming and leaving, and part of it is a square. However, this stronghold does not have ditches. It only has two entrances, one overlooking south to the square of the market, and the other one east. In some parts the turrets and ramparts are damaged … since it is inland it has no powder magazines, no garrison or guards, but many Jews." During the second half of the 17th century Komotini developed into a significant urban center with a total of 16 quarters, the most important of which were Yeni Mahalle and Tsoulcha Tzami. The city had 4,000 buildings that were one or two stories high, built of solid stone, and well decorated. The city also had 16 churches, two baths, 17 commercial arcades, 400 shops and a large market-hall where goods were stored. The Greek quarter was divided into two sections: the Metropolis and St. George, both consisting of narrow irregular streets. In the northeast, next to the Greek quarter, was the Armenian quarter with about 70 houses in what was known as "the tallest and most beautiful" part of the city. The Jewish quarter was at the center of the city, within the walls of the fortress called "Fortress of the Genovese." In 1801 the city had about 1,000 homes, of which 400 were Greek, 60 were Jewish, 15 were Armenian and 525 were Turkish.
In 1867 a fire destroyed a large part of the market (tsarsi) of Komotini, and an elegant and beautiful one was built, based on European planning. In the 19th century, Komotini was linked by railway to Salonika and Alexandroupolis (Dedeagats) at the same time that Salonika was connected with Istanbul. The railway link enabled the development of the city. During the Ottoman period Komotini was a commercial, transportation and postal station on the network connecting Istanbul, Salonika, European Turkey, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Serbia. The city suffered during the tumultuous period between the RussoTurkish War and the territorial changes in the region. The population of the city changed with the exchange of populations between Turkey and Greece in the early 1920s. Komotini was occupied by Bulgarians between 1941-45, and was liberated in 1945 when the Axis powers were defeated.
The Jewish Presence in Komotini The exact date of the settlement of Jews in Komotini is unknown. Before Sephardim settled in Thrace at the end of the 15th century, there was a Jewish community in Edirne (Andrianoupolis), and Romaniote Jewish communities lived close to Drama and other cities, but there is no evidence for Jews in Komotini. Ashkenazi Jews came to Macedonia and Thrace in the 14th century, but there is no documented evidence for Jewish settlement in Komotini until 1591, when Komotini was recorded as having "a citadel surrounded by a wall and large ancient towers ... the inhabitants are Turks, Jews and Christians." Sephardi Jews probably settled in Komotini throughout the 15th and 16th centuries, migrating perhaps from Edirne (Andrianoupolis) or Salonika. Komotini’s Jews engaged in the textile and silk industry, and later they were engaged in tobacco. In 1871 the Genovese Fortress in the middle of the city was home to over a hundred Jewish families. In the 1910s about 2,000 Jews lived in Komotini in a population that included 5,000 Greeks, 500 Armenians and 6,500 Turks.2 The community had one synagogue and one Jewish school, and the community rabbi was S. Em. Benision Avigdor. We have the following data concerning the commercial activity of Jews in the 1910s:3 • Money-changer: Samuel Kazez. • Baker: Abraham Avravanelis. • Raw and tanned leather: Mourdouchai, Mousion Andika, and Meir Benbashat.
• General trade: Joseph Namias & Sons. • Crop merchants: Abraham Abravanel, Kazez Brothers, and Moissis Molho. • Merchants of modern goods: Molho N. Brothers. • Textile merchants: Kazez Brothers, Molho Brothers, and Yiako Penhaz. • Commercial brokers: Samuel Kazes, M. Molho, and P. Molho & Brothers. • Wines and mastics: Michael Rafael. • Wineries: Rafael Brothers. • Grocers: Michael Volchos, I. Eskenazi and I. Nachmias & Sons. • Tailors: I. Cassavi, Yiako Cassavi, and Bochor Romano. • Ironware merchants: Yiako Carassou, and Joseph Nachmias & Sons. • Postcards: R. Molho, and N. Nahamias. • Bankers: I. D. Carassos.4 • Pharmacies: Mois Nachmias. In the 1920s, Komotini had a synagogue and a Jewish community center5 and between 1922 and 1928 and 1930 and 1932 Abraham Yaakov Habib was community rabbi and cantor.6 The community had a three-grade elementary school and a recreation association called "Ahadout" (Union).7 We have an expanded list of the commercial activity of Jews in the 1920s:8 • Flour merchants: Getalias Carasso, Mois Bochor, Namias and Raf. Carasso, Nachmias Carasso Fotiadis, and Yiako Solomon. • Almond merchants: Yiako Romano. • General trade: Joseph Nachmias & Sons, and Nachmias Carasso Fotiadis. • Moneychangers: Abraham Danon, Israél Ramand, and Siman Kazel and Menham Albocher. • Insurance companies: "General Insurance" Namias M. • Cotton merchant: Abraham Kazes. • Tanned leather: Mourdou Penhas. • Raw leather: Yehudah Bochar Solomon, Joseph Nachmias & Sons, and Mourdochai Albocher. • Cereal merchants: Nachmias Carasso Fotiadis. • Customs brokers/consignees: Molho S. and Abraham Albocher. • Oil and soap merchants: Joseph Nachmias & Son, and Nachmias Carasso and Fotiadis. • Grocer trade: Abraham Yiako Kazes, David Osmanli Bochor, and Napthali Kazes. • Doctor: Albert Molho. • Tobacco dealers and tobacco firms: Tobacco Company Ltd. Arditis D. • Tobacco firms: Mois Nachmias and Saltiel Carasso & Son. • Jewelers: Gabriel Davidion.
• Wool dealers: Yiako Romano, and Saltiel Carasso & Son. • Wood factories - furniture manufacture: Mordou Aisaias. • Alcohol beverages: Yiako Israél Romano. • Groceries: Aaron Bachar Mishe, Yiako Mishe Romano, Yiako Israél Romano, Yana Mishe Romano, and Samuel Isaac Kazes. • Glassware stores: Nafthali and Nissim Kazes, (5 Kanari Street), and Nachmias Carasso Fotiadis. • Shoe industries: Mizrachi Yiousef, and Sepetai Benouzik. • Draperies: Abraham Mousoulam, Albochor S., Eliezer Bachar, Joseph M. Casavi (20-22 Ioanninon Street), Kesalis Chaim, Bochor Kazes, Samuel Joseph Kazes, Freteli Molho, and Hanania Mois. • Pharmacies: Levi Joseph (or Joseph D. Levy — 7-9 Bizaniou Street), and Bechar, S. • Haberdasheries: Jacques Isaac, Benouzis Elias, Mois Isaac Romano, and Sinis Samuel. In the 1930s, there were 250 Jewish families or about 955 Jews in Komotini. They were principally merchants, artisans, grocers and peddlers. The community had a synagogue named Beit El (see below), whose rabbi was Shaul Pipano son of Jacob9 and the following hazanim (religious readers): Atas David son of Gabriel (until January, 1931),10 Kazes Abraham son of Isaac, and Albert Alboucher son of Bochor (who immigrated to Palestine in 1935).11 After 1936 the synagogue had no hazanim.12 The Jewish school13 had 110 pupils and religious studies were taught 18 hours a week.14 In the 1930s the headmaster was An. Efmorphopoulos,15 and between 1927-8 Amalia Ioannidou was the school teacher. In 1930 the school had 236 pupils — 116 girls and 121 boys, comprising 17 Greeks, 17 Muslims, 13 Armenians and 190 Jews. In addition, ten pupils from the Greek High School attended classes. The staff was composed of the headmaster (Hebrew teacher), two French teachers, five Greek teachers and two children's caretakers. The school had seven classes including a kindergarten. In the 1930s, a Jewish women’s association known as "Rofe Holim" cooperated with local associations of Komotini, such as "Rodopi" and "Irini" that provided food for children, maintained a children's soup kitchen, and a nursery. Finally, a philanthropic association, "Hevrat Kedoushah & Bikur Holim,16 as well as a charitable association called "Ahavat Re’im,"17 founded in 1906, were operating at the same time. The Jewish community of Komotini had relations with other communities in Macedonia and Thrace as evidenced by marriage certificates between members of the community and those of Alexandroupolis and Drama,18 as well as communities beyond
• Jacques Cassavi "draper" on 24 Ioanninon Street. • Eliezer B. Nissim Sons "The Flee Market – Drapery" on 30 Ioanninon Street and 31 Ermou Street. • Samuel Misdrachi, son of Nissim, Grocer. • Dario Nahmias, Tobacco and leaves, on 25 Voulgaroktonou Square. • Hat trade, I. Manouach, on 45 Ermou Street. On the eve of the Bulgarian Occupation (1941-45) about 819 Jews lived in Komotini.23 On March 4, 1943, 878 Jews of Komotini and other Jews of Bulgarian-occupied Thrace were arrested. They were first sent to concentration camps in Skopje, then to Bulgaria and finally were deported in one of the 20 trains to the Treblinka death camp where they were all murdered. After the Liberation the community numbered 28 individuals,24 and was officially dissolved in 1958.25
The Jewish Quarter The "Fortress of the Genovese" which contained the Jewish quarter was at the center of the city. The market started at Commemorative photograph of the “Ahdut” (Union) Jewish Club of Komotini established in 1923, the southern gate, near the Church of the Assumption of the circa 1930s. The club was involved in music and gymnastics. (Avraham and David Recanati Collection) Virgin (1800), and extended east along the length of Eleftheriou Venizelou Street, next to Filikis Etairias Street, and to the length of Ermou, the Greek border such as Bulgaria, France19 and Edirne (Andrianoupolis ) Serron, Korai and Kilkis streets. This last part was a section of the market in Turkey.20 Between 1934-5 11 families and four young individuals immigrated that was destroyed during a fire in 1867. Its reconstruction installed a perto British Mandate Palestine (Israel).21 fectly rectangular- shaped area next to the irregular web of the city. Regarding the reconstruction of the market, it is worth noting that after 1867 the In the 1930s the following commercial firms were functioning: market was not built in the traditional manner; rather it followed the Euro• Solomon I. Cassevi "General Enterprises –- Transportation – Consignpean example, with spacious streets onto which the façades of the shops ments – Representations –- Commissions – Insurance." faced. • Israel M. Romano "Forest products and construction materials" on 38 The Jewish quarter grew significantly, like that of neighboring Georgiou Clemanceau Street. • Mois Z. Errera: "Brokers – Representations." Xanthi, after 1896 when the railway line linked Macedonia to Istan• Vital M. Frances: "Ready-made garments and cashmeres" on 33 Vas. Konbul. The most obvious urban characteristic of this development is the standinou Square. extension of the city towards the railway line and the urban expan• Baruch Joseph Ventoura and Solomon Tsimino "Foreign and domestic sion beyond the traditional irregular blocks. It was probably during products" on 32 Evripidou street. that period that the Jewish quarter extended towards the north and • Israél Daniel Kazes, moneychanger until outlawed (1936).22 northwest with Makavaion Street at its center. • Elias H. Danon, money-changer until outlawed. The Jewish cemetery was probably located next to the Turkish • Raphael B. Mois, textiles and modern goods "The Covered Market" on cemeteries at the edge of the city, in an area encroached upon for devel9 Ioanninon Street. opment during the Greek dictatorship (1967-74).
The boundaries and the development of the Jewish quarter in the period after 1896 can be traced using city maps.26 The quarter was defined by a large open central courtyard that measured about 30 x 120 meters, with a north-south orientation of its central axis. It was surrounded by densely built houses that created a protective surrounding wall. The urban fabric of Komotini in the 19th century, as still preserved in the old Muslim quarter, was probably not very different from that of the Jewish quarter. Winding streets end at tall white masonry walls, on top of which project the wooden sahnisi with wooden lattice windows. The quarter of the citadel had a rectangular shape with a perimeter of about 492 meters.27 The Jewish homes that still appear in the maps are located at the southwestern half of the citadel. At the end of the 19th century one hundred families had their homes around the courtyard (known as Aftokratoros Theodorou Square). Before it was demolished, the Beit El Synagogue was at the southwestern end of this courtyard, just one meter from the Byzantine wall. There are no photographs or plans of the houses surrounding this courtyard, but based on the study of the open courtyard of Veroia, we can assume that the houses overlooked the courtyard, forming a protective wall around it, with possibly only a few openings at the rear. Living conditions in the quarter of the citadel were probably similar to other Jewish quarters in the walled cities of the Ottoman Empire for which we have descriptions. The interior of the fortress was reportedly very unclean. As in other cities, increased population density caused a decline in sanitary conditions as previous open courtyards and other spaces were filled with new structures. The squalor of the Ottoman period was vastly reduced after the expansion of the quarter at the end of the 19th century. The new quarter outside the walls and the older one within the citadel were distinguished by their different spatial organization. In the new quarter the buildings were built along the length of wide streets where each structure occupied a plot of land either entirely or partially, combining a free standing building with an open garden. In most cases, the garden was either a backyard, or to the side of the building, separating it from the neighboring building. The only exact data we have regarding the settlement of Jews beyond the citadel is a 1935 list of the Jewish community,28 which names families and their place of residence. This list demonstrates expansion of the Jewish settlement at the center of the city, and that Jewish residency extended to the west and to the north of the citadel, in a direction opposite the market. When parts of the fortress wall were demolished, the quarter within the citadel and its expansion became a more unified space. The open courtyard of the old Jewish quarter was joined at the north
to houses built after the expansion of the quarter near Frouriou Street. We can trace the boundaries of the Jewish quarter after its expansion as follows: to the south and east, the quarter borders the citadel, with the two quarters joined at Frouriou Street. In the north, the quarter expands to Egnatias Street and to the west it expands along the length of Makavaion Street (later renamed Karaoli) possibly all the way to the river in the south. Within the quarter, Jewish families lived on the following streets: Filippou and Aidiniou Streets, parallel and between Egnatias and Frouriou Streets; Dorylaiou Street, parallel between Makavaion and Sagariou Streets. In addition, other streets that appear on the map but are not mentioned are Filippos, Adroinou, Koumaron, Prousis, and (possibly) Lykourgou and Magnesias byways. Finally, streets where Jews lived but are not recognized on the map are: Kondyli, Lisiou, Vas. Irakliou, Athan. Diakou, "near Odeiou," Kolokotroni and Trikoupi Streets. The main street of the Jewish quarter beyond the citadel apparently was Makavaion Street (Maccabean Street), which extended from the river to the north, parallel to the western wall of the quarter in the citadel. The naming of the street after Jewish heroes suggests that this was the initial street of expansion of Jews beyond the citadel. The street was certainly the "heart" of the district; the Jewish community center and the Jewish school were located there, at the junction of Makavaion Street and Frouriou Street.
Houses The Jewish houses of Komotini were probably little different than the preserved Muslim houses which are usually one storey with one or two rooms and face onto a spacious closed courtyard surrounded by a wall, almost as tall as the house, pierced by a large double gate. The houses in the Jewish quarter were probably similar, although no significant examples survive. This house type radically changed at the beginning of the 20th century when a more neoclassical style was adopted. The houses became an expression of a Greek national aesthetic, and were made of stone. These changes may have influenced the aesthetics and style of the houses in the Jewish quarters, too.
The Beit El Synagogue29 The synagogue, until its demolition in 1994,30 was at the south end of the old Jewish quarter, at Aftokratoros Theodosiou Square, close to the Byzantine walls. The exact date of the synagogueâ€™s construction is not known, but, based on its architectural features, the building was probably first built in the early 19th century, and then subsequently expanded.
Beit El Synagogue in Komotini circa 1980s. The synagogue was built in the early 19th century and was subsequently enlarged throughout the century. It was built adjacent to the Byzantine walls of Komotini, visible to the lower left. The projecting lantern is an uncommon feature, similar to which survives today only in Azerbaijan. (The Jewish Museum of Greece)
The Jewish quarter in Komotini marked on the city plan of 1955. Based on this city plan and Some historians date the synagogue to the 18th century.31 the available sources, marked in black is the Jewish quarter inside the citadel, and in dots the The synagogue was in use until the Bulgarians deported the approximate outline of the Jewish settlement outside the citadel. Legend: 1. The Jewish members of the Jewish community in 1943 to concentration and quarter within the citadel. 2. Beit El Synagogue. 3. Jewish community center. death camps. It was severely damaged during the German and Bul4. Jewish school. 5. The river. (YPEHODE, scale 1:5,000, 1955). garian Occupation, when it was used as a stable.32 Apparently, the few survivors who returned to the city after the Liberation never used it the decorative cornice of the roof, the semi-cylindrical projection of the heikhal on the east wall, culminating in a half dome, the wooden door of the again. Repairs were made in 1980 and 1985 by the Central Board of Jewish main entrance (a photo of which still exists in the Jewish Museum of Communities,33 but a fire further damaged the building in July 1985,34 and its roof collapsed in the early 1990s. The synagogue was demolished in 1994. Greece), and the central raised octagonal lantern which helped distinguish The synagogue consisted of one main floor, of almost square plan, the synagogue from afar. The diameter of the octagonal dome was 3.09 with a wooden roof covered with ceramic tiles,35 and a remarkable octagmeters; its radius, 3.30 meters; its total height, 7.20 meters38; its area, 25.57 meters, and its exterior height, 10.46 meters. The dome and lantern are an onal lantern that projected from the center of the building, and providunusual feature in a Greek synagogue. Stavroulakis, however, suggests that ed an interior dome over the centrally placed bimah. The interior was built of plastered wood, and a two-storey women’s section wrapped the form may have been influenced by the large synagogue of Serres (no around the main hall along the west and south walls, separated from the longer extant) which he claims, had “a great lantern dome that had the notomain space by wooden lattice screens. riety of being higher than that of the nearby Christian church.” UnfortuThe exterior of the synagogue was simple. Its exterior dimensions were nately, no illustrations of this building are known.39 36 37 19.70 x 18.70 meters ; and its roofline was 4.70 meters high. It was a sinThe original core was symmetrical and square in plan with four centralgle storey structure with 31 windows. The only ornament to the exterior is ly placed columns which were attached to one another by horizontal beams to
Remains of the decorated painted plaster in the interior walls of Beit El Synagogue in 1993. The walls were whitewashed at a later date, most probably during or after the Second World War. With the collapse of the roof, the recent layer of paint peeled off to reveal the original plaster and decoration. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
create an octagonal shape from which a dome rose and projected well beyond the top of the roof. The dome provided a dramatic exterior element for the building, but more importantly it brought abundant light into the center of the prayer hall to allow better reading of the Torah from the bimah. The interior walls of the synagogue were painted light blue and the top of the walls were decorated with floral pattern. This ornament surrounds the entire hall. In its final phase, the blue layer was painted over with white paint at an unknown date. The heikhal, set against the eastern wall, was decorated with a painted frame contemporary with the floral decoration of the walls. Nothing is known of the appearance of the bimah, which was probably wooden and free standing under the dome. The building appears to have undergone changes in various periods in the form of extensions in the perimeter of the central core. As a result, some parts of the building seem to have been in discord, e.g., the appearance and structure in the interior, or the lack of geometric symmetry in a building that would require symmetry. An examination of the standing remains of the building and earlier photographs suggest the following changes: • During expansion, the west wall was demolished and the two supporting columns were covered in cylindrical tsatma, plastered and adorned with Tuscan capitals.
• The women's section to the south and west was extended as a narrow strip added to the original core, leaving only a narrow passageway of one meter between the new extension and the Byzantine walls. The women's section had an angled shape and a separate entrance from outside, located at the far south corner of the eastern wall. A wooden lattice screen separated the entire women's section from the men’s area. A stairwell at the southwestern corner (remains of which still existed on the synagogue walls in 1993) led to the first floor of the women's section. • Compared to the synagogues that we have already discussed, such as the Algazy Synagogue in Izmir (Turkey), it is possible that the entrance hall adjacent to the central core was part of the original core. The entrance at the north may have been necessary because so little space existed between the west wall and the Byzantine wall, even before the addition of the women’s section. If there had been an original entrance from the west before the addition of the women’s section, it would have given access directly into the prayer hall, without the mediating space of a vestibule. If, however, we compare the example of Veroia, it is possible that the entrance hall is an expansion, too. • It is possible that the original core of the synagogue did not have a dome and that it was added when the synagogue was expanded. The extensions of the original core of the building are possibly directly related to the development of the city at the end of the 19th century and to the expansion of the quarter in the citadel. As the Jewish population of the city increased it was necessary to expand the quarter and the synagogue. The fact that no new synagogue was constructed in the expanded Jewish quarter may indicate either limited finances of the community, or a continued satisfaction with the older, historic synagogue. Since the new quarter was so close to the previous one, it was not absolutely necessary to build a new synagogue.40 The resources would be used instead for the construction of a community center and a Jewish school. The Komotini Synagogue poses many questions, especially about its projecting lantern, an element foreign to the synagogue typology encountered in most parts of Greece and in places with similar tradition, such as Izmir. The answer may be that either this morphology existed in other parts of the Ottoman Empire, but no examples exist any longer, or that it was an architectural element built only in Komotini.41 When compared to other synagogues in Turkey, this synagogue shows similarities in morphology, especially in the existence of a dome over the bimah, for example in Bursa and Istanbul. But despite the internal similarity, the exterior form of the lantern at Komotini is unique.
1 According to the Greek Guide (1921), during the Byzantine period the city was called “Kumudjina,” and during the Ottoman times it was called “Gumuldjina” or “Yiumuldjina.” The name Giumuldjina or "Gimur(l)djina" probably originates from the charcoal that was found in the region, since "kiumur" [kömür] means coal in Turkish. At the end of the 19th century, in the villages around Komotini there was an abundance of charcoal. A great deal of charcoal was also sold in the city itself. 2 Apostolopoulos, Greek Guide, (1911), p. 126 3 Apostolopoulos, op cit., pp. 126-9. 4 In 1994 a street in Komotini was named after Carasso and the Jewish community of Komotini. The sign reads: “Carasso street, a Greek Jew, member of the Council of Inter-Allied Thrace, 1920.” In 1920 Carasso participated in the Council of Inter-Allied Thrace and in a critical vote he supported and voted in favor of the Greek positions, therefore forming a climate favorable to Greece in the Sevres and Neuilly Treaty. Ta Nea mas, KIS (15.9.94), p. 7. 5 Kyrieris, Giannopoulos, Greek Guide (Athens, 1921), p. 91. The community center was founded with funds contributed by the poor workers of the community, who placed their savings in a common fund. The site of the center bordered on that of the Jewish elementary school. The center was requisitioned during the Occupation from November 4, 1940 to January 25, 1941 (Komotini 23, 22/31.3.41). It was used as a first-aid station (mutual resolution no. 146/53 of the Ministries of National Welfare and Finance). Based on archival documents, the community center was a one story structure built of masonry, with wooden floors, and a wooden roof covered in ceramic tiles. The building had a hall 10 by 7 meters, and another adjoining room 6 by 4.50 meters. There was also a kitchen (2.50 by 2.50 meters) and a small lavatory (Komotini, 15, 0297/3268/4.11.40). According to a topographic plan in the Central Board of Jewish Communities (KIS) archives (Komotini file), the community center measured 9.80 meters façade (facing Makavaion Street) and 22.15 meters in depth. (Topographic plan by Achileas Pand. Sofianos, Civil Engineer, April 1962). 6 Komotini 45, 1339/1.1.35. 7 The "Ahadout" Association was founded in 1923. (Komotini 7, 255/23.2.32). 8 Kyrieris, Giannopoulos, Greek Guide, op. cit., pp. 91-4. Also in Komotini 41, 385/30.1.28, Komotini 12, 22.11.37, and Komotini 12, 6.1.37. 9 Komotini 23, 942/15.11.39. Rabbi Pipano was born in 1897 in Salonika to Jacob and Pikoula. He married Estrea who bore him three daughters. He graduated from the "Or Ahaim" School of Salonika in 1917, and assumed responsibility as the Rabbi of Komotini in 1935 (Komotini 23, 5.7.39). 10 Komotini 23, 936/27.10.39. 11 Komotini 23, 898/4.9.39. 12 Komotini 23, 898/4.9.39. 13 Based on the topographic plan of the Jewish school in the archive of the Central Board of Jewish Communities (KIS) the school was on Makavaion Street, on a site that measured 29.30 meters façade and 48.05 meters in depth. The school was 5.35 meters away from the façade of the site and measured 11 meters façade (with a “π” shaped stairwell) and 14.55 meters in depth. At the back of the same site there were two smaller buildings that measured 4 x (?) meters and 3.65 x (?) meters separately (Topographic plan by Achileas Pand. Sofianos, Civil Engineer, April 1962).
14 15 16 17 18
Komotini 23, 973/3.1.40. Komotini 23, 391/18.10.39. Komotini 9, 927/8.8.34. Komotini 41 / 25.(?).28 Based on the marriage registration of Elias Chaim Adout from Alexandroupolis to Nina Gabriel Kyzi from Komotini (Komotini 34/4.6.39) and of Moses Bensour from Komotini to Esther Yaakov Bourla from Drama (Komotini 34 / 17.12.38). 19 Based on the applications of needy families to immigrate to relatives in Bulgaria (Leah Kalfou, daughter of Isaac Kalfou, living in Kirzali, Bulgaria), and to France (Rafael Avigdor, with his wife Bouka and their daughter, immigrate to Marseilles where his wife's brother, Benbashat Toledo Yaakov, merchant, was living). Komotini 36, 225/24.8.37 and Komotini 36, 180/19.7.37 respectively. 20 Based on the marriage registration of Elias Yaakov Albocher from Komotini to Ida (Miroula) daughter of Yaakov Bechar Abraham from Edirne (Andrianoupolis) (Komotini 36 / 8.3.34). 21 Komotini 23/973/3.1.40. 22 Komotini 23, undated. Money-changing was outlawed as a profession in 1936, resulting in the unemployment of the money-changer Pinchas Yaakov Albocher, who practiced this profession until 1936. 23 A more expanded list of Jewish merchants for Komotini and other communities in Northern Greece is available in the 1937-1938 commercial register Megas Odigos Voreiou Ellados-Thessalias-Makedonias-Thrakis (Thessaloniki: M. Triantaphylou) 24 Martin Gilbert, Atlas of the Holocaust, pp. 150-1 25 Chronika, Table of dissolved communities, 142 (1996), p. 62. 26 We have the following topographic diagrams and plans: (a) Topographic plan of Komotini (1:5.000) of June 1955, based on an older plan; (b) Topographic plan (1:500) of September 1933, sheets 34 and 39; (c) aerial photograph of Komotini (1:15.000) of 1976; and d) undated older aerial photo. 27 Based on the plan of the Komotini fortress. 28 Komotini, 42 / 8.2.35. 29 The synagogue also appears as Beth El. Visual information on this building was collected from a number of sources, including the in situ architectural and photographic survey by the author and on photographs and sketches of the synagogue in the archives of the Jewish Museum of Greece: the photographs by T. de Vinney show the synagogue in 1980, only a few years before the collapse of its roof (and its demolition), the interior and exterior of the synagogue; a sketch by N. Stavroulakis depicts the ground plan of the synagogue, which, although unfinished, gives fairly accurate dimensions of parts of the building, such as the stonework, windows, and the columns of the western wall of the synagogue, most of which had already collapsed when the author surveyed the building in Ocotber 1993. Based on this information, an attempt for a detailed reconstruction of the synagogue was possible (see Appendix). I take this opportunity to thank Rachel Friedman for assisting in the survey of the synagogue in Komotini. 30 The data presented below are based on the reconstruction of the building by the author, based on his survey of the synagogue dated October 27-29, 1993 and the photographs preserved in the archives of the Jewish Museum of
Greece. In addition, the sketches and measurements by N. Stavroulakis, who had visited the building in August 1980, were valuable, and part of the reconstruction of the synagogue is based on them. Regarding the demolition of the building, the archives of the Central Board Jewish Committee (KIS), have a detailed correspondence on this issue between the Mayor of Komotini, the Technical Service of the Municipality, KIS, and the 4th Trusteeship of late Monuments, Central Macedonia District (Minister of Culture). One of the most recent documents that the author studied was the letter of I. Sterioutou, head of the 4th Trusteeship of late Monuments, Central Macedonia District, to the Technical Service of the Municipality of Komotini (Protocol number 1403/2.8.93). She quotes the following: “Referring to your document Protocol Number 1927/15-6-93 in relation to the above issue. (Re: The protected building of the Jewish Synagogue of Komotini), and after the on-site inspection we have carried out, we discovered that a great part of the building has collapsed, and is therefore dangerous. It is therefore not possible for it to remain as such for much longer. To date, the correspondence and communication we have had with the organization which owns the building (i.e. the Central Jewish Council) leads us to the conclusion that there is lack of interest to preserve the building, despite the fact that the Municipality agreed to exchange it with another land plot and make use of it. For this reason, and also because the demolition of the building requires the designation of the synagogue as a monument, we are asking you to keep us informed on your intentions regarding this issue… We believe that the preservation of this-monument is important for the city of Komotini and is a valuable testimony to its history during the 19th century. In addition, the existence of the Byzantine wall next to the monument is a proof of another era, and this interesting group gives a special character to the area, with long-lasting meaning." Older documents referred to the on-site inspection of the building and the resolution of its demolition and designation as a work of art. For example, the letter (31.8.81) by the attorney Zafeiris Hatziantoniou (59 H. Trikoupi Street, Komotini), who was handling the issue of the synagogue for the owner (KIS), mentions that in 1979 the Technical Service of the Municipality carried out an on-site inspection and judged that the building was ready to collapse. They issued a demolition permit within three days. The decision was publicized on 14.10.80 (a year and a half later!). Then, the owner applied for a permit to repair the building, and the Municipality asked for ownership rights. If there was no reply after the application for repair, the Municipality could not demolish the building. Regarding the classification of the building, the archives have an article in the newspaper Estia (17.7.82) that refers to the resolution by the Minister of Culture, Melina Merkouri, to classify the building as a work of art, according to the bill N1N1469/50. Based on this bill, the building was classified as "under the protection of a special category of buildings and works of art after 1830." (Document 389/14.3.82.) Finally, according to a report by the lawyer Maissa Manon, the building had been examined by Konstandinos Koungoulos, a civil engineer, and two other Municipality engineers (Protocol for inspection of dilapidated buildings, number 12/79, Protocol number 42449 of the Technical Service of the Rodopi Prefecture). Koungoulos judged that it was appropriate to demolish the building in December 1979, but the Municipality did not approve of the expense. It was decided that the building was dilapidated and dangerous for "serious landslides, declinations, massive
deterioration of the roof and wooden columns and cracks signifying static insufficiency in dangerous spots." The decision for demolition was based on the fact that the building was collapsing "in order to avoid accidents," and in order to free the space for a park, according to the new city plan. In addition, it was impossible to proceed to reparations since there are no titles of ownership. 31 We have no accurate information on the synagogue’s construction date. It can only be assumed based on its architectural characteristics. According to Stavroulakis, this synagogue was founded in the 18th century. Stavroulakis and de Vinney, Jewish Sites,121-4. According to a letter from the rabbi of the community to the General Administration of Thrace, the synagogue “was built many years ago.” (Komotini 23, 942/15.11.39). 32 Request for financial aid (3,000 drachmas) to the Ministry of Religion and National Education, in order to repair the roof tiles and the windows of the synagogue. (Komotini 23, 1086/2.7.40). 33 Gazette 888/8.11.82. 34 The newspaper O Chronos (6176, July 16, 1985), reported that on July 15, 1985 a fire broke out in "the Jewish synagogue," putting the neighboring houses and the community center of Komotini in danger. 35 "Half the roof opened and the tiles were falling," according to the article by Mr. Tsetlakas, editor of the local newspaper Patrida (12.6.90). Tsetlakas suggested — without success — that the site be fenced and the roof repaired. Some time later, the entire roof collapsed, and as a result two of the perimeter walls of the synagogue were destroyed. When the author visited the building in 1993, the sight of the ruined synagogue was a sad reminder of the formerly grand building. 36 The dimensions of the synagogue are based on the topographic plan by Achileas Pand. Sofianos, Civil Engineer, April 1962, in the archive of the KIS ("Komotini" file). The exact dimensions are as follows: eastern wall: 19.70 meters, southern wall 18.70 meters, western wall 19.30 meters and northern wall: 19 meters. 37 Sofianos, ibid. (note 37). The dimensions of the site of the synagogue were 27.40 x 27.70 meters. (The total area of the site is 753 square meters – Gazette 888/8.11.82). Interior dimensions were 18.44 x 17.22 meters (326.7 square meters) and interior volume was 1,598.4 cubic meters (approximately). 38 Gazette 888/8.11.82. 39 Stavroulakis and de Vinney, Jewish Sites, pp. 121-4 40 The case of Komotini can be compared to that of Kavala. The Jews of Kavala who settled outside the walls at the end of the 19th century constructed a new synagogue, necessitated by the distance from the previous quarter and its synagogue. Apparently in Komotini there was no such problem. 41 Photographs of a synagogue with striking similarities to the synagogue of Komotini — including a projecting lantern, were exhibited in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, in 2002. This synagogue is located in Caucasus, and belongs to the Jewish Community Carijagy in Ajerbaijan. It is not possible, within our knowledge, to establish a connection and influence between the two communities —unless we are encountering two examples of a synagogue type built in several places by the Ottoman builders’ guilds (snaf), but of which only two examples have survived.
xanthi The city of Xanthi1 is in Thrace, in the prefecture of Rodopi, and is the capital of the Municipality of Xanthi. The city has two ports: PortoLago and Karagats, but the main export of its tobacco is through the port of Kavala. It was the center for tobacco trade in the region in the 1920s when tobacco processing and trade was a source of wealth for the city, turning it into a significant commercial center. The city prospered and developed until the Balkan wars and the period between the two World Wars. The social structure that was formed was based on the hierarchy of processing of tobacco and included: tobacco merchants, tobacco agents, representatives of foreign companies, minor merchants, manufacturers and shopkeepers many of whom were Jews. Tobacco workers were at the bottom of the pyramid, "in the margin of social and cultural life." 2 The Turks occupied Xanthi around 1360-1370. In 1493 the city was an insignificant village with 483 Christian and 22 Muslim families. In 1530 the city had 665 Christian and 32 Muslim families. Later the Turkish traveler Evliya Çelebi reported that Xanthi (then known as Eskitje Dag) was surrounded by vineyards and had 500 homes half of which were Christian and the other half Muslim. During the Ottoman period the city was divided into quarters. Christians lived in Aghios Vlasios, Aghios Giorgios, Akathistos Ymnos, the Metropolis, Kavakio and Samakovio. The Turks lived north and west of Aghios Vlassios and the Pomakoi lived around the Ahrian Mosque. After Jews arrived, the Jewish quarter was in Aghios Dimitrios and in the area called Valuk (fish market) or Aghios Lefterios near the tobacco stores.3 By 1715 Xanthi was "a large city with a fortress and a Metropolitan bishop," administered by Ishmael Bey of Serres, one of the most powerful pashas of the Ottoman Empire, who exercised his authority from Eastern Macedonia to Eastern Komotini. The city was described in a magazine of Izmir in 1871: "The entrance to the city of Xanthi has lovely, newly built wealthy houses. The city has about ten thousand inhabitants, all of whom are engaged in the tobacco trade." 4 In 1896 the city was connected to the railway line of Salonika–Dedeagats (Alexandroupolis)–Istanbul (Joint Salonika–Istanbul) which spurred new urban development.5 Frequent territorial realignments, political and social unrest, military conflicts and successive foreign occupations characterized the first quarter of the 20th century, and Xanthi suffered especial violence after
the Bulgarian rebellion in Iliden, Macedonia, in 1903.6 The first Balkan war (1913) was destructive for all the cities of Thrace. After 1922, due to the influx of refugees from Asia Minor, the population of Xanthi doubled, and by 1937 it had reached 36,000 inhabitants. Between 1941 and 1945 Xanthi was occupied by Bulgarians and was liberated in 1945 when the Axis powers were defeated.
The Jewish Presence in Xanthi It is not known when Jews first came to Xanthi, but the rapid commercial development of the city from the mid-19th century onwards probably attracted Jewish settlement and investment. We do not know when the number of Jews was sufficient to organize a community and build a synagogue, especially since the site for the known synagogue was purchased only in 1924.7 There is no clear information about any synagogue before this date.8 The 1906 census of the city gives the total population of the city as 15,354 people, with 234 Jews.9 With this number we should assume at least an informal prayer house, but more likely some space was designated as a synagogue. The Greek Guide of 1910-11 reports that Xanthi had Jewish merchants and professionals, but there is still no mention of an organized Jewish community. In the 1920s, 800 to 850 Jews lived in Xanthi.10 By this time they constituted an organized community with an administrative board, members of which were David Arditis (President), Haim Hassit (Vice-President), and Isaac Daniel (representative in the Municipality). The community had a five-grade mixed elementary school,11 with two male and one female teachers and a total of 60 pupils. The community center was housed in the same building as the school. The synagogue was built in the 1920s. After 1929, its rabbi was Abraham I. Habib.12 Jewish migration to Xanthi increased in 1922 when Eastern Thrace became part of Greece.13 These Jews came mainly from Edirne (Andrianoupolis),14 but also from Bulgaria,15 Salonika,16 and Drama. At that time there was a Jewish medical center, "Bikur Holim," for the treatment of needy patients of Xanthi,17 The community also supported Zionist organizations, a Zionist newspaper La Fuerça, organe Sionniste Independante Xanthie, and the Agudat B'nei Tsion – Xanthie19 association. In the 1930s, 1,100 Jews lived in Xanthi, out of a total of 33,712 inhabitants. They had an
organized community with a school, a community center 20 and a synagogue. The Jewish community had youth associations, such as the "Union de Jeunes Juifs, Xanthie." 21 Jewish professionals who were listed between the years 1910-11 include: • Insurance: Levi Tavach, representative of the insurance company in Edirne (Andrianoupolis), Gueron et Cie. • Merchant tailors: K. Emmanuel.22 • Tobacco leaf merchants: Daniel Isaac. • Tobacco companies: Mayer et Cie N. Ltd, representative manager S. Ovadias. The following merchants and professional Jews of Xanthi are listed during the 1920s:23 • Flourmills: Attas David (windmill). • Money-changers: Leon Amarilio, Benbashat and Gazes, and Pardo Rahamim.24 • Insurance agents: "Union," agents Gazes and Bibashat. The Jewish community center and school prior to its demolition. (The Jewish Museum of Greece) • Crop merchants: Yohena Isaac. • Moving companies: Papazian and Tiano. • Samuel Kalfon, son of Aaron, draper.30 • Customs brokers: Papazian and Tiano. • Yosif Behar son of Nissim, lamp-maker, employing his nephew • Grocers: Nessim Bibashat. Nissim (Reuven) Ergas.31 • Doctors: Efendis Yiahyia. • Tobacco companies and tobacco trade: David Arditi, Isaacoutos, In 1929, at least five Jewish owned Tobacco firms were operating in and Meir & Sons. Xanthi (see below):32 • Tobacco stores: Meir Bibashat. Name of Firm Manager • Cinemas:25 "Great Cinema," owner Fernandes. • Tobacco factories: Arditis David. Commercial of Salonica Yehuda Perahias • Textiles: Hayim Eskinazi, Benjamin Pasi, and Abraham Tabach. Marcos Behar Marcos Behar • Tailors: Abraham Behar.26 Societé Anonyme de Tabac Dorian D. Arditis The following Jewish merchants and professionals in Xanthi are D. Arditis D. Arditis mentioned in the 1930s: Austrohellenic Yaakov Namias • Albertos D. Benbashat, Agent, General Trade (founded in 1925).27 • Yosef N. Bello, Raw leather, on 16 Vyrsodepseiou Street.28 Marriage certificates in the archives of the community indicate links • Iosif Is. Meshoulam, draper, on 26B Dagles Street.29 to other Greek Jewish communities, such as that of Volos.33 • Abraham Behar, son of Solomon, tailor. In the early 1940s, the Jewish community had 550 members.34 Before
the period of the Bulgarian Occupation (1941-45) about 550 Jews lived in Xanthi. On March 4, 1943, the Nazis arrested 526 Jews of Xanthi and other Jews of Bulgarian occupied Thrace.35 They were first sent to concentration camps in Skopje, then to Bulgaria and finally were deported in 20 train dispatches to their deaths to the Treblinka death camp. Only 6 survived the war36 to reconstitute the community which continued to function until 1958, when it was officially dissolved.37
The Jewish Quarters Jews lived in the Aghios Eleftherios, or Valuk (fish market), quarter, an area near the tobacco stores where the synagogue was close to the Aghios Eleftherios church on Aghios Eleftherios Street.38 They also lived in the Dodeka Apostolon quarter,39 or according to other sources, the Aghios Dimitrios quarter. We have no firm information on the boundaries of these quarters,40 but the location of the synagogue and the adjacent community center at the junction of Hadzistavrou Street (north-south) and Anatolikis Thrakis Street (east-west), indicates the location of one of the Jewish quarters of the city, at the heart of the city. The Jewish cemetery of Xanthi still exists. It covers an area of 1,320 square meters,41 and is in the southeast part of the city. When the author
The gate to the Jewish cemetery in Xanthi in 1993. It was standing abandoned for many years, with most of the tombs vandalized. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
visited in 1993, it was abandoned, the tombstones damaged, and many graves desecrated or destroyed.
The Synagogue of Xanthi The synagogue in Xanthi was built in 192642 and demolished in 1995.43 It was located at 4 Anatolikis Thrakis Street, in the center of the city, at the junction of Hadzistavrou and Anatolikis Thrakis Streets. The building shared a plot of land with the Jewish school and their courtyards had a common ornamental wrought-iron fence on the side of Hadzistavrou Street, with three iron gates. The first led to the entrance of the women's section, the second to the side courtyard of the school, and the third to the entrance of the community center/school.44 The synagogue was used for less than two decades. During the Bulgarian occupation the synagogue was turned into a stable,45 and following the war, it served as a Christian Sunday school until it was again abandoned. It was later sold by the Central Board of Jewish Communities of Greece to a contractor, who demolished it in 1995 to make way for an apartment building.
Architecture of the Synagogue46 The synagogue was an imposing building of the basilica type with a symmetrical faรงade, flanked by towers. The exterior dimensions were 15.90/21.80 x 22.70 meters, and the building was 8.50 meters high.47 There was a heavy decorative cornice along the edge of the pitched roof. One tower contained a staircase that led to the women's section. In a general way, the synagogue was clearly influenced by European synagogues of the middle and end of the 19th century.48 New synagogues in France, Germany and Eastern Europe, many associated with Reform movements,49 were well illustrated beginning in the mid-19th century. Examples of the type can also be seen as near as Vidin, Bulgaria and they were common through Hungary and other areas of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, as well as in nearby Turkey.50 The Reform synagogue as a building type developed as part of a movement that started in Seesen, Germany in 1810, when Israel Jackobson founded the Reform Temple, as a reinterpretation of the traditional Jewish synagogue. Jackobson was influenced by the progressive ideas of the time and the religious practices of the Protestant community and the appearance of Protestant churches. His new type of synagogue incorporated aspects of the morphology of churches into
The synagogue in Xanthi built in 1926, circa 1930s. The synagogue was used as a Christian Sunday school following the Second World War until it was abandoned, sold by the Central Board of Jewish Communities of Greece (KIS) to a contractor, and demolished in 1955. The building of the Jewish community center and school is visible to the far left. (The Jewish Museum of Greece)
synagogue design. This morphology, just like the theory of the movement that Jackobson initiated, caused a great sensation, and parts of it were gradually adopted by Jewish communities in Europe and America.51 By the end of the 19th century, however, even traditional Orthodox communities, had adopted some of the architectural innovations of the Reform Movement, including a more pronounced axial arrangement of the worship space and the movement of the bimah close to the east end of the sanctuary, so that at times it merged with the platform in front of the Ark. Practical and technical needs also sometimes favored the new design. In Greece, this type of plan is found mainly in modern synagogues, such as Xanthi (1926), the Monastirlis Synagogue (1927) in Salonika, and Beit Shalom in Athens (1941). By the 1920s most new European and American synagogues had some version of this arrangement, and its use no longer was an indication of the liturgy or theological outlook of the congregation.
A window on the western facade of the synagogue in Xanthi photographed in 1993. The Star of David motif of most windows was destroyed, most probably during the time when the synagogue was used as a Christian Sunday school. Only a few windows, such as this one, survived. The Star of David was adorned with two colors of glass panes: blue in the triangles and white in the center and around the star. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
On the west faรงade of the Xanthi Synagogue, flanking the main entrance, were two corner (north and south) towers; the northern one contained a staircase and there were auxiliary rooms in the south tower. The pitched roof was covered with ceramic tile roof ("French") tiles),52 and ended at the east and west in square pediments. An attic level oculus window, with no expression in the interior, completed the composition. Three arched windows were symmetrically arranged, above the entrance, in the faรงade. The two side elevations of the building were comprised of two rows of arched windows, ornamented, like the ones just mentioned, with the "Star of David" and geometric shapes. A horizontal molding surrounded the exterior, expressing the interior division in two floors. The interior consisted of a central nave and two aisles, created by four free-standing, and two half-columns incorporated in the walls. The main axis was oriented west-east, with the heikhal located in its traditional place
Remains of the floor tiles of the abandoned synagogue in Xanthi in 1993. The floor of the synagogue was covered in terrazzo tiles, a very common construction feature in the 1920s. The floor was adorned with a decorative band that delineated the architecture of the space. For example, it emphasized the outline of the main prayer hall and the central space between the four columns in the center of the space. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
Interior of the abandoned synagogue in Xanthi in 1993. The photograph is taken looking west, towards the main entrance of the synagogue. Above the aisles of the main floor, is the balcony of the womenâ€™s section (ezrat nashim). The concrete columns were most probably a post-Second World War intervention in the original structure. (Elias V. Messinas Archive)
at the center of the east wall. Above the side aisles and above the entrance was the balcony of the women's section, entered by way of the north tower staircase. Two courtyards, one at the west side of the building and a smaller one at the north side, were used for religious ceremonies, and gatherings. The synagogue walls were constructed of solid bricks and finished in plaster. The original color, which was still preserved on some of the walls at the time of the buildingâ€™s demolition, was hand-painted with floral motifs, giving the impression of a tapestry. The pitched roof was constructed of wooden trusses with the frame hidden in a pitched suspended ceiling in the interior. The roof was covered in ceramic tiles manufactured by the Allatini factory in Salonika. The total interior dimensions were 14.97/20.71 x 21.31 meters,53 with an area 347.8 square meters. The interior was 9.40 meters high, with an interior volume of 3,269 cubic meters.
Although the synagogue plan is that of a rectangle basilica inspired by the Temple in Jerusalem, the interior is dominated by the four free standing columns that give the impression of a centrally planned building, with four columns in the center. This may have been a reference to the traditional model for this region of Thrace and northern Greece, the so-called "Ottoman type," combined here with a basilica. The entrance was at the west, through a courtyard adjacent to Anatolikis Thrakis Street. A passage led from the entrance to the main prayer hall. There were two rooms to the right and left; the left one was an office, and the right one was a lecture room. The tower at the south end of the building had a kitchen with a sink, and led to a small backyard, south of the building. The main prayer hall is a rectangle 14.82 x 12.63 meters in size. There were two rows of windows to the left and right, for a total of twelve windows. The east wall, opposite the entrance, had a room on each side, probably
serving as auxiliary rooms for prayer service, (rabbi's office?) as they opened towards the area of the bimah/heikhal, which was between them, in the center. We have no indication or remains of heikhal and the bimah and we can only assume their location against the eastern wall, between the two auxiliary rooms, on a raised platform that still existed when the author surveyed the building. Similar arrangements, such as in the contemporary Monastirlis Synagogue (1927) in Salonika, are shown in the reconstruction drawings by the author. The women's section had a Greek “π” shape over the two side aisles of the basilica and over the two rooms and the entrance to the west. The synagogue of Xanthi is different from the synagogues we find
in most parts of Greece, both in terms of scale and style, suggesting its origins are to be found outside Greece. If we examine the origin of most members of the community, in the 1920s when the synagogue was built, we will see that they had come mainly from Edirne (Andrianoupolis). Therefore, it is likely that the synagogue of Xanthi, which was similar to the synagogue of Edirne (Andrianoupolis), was directly influenced by it. We do not know if the architect was the same, or whether the board of the community of Xanthi had used the plans or the building in Edirne (Adrianoupolis) as inspiration for their synagogue, as was the case in other cities in Greece, but the result is quite clear.
1 The historic information of the city of Xanthi is based on K. Vakalopoulos, History of Northern Greece – Thrace [Greek], (Salonika 1993), and G. Kizis, “Thrace,” Melissa, vol. 8 (Athens 1991), pp. 184-7. 2 G. Kizis, op. cit, p. 186. 3 Interviews with L. Cohen from Xanthi on 20.3.95 and on 7.4.95. 4 Kizis, op. cit., p. 184. 5 A. Karadimou-Yerolympos, East and West [Greek] (Athens, 1997), p. 244 6 K. Vakalopoulos, op. cit., p. 231. 7 Lawyer S. Tsobanoglou-Kousta, based in Xanthi, told the author (Xanthi, November 1993), that the Jewish community had purchased a plot of land for the construction of a synagogue and a community center/school, from the wealthiest resident of Xanthi (a non-Jew) in 1924. The plot was on the junction of Anatolikis Thrakis and Hadzistavrou Streets. The contracts of purchase, in her archives, were not reviewed by the author. 8 From the certificate of Isaac Ada son of Natan, born in Edirne (Andrianoupolis) in 1882, who had come to Xanthi in 1920 and "has been working in the synagogue since then" (Xanthie 13, 138/3.3.26), we may deduce that the city already had a functioning synagogue of some type before the splendid new synagogue was constructed in the mid 1920s. 9 N. Iglessis, Guide of Greece–All Macedonia and Asia Minor including the islands of the archipelago and the islands of Crete–Cyprus–Samos [Greek] (1910-11), p. 138 10 Xanthie 20, 182/6.4.28 11 The registry book of the Jewish school indicates the school started functioning on July 5, 1923, that is, a few years before the foundation of the synagogue (Xanthie 9). In addition, the grade table of the school identifies both Jewish and non-Jewish pupils: in the academic year 1933-4, 15 pupils in the 4th grade; in 1935-6 27 pupils in the 1st grade; in 193(?) (illegible) 13 pupils in the 5th
grade (Xanthie 10). According to L. Cohen the elementary school in which French, Hebrew and Greek were taught, was located next to the synagogue with more than 100 pupils in 6 grades. All graduates of the Jewish school excelled and passed the exams to the High School of the city. The school was housed in the building of the Jewish Community Center of Xanthi. The building had two floors and a ground floor. The offices of the community were on the ground floor, the community center was on the second floor and the school was on the first floor. In the basement were the offices of the Jewish Association UJJ (Union Jeune Juif or AJJ, Association of Young Jews). The basement had four rooms and a central hall. The northwestern room contained table tennis and a token of one drachma was required in order to play. The southwestern room housed the association offices. The northeastern room had a door leading to the courtyard and was reserved for the Shamash (the synagogue guard). The southeastern room, called "La kamerata de los muertos," was the storeroom for community coffins. As noted, non-Jewish children also studied in the school. L. Cohen remembers one decisive incident: every morning all pupils gathered in the area between the synagogue and the building of the school/community center and prayed aloud facing towards Jerusalem. One morning a school superintendent had come from Didimoticho to check up on the school. He attended the morning prayers and then went to meet the children: "What is your name, my child?" he asked one pupil at random. "George so and-so." He asked another one. "Kostas so-and-so." He thought it strange that Christian children were saying a Jewish prayer, and, as a result of the report he sent to Athens, Christian children were prohibited from studying in the Jewish school. In 1965 the school was still in excellent physical condition. L. Cohen recalls passing by soon after the school was demolished and witnessed the rubble.
12 Xanthie 14 (undated). 13 Xanthie 14. 14 Most extant certificates identify families from Edirne (Andrianoupolis), e.g., the certificate of Isaac Ada, son of Natan, born Edirne (Andrianoupolis) 1882, came to Xanthi in 1920 and worked in the synagogue (Xanthie 13, 138/3.3.26). Also, the certificate of Mordoch Yehuda Siouef, 30 years old, from Edirne (Andrianoupolis), who married Mercada Siouef (possibly a cousin) from Drama, 22 years old, on March 27th 1926 in Xanthi (Xanthie 13, 158/6.4.26). The certificate of Nissim Moshe Haleva, 24 years old, born in Edirne (Andrianoupolis), and settled in Xanthi in 1922 (Xanthie 13, 167/24.4.26) and Elia Nessim Kouzi, 24 years old from Edirne (Andrianoupolis), who came to Xanthi in 1913 (Xanthie 13, 169/8.5.26). The certificate of Yaakov Bechor Hayim, 47 years old, from Edirne (Andrianoupolis), who came to Xanthi in 1921 with his wife Rebecca and his 2 children, Eliezer, aged 13, and Behar aged 14 (Xanthie 13, 173/11.5.26). The certificate of Elia Hayim Mos, aged 32, from Edirne (Andrianoupolis), who came to Xanthi in 1921 with his wife Nehama, aged 28, and their son Hayim, aged 1 (Xanthie 13, 175/12.5.26). Finally, the certificate of Solomon Shapat Taraboulous, aged 24, from Edirne (Andrianoupolis), who came to Xanthi on October 22, 1922, with his parents, Shapat, aged 59, and Victoria, aged 48, and who was a peddler (Xanthie 13, 179/3.6.26). 15 Certificate of Rachamim Pardo, aged 35, born in Bulgaria, who came to Xanthi with his wife Estrea Abraham Kouzi, aged 19, and their 4-month old daughter (Xanthie 13, 132/23.2.26). 16 Certificate of Baruch Yaakov Barouhiel, aged 32, from Salonika who married Eliza Adato, aged 24, from Edirne (Andrianoupolis) on 5.4.26 (Xanthie 13, 158/6.4.26). 17 Xanthie 4, 26.10.22. By the end of 1930s the members of the board of the institution were: Chemovel Djoyas (president), Avram Cohen (vice president), Vitalys Mechulam (secretary), Josef Bello (treasurer), and Avram Chimchy, Isaac Taraboulouse, Chemovel Mechoulam (councilors). Xanthie 7, 29.2.37. 18 Xanthie 4, (undated) July – September 1922. 19 Xanthie 4, 1922. 20 Apart from covering the needs of the community, the center was rented to Jewish individuals (Isaac Bello, Xanthie 8, 740/10.8.38) and Jewish as well as Christian associations (Ioannis Yiannousis, Xanthie 8, 738/10.8.38 and Philippos Ioannidis, Xanthie 8, 739/10.8.37). Sotirios Dimitriadis had applied for permission to rent the refreshment hall of the community center (Xanthie 15, 4/18.10.34). The center facilities could also be rented for dancing parties, for example, the application of the school board for the dancing party of the 6grade Elementary School of Xanthi on 23.2.35 (Xanthie 16, 8/10.2.35), the above events to be held in the "grand hall" of the community center (see floor plan in Appendix). The grand hall contained 17 tables, 14 "poker" tables, two large wall mirrors, a luxurious grandfather clock, one crystal chandelier, 10 frames, one coat holder, two armchairs, 10 cigarette holders, 4 trays, 7 luxurious seats, and 6 champagne glasses (Xanthie 7, 10.11.35). 21 Xanthie 6, 106/18.12.35. In the elections of 26.12.37 the following administrative board was elected: Moise Bello (president), Yomtov Mechoulam (secretary), Vitalys Behar (treasurer) and Mazliah Behar, Isaac Behar, Lucie Magris-
so and Rebecca Romano, members (Xanthie 7, 29.12.37). 22 This is a Jewish surname that is encountered in Athens today. However, it may belong to a non-Jewish merchant, too. 23 N. Iglessis, Guide of Greece, pp. 247-250 24 Xanthie 13, 132/23.2.26. 25 L. Cohen conveyed to the author in 1995 about how he and Pessah opened the first “speaking” cinema in Xanthi in 1936, financed by Fotis Drakopoulos, owner of the News Agency of Xanthi (later owned by Savvas Papadopoulos). This cinema is not mentioned in the sources we have examined. 26 Abraham Behar, 35, son of Solomon, was married to Victoria aged 24, née Bohor Natan; they had a daughter named Paulina, aged 3 (Xanthie 13, 157/2.4.26). 27 Xanthie 6, 7.9.36. 28 Yosef Bello also served as treasurer of "Bikur Holim" of the Jewish community of Xanthi. (Xanthi, 26.1.37 and 29.1.37). 29 Xanthie 7, 6.4.38. 30 A. Behar and S. Kalfon, born in Edirne (Andrianoupolis) in 1896, came to Xanthi in 1908 (Xanthie 20, 29/18.11.30). 31 Xanthie 20, 107/9.9.31. 32 S. Ioannidis, Xanthi 1870-1940 [Greek] (Xanthi 1990), p. 142. 33 Marriage certificate between Lina Hayim Hassid, daughter of the honorary chairman of the Jewish community of Xanthi, to an unidentified young man from Volos (Xanthie 7, undated). 34 Komotini 23, 973/3.1.40. 35 M. Gilbert, Atlas of the Holocaust, pp. 150-1. 36 See table cited note 41. 37 Chronika, table of dissolved communities, 142 (1996), p. 62. 38 Based on a topographic map of the city of 1939, on a scale of 1:500. 39 A. Karadimou-Yerolympos, “From Concentration to Diffusion - Jewish quarters in Northern Greek cities at the end of Turkish domination,” Synchrona Themata (52-3, 1994), p. 16. 40 The only information we have is the location of a Jewish property mentioned in a report in the archives of KIS written by Adamandia Negrin (KIS director in charge of properties in Komotini and Xanthi), after her visit on 2628.2.1989. 41 Komotini, document 26-28.2.89 in Central Board of Jewish Communities (KIS) archive. 42 A letter dated May 29, 1926, regarding "the synagogue under construction" and the order of timber in the same month (Xanthie 5, 178/29.5.26 and May 1926). 43 Regarding the demolition of the building, the archives of the Central Board of Jewish Communities (KIS) have detailed correspondence on this issue between KIS, the Mayor of Xanthi, and the 4th Eforia of Late Monuments, Central Macedonia District (Ministry of Culture). The synagogue was initially classified as a work of art, after the YA/YPPED/DILAP/C/2231/115/27.183 (Gazette 162/_/7-4-83), but at the end of 1980s KIS decided to sell the building to raise funds for the purchase of a building to house the new Jewish Museum of Greece. After trying to sell the synagogue as a designated monument, KIS realized that the price was too low for its expectations, even though the Munici-
pality of Xanthi was interested in purchasing the building at the time to turn it into a multi-purpose culture center. In the early 1990s KIS started the process of declassification of the synagogue, by first hiring Dr. I. Solomon, Architect MSC, of the Architecture School of London, Sociology Lecturer, Paris, Assistant Professor of the University of Aegean Studies, to write a report on the synagogue (27.12.90). His report included among others: "After having been asked by the Central Jewish Board, I visited the building of the Old Synagogue of Xanthi, in the city of Xanthi, located between Hadzistavrou street and 4, Anatolikis Thrakis Street. The land plot on which the synagogue is built covers an area of 800 square meters. The area of the building is 400 square meters and has a small building of 12.8 square meters in the front courtyard. The building was constructed in about 1936. [...] The building is in a dilapidated state from a static point of view. It has cracks on the walls and the roof, which is made of concrete, is almost ruined: in most parts, the iron support is distorted; it has become dangerously weak to the extent that large sections may collapse suddenly. The present situation has to be described as extremely dangerous, because water continuously leaks from several sides, detaching the remaining plasters, worsening the distortion on the walls and other materials, causing the expected result, which is their complete collapse. From an architectural point of view, the building is of no significant architectural interest. There are no special morphological elements that would classify it as protected. On the contrary, it is located in an area with full development, enriched with new buildings; therefore, its presence that has no significant architectural importance causes unpleasant impressions to those passing by the area. Conclusions: I declare that the building of the old Synagogue of Xanthi has no architectural interest, it has no morphological elements that would give it some kind of historic importance and its present Static situation is extremely dangerous. The continuous distortion of the structural members will definitely cause the sudden collapse of large sections of the roof. All of these arguments support the lifting of the resolution of the committee that eight years ago had determined that this building is protected. [...].” Signed by Dr. Joseph M. Solomon, Athens. [emphasis by the author] The declassification of the synagogogue was finally achieved by lawyer S. Tsobanoglou in 1991, who acted on behalf of KIS. According to her report (498/18.6.90), her actions were as follows: 1) Plea to the Urban Planning Office of Xanthi, reporting on the danger; 2) Application to the Ministry of Culture, to declassify the building of the Synagogue as protected; 3) Offer to the Municipality of Xanthi to purchase the property; 4) Application to the Municipality of Xanthi to declassify the property; 5) Presentation to the Municipal Board of the Municipality of Xanthi during the meeting of plea to declassify the property; 6) Proceedings to the Urban Plan of Xanthi to declassify the building of the synagogue; 7) Presentation to the Prefect of Xanthi for the declassification of the building; 8) Objective definition of the building; and 9) Sale auction for the building of the synagogue. She concludes her letter as follows: "I hope that the building of the synagogue will soon be sold or declassified as protected, and as a result its exploitation will be possible." The building
44 45 46
was declassified in 1991 (Gazette 978/B/27.11.91). The building was then sold at an auction at the price of 54 million drachmas, to building contractor Nikolaidis. According to laywer Tsobanoglou, “The price was very good ... that is, it was double the price from what it was when offered to the Municipality of Xanthi." (Tsobanoglou report 671/1/24.9.92). In spite of limited action taken by the author at a very last minute to cancel the demolition permit, the building was demolished in the beginning of April 1995. The site of the demolished synagogue was visited by the author on April 13th, 1995. A photograph of the community center was published already in Chronika (September – October 1989), p. 34. According to L. Cohen. Based on the author’s reconstruction of the building, reflecting his surveys of the synagogue on 30-31.10.93 and on 8.7.94, following the collapse of part of the roof, and on photographs in the Jewish Museum of Greece archives. The dimensions of the synagogue are based on a topographic diagram of the synagogue and of the community center next to it, drawn to the scale of 1:100 on 29.5.62 by a local topographer (illegible signature), and a topographic diagram on a scale of 1:200 and 1:500 by the local topographer Panagiot… (illegible stamp) in August 1979. Next to the synagogue stood the building of the community center/school, the dimensions of which were: 13.90 x 17.25 meters (exterior) and 11.50 meters high. The building housing the community center was demolished a few years before the demolition of the synagogue. Examples in all Central Europe, mainly Germany (synagogue of Hamburg, 1842-2, p. 298, and the Reform synagogue in Wroclaw or Breslau, 1866-72, p. 329); in Hungary (synagogue of Bratislava, 1893-5, p.145) and Belgium (synagogue of Rue de Régence, 1872-8, p. 254). See C. Krinsky, Synagogues of Europe (Cambridge, MA, 1985). Rachel Wischnitzer, The Architecture of the European Synagogue (Philadelphia, 1964), p. 124. Examples in France (Bourges, Evreux, Rouen, S. Ouen, Chartres, Notre Dame de Paris, p. 591); Central Europe (St. Stephen in Vienna, p. 718 and St. Elizabeth in Marburg, p. 721) and England (York Minster and Selby Abbey, p. 6667). See B. Fletcher, A History of Architecture (London, 1975). In Greece, this type does not copy Christian Orthodox churches. Rather it reflects an effort to emulate modern trends by the progressive and emancipated Jewish communities of Europe. For example, the French synagogue Rue de la Victoire was a source of inspiration for the design of Beit Shaul Synagogue of the Modiano family in Salonika, at the end of the 19th century. See Wischnitzer, European Synagogues, p. 211 and Th. Mandopoulou-Panagiotopoulou, Religious Architecture in Thessaloniki during the last phase of Turkish domination (1839-1912), [Greek] Thesis, Aristotle University of Salonika 1989, p. 594. The tiles in situ, were stamped "Fratelli Allatini – Salonicco," that is, from the tile factory of the (Jewish) Allatini Brothers (with Italian citizenship) from Salonika. The dimensions of the building are based on author’s reconstruction plans of the building (see Appendix).
Basement floor plan of the synagogue in Alexandroupolis. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Site plan and reconstruction of the late 19th century synagogue in Alexandroupolis. The reconstruction of the synagogue to its pre-Second World War condition and prior to the renovation and alteration of the building in the 1960s, is based on the survey by Engineer G. Giouvanakis in 1958 (courtesy of Christian Estia), and the survey by architect Elias Messinas in 1995. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Main floor plan of the synagogue in Alexandroupolis. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Side elevation (east) reconstruction of the synagogue in Alexandroupolis. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Front elevation (south) reconstruction of the synagogue in Alexandroupolis. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Side elevation (west) reconstruction of the synagogue in Alexandroupolis. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Cross section reconstruction of the synagogue in Alexandroupolis. Looking east towards the heikhal. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Floor plan of Yianniotes (Yianniotiki) Synagogue (1905) in Athens, based on the survey by architect Elias Messinas in 1995. I take this opportunity to thank Mali Levi for assisting in the survey. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Floor plan of Beit Shalom (1941) Synagogue in Athens, based on the survey by architect Elias Messinas in 1995. I take this opportunity to thank Moti [...] who assisted in the survey. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
The Yianniotiki Synagogue is a listed monument by YPEHODE (Gazette 545D/17.5.93) limiting any intervention to the building. In 2005, the Jewish Community of Athens issued a building permit of limited scope to perform minor repairs to the building (permit no. 324/05 and revision 815/06). In 2006, without any additional permit, or the permission of the Ministry of Culture, the Jewish Community of Athens deliberately gutted the entire building — destroying all historic and architectural elements of the building. This illegal and brutal act destroyed an historic monument: the oldest synagogue in Athens still in use, and the site where the Jews of Athens were imprisoned by the Nazis before they were transported to their death in
Auschwitz in 1944. The author became aware of the destruction of this historic monument in August 2006. Immediately, after meticulously reviewing the permit drawings at the Athens permit office, he contacted all relevant legal bodies — including the Jewish Community of Athens, the permit office in Athens and the Ministry of Culture — to immediately stop the work and to repair the building to its previous — historic — state. Unfortunately, the response was either too slow or too inefficient. As a result, the work at the synagogue was concluded, altering and erasing forever any authentic historic trace of the oldest and most important Jewish monument still in use today in Athens.
Main floor plan of the synagogue in Chalkis. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Site plans of the 19th century synagogue in Chalkis. Based on the survey by architect Elias Messinas in September 1993 and November 1994. I take this opportunity to thank the late Minas, Becky and Yosas Kostis for their assistance in the survey. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Second floor plan of the synagogue in Chalkis. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Back elevation (north) of the synagogue in Chalkis. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Side elevation (east) of the synagogue in Chalkis. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Front elevation (south) of the synagogue in Chalkis, from Kotsou street. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Side elevation (west) of the synagogue in Chalkis. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Cross section of the synagogue in Chalkis, looking east towards the heikhal. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Cross section of the synagogue in Chalkis, looking west towards the bimah and the ezrat nashim. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Longitudinal section of the synagogue in Chalkis, looking south. The heikhal is to the left, the bimah is in the center, and the ezrat nashim to the right. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Floor plan of the street level of the 17th century Scuola Greca Synagogue in Corfu, based on the survey by architect Elias Messinas in 1996. I take this opportunity to thank Yvette NahmiaMessinas for assisting in the survey. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
First floor plan of the 17th century Scuola Greca Synagogue in Corfu. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Site plan of the 19th century synagogue in Didimoticho. The reconstruction of the synagogue to its pre-Second World War condition and prior to its demoilition in 1984, is based on the survey by engineer G. Agelidis in 1979 (courtesy of the Central Board of Jewish Communities of Greece), photographs of the building by Timothy deVinney (courtesy of the Jewish Museum of Greece), and the in-situ survey by architect Elias Messinas in April 1994. I take this opportunity to thank Achilleas Saitis for assisting in the survey. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Main floor plan of the reconstruction of the 19th century synagogue in Didimoticho. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Front elevation (west) reconstruction of the 19th century synagogue in Didimoticho. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Side elevation (south) reconstruction of the synagogue in Didimoticho. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Longitudinal section reconstruction of the 19th century synagogue in Didimoticho looking north. The heikhal is to the right. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Back elevation (east) reconstruction of the 19th century synagogue in Didimoticho. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Side elevation (north) reconstruction of the 19th century synagogue in Didimoticho. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Cross section reconstruction of the 19th century synagogue in Didimoticho, looking east towards the heikhal. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Main floor plan of the 19th century synagogue Kahal Kadosh Yashan in Ioannina. The drawing is based on a survey by the author architect Elias Messinas in May 1995. I take this opportunity to thank the people that assisted and enabled this survey: Samuel Koen, Nina Negrin, and surveyors Panagiotis Papadimitriou, Kostas Pappas, and Charis Papadiamantis. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
The synagogues of Ioannina marked on the city plan of 1955. Synagogue Kahal Kadosh Yashan is marked at the top, located inside the city walls, and synagogue Kahal Kadosh Hadash is marked at the bottom, located outside the city walls. (YPEHODE, scale 1:5,000, 1955)
South elevation of the Jewish community center in Kavala, built in the beginning of the 20th century. After the Second World War it was used as a synagogue. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Site plan of the Jewish community center in Kavala, built in the beginning of the 20th century. After the Second World War it was used as a synagogue. The synagogue in Kavala was severely damaged during the Second World War. The drawings are based on the survey by architect Elias Messinas in April 1995. I take this opportunity to thank Mihalis Lihonas for assisting in the survey. The building was demolished recently. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Main floor plan of the Jewish community center in Kavala, built in the beginning of the 20th century. After the Second World War it was used as a synagogue. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
The Jewish community center (top) and the synagogue (bottom) in Kavala marked in black on the city plan of 1939. (YPEHODE, scale 1:5000, 1939)
Main floor plan (main prayer hall) reconstruction of the 19th century Beit El Synagogue in Komotini. The bimah is located in the center of the hall, among the four columns in the center, and the seating is arranged around it. The reconstruction of the synagogue drawings are based on materials in the Jewish Museum of Greece archive, such as a sketch by N. Stavroulakis and photographs by Timothy deVinney of the building in the 1980s, and the in-situ survey by Elias Messinas in October 1993. I take this opportunity to thank Rachel Friedman for assisting in the survey. (Elias V. Messinas Architect) Roof plan reconstruction of the 19th century Beit El Synagogue in Komotini. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Second floor plan (ezrat nashim) reconstruction of the 19th century Beit El Synagogue in Komotini. The stairs leading to the ezrat nashim are in the lower left of the floor plan. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Floor plan diagram indicating the possible historic phases of the development of the Beit El Synagogue in Komotini. The diagram indicates the synagogue main entrance (1), the heikhal (2), bimah (3), ezrat nashim (4), and proximity to the Byzantine walls (5). An attempt to trace the phases of the building may lead to conclude that the synagogue apparently evolved from the original â€œOttomanâ€? core (6), to phase A (7), phase B (8) and the final phase (9), reaching its final form prior to its demolition. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Section reconstruction of Beit El Synagogue in Komotini. Looking towards the heikhal (east). The ezrat nashim is to the right. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Section reconstruction of Beit El Synagogue in Komotini. Looking west towards the ezrat nashim. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Section reconstruction of Beit El Synagogue in Komotini. Looking east towards the ezrat nashim. The heikhal is to the left. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Section reconstruction of Beit El Synagogue in Komotini. Looking west towards the main entrance. The ezrat nashim is to the left and the heikhal is to the right. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
South elevation reconstruction of Beit El Synagogue in Komotini. The windows of the upper story of the ezrat nashim are visible. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
North elevation reconstruction of Beit El Synagogue in Komotini. The main entrance of the synagogue is visible in the center. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
West elevation reconstruction of the Beit El Synagogue in Komotini. The windows of the upper story of the ezrat nashim are visible. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
East elevation reconstruction of Beit El Synagogue in Komotini. The projection of the heikhal is visible in the center and the entrance to the ezrat nashim to the left. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Floor plan of the main floor of the synagogue in Kos. The suggested location of the heikhal and bimah is based on architectural elements of the synagogue, such as the decorative band on the floor which marks the center of the room, and the apse on the east wall, containing the heikhal. The ezrat nashim was located on the gallery above the entrance, and accessed from a door, at street level, to the north. The morphology of the floor plan is clearly inspired by the Temple in Jerusalem. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Site plan of the synagogue in Kos built in 1934. Based on the survey by architect Elias Messinas in August 1996. The building serves today as a multipurpose hall for the Municipality of Kos. I take this opportunity to thank Yvette Nahmia-Messinas for assisting in the survey. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Site plan of Etz Hayim Synagogue in Larisa built in 1861. Based on the survey by architect Elias Messinas in February, June and September 1995. I take this opportunity to thank Yvette Nahmia-Messinas and Albertos Koen for assisting in the survey. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Main floor plan of the Synagogue Etz HaHayim in Larisa. The Jewish community center is adjacent on the south side of the synagogue. The floor plan of the synagogue is a variation of the “Ottoman” type. The center is marked with 10 columns, instead of the 4 columns, of the typical “Ottoman” type. The gallery balcony over the entrance is a later addition, dating circa 1930s. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Second floor plan of the Synagogue Etz HaHayim in Larisa. The original ezrat nashim is adjacent on the south side of the synagogue — no longer in use. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Front elevation (west) of Etz HaHayim Synagogue in Larisa. The main entrance was altered with an additional structure dated circa 1930s. The Jewish community center is to the right.(Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Back elevation (east) of Etz Hayim Synagogue in Larisa. The Jewish community center is to the left. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Side elevation (north) of Etz Hayim Synagogue in Larisa. This elevation maintains the architectural character of the original building.(Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Longitudinal section of Etz Hayim Synagogue and Jewish community center inLarisa. Looking west towards the main entrance. The Jewish community center is to the left. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Longitudinal section of Etz HaHayim Synagogue in Larisa. Looking east towards the heikhal. The Jewish community center is to the right. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Cross section of Etz HaHayim Synagogue in Larisa. Looking south towards the arched openings of the original ezrat nashim on the second floor. The heikhal is to the left, the bimah in the center, and the main entrance is to the right. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Cross section of Etz HaHayim Synagogue in Larisa. Looking north. The heikhal is to the right, the bimah in the center, and the main entrance is to the left. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Longitudinal section of Etz HaHayim Synagogue in Larisa. Looking east towards the heikhal. The Jewish community center is to the right. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Patras Based on unpublished archival material in the archive of the Central Board of Jewish Communities (KIS) the site of the synagogue in Patras was 300 square meters. It was located on the third block of the lower city of Patras, on 34 (former 36) Pandanassis street. In 1977 the building was donated to the Jewish community of Athens (contract 68.721/17.8.1977 by John M. Rotis, notary, Athens), under the condition that if "a new building was built, then part of it should take the form of a Museum and a synagogue.â€? On October 25, 1970, after the community of Patras was declared "inactive" (KIS document 80085/19.1.70), the property of the community was placed at the care of a special Administrative Committee, headed by Joseph Moissis. Apart from the synagogue and the Jewish cemetery, the remaining property of the Jewish Community of Patras included included five (5) Seferei Torah, prayer books, two (2) pairs of rimonim, one (1) silver pointer, seven (7) shadayiot, one bookcase, desks, a clock, two (2) Greek flags and (1) Israeli flag, talithot, and oil-lamps (KIS document of 25.10.70). According to available data, the synagogue in Patras was demolished and a new apartment building was built in its place. A synagogue and a museum were never built in Patras, though. It is worth mentioning that it is thanks to the efforts of N. Stavroulakis, former director of the Jewish Museum of Greece, the furniture of the synagogue, including the wooden ornamented bimah, and the heikhal were saved, and can be seen today on display at the Jewish Museum of Greece.
Schematic plan reconstruction of the main floor (prayer hall) of the synagogue in Patras. The main prayer hall was located on the second floor of the synagogue building, following the Italian tradition. The reconstruction of the synagogue to its pre-Second World War condition and prior to its demolition in the 1980s, is based on photographs of the synagogue interior at the Jewish Museum of Greece, taken by Timothy deVinney in 1978, prior to the demolition of the synagogue, and the survey by architect Elias Messinas of the furnishings of the synagoguepreserved at the Jewish Museum of Greece in 1996. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Main floor plan of the Kahal Kadosh Shalom Synagogue in Rhodes built in 1575, based on the survey by architect Elias Messinas in August 1996. I take this opportunity to thank Yvette Nahmia-Messinas for assisting in the survey. I also want to thankâ€”belatedlyâ€”the late Lucia Modiano, keeper of the synagogue, who shared her memories of the life of the Jewish Community of Rhodes prior to the Second World War, when the community numbered 2,200 people. During the Holocaust 2,000 Jews from Rhodes were annihilated â€” more than 90% of the community population. The community was declared inactive in 1970. Several Jewish families are still living in Rhodes today. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Front elevation (south) of Monastirlis Synagogue in Salonika on Syngrou street.(Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Longitudinal section of Monastirlis Synagogue in Salonika, looking west towards the side entrance and the ezrat nashim on the second floor. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Side elevation (west) of Monastirlis Synagogue in Salonika facing the side courtyard. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Longitudinal section of Monastirlis Synagogue in Salonika, looking east towards the heikhal side entrance and the ezrat nashim. The seating of the ezrat nashim is seen in section on the second floor of the side aisles. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Main floor plan of Monastirlis Synagogue in Salonika. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Left: Second floor plan of the ezrat nashim of Monastirlis Synagogue in Salonika. Based on the survey by architect Elias Messinas. Assisted by an engineerâ€™s plan provided by the Jewish Community of Salonika. I take this opportunity to thank Moisis Eskenazi and Leon Levi for assisting in the survey. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Longitudinal section of Monastirlis Synagogue in Salonkia, looking east towards the heikhal. The seating of the ezrat nashim is seen in section on the second floor of the side aisles. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Diagrammatic floor plan of Yoshua Avraham Salem Old Age Home in Salonika, with the location of the synagogue room to the left of the main entrance. Based on the survey by architect Elias Messinas in April 1995. Assisted by the architectural drawings of the building provided by the Jewish Community of Salonika. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Cross section of Monastirlis Synagogue in Salonika, looking south towards the main entrance. The heikhal and bimah are to the left and the side courtyard to the right. The ezrat nashim is seen on the second floor. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Floor plan of Yoshua Avraham Salem Old Age Home synagogue room in Salonika. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Cross section of Monastirlis Synagogue in Salonika, looking north. The heikhal and bimah are to the right and the side courtyard to the left. The ezrat nashim is seen on the second floor. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Interior elevation of the Yoshua Avraham Salem Synagogue room in the Jewish Old Age Home in Salonika looking west towards the heikhal and bimah. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Site plan of Beit Shaul Synagogue in Salonika, built in 1896, by architect Vitaliano Poselli. It was destroyed by the Nazis in 1943 following the deportation of the Jewish community. The attempted reconstruction of the architectural drawings of the synagogue to its pre-Second World War condition by architect Elias Messinas, is based on the city map of Salonika circa 1930s (YPEHODE, scale 1:500, undated) and photographs of the synagogue circa 1930s in the Avraham and David Recanati Collection. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Main floor plan reconstruciton of Beit Shaul Synagogue in Salonika. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Second floor plan reconstruction of the ezrat nashim of Beit Shaul Synagogue in Salonika. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Front elevation (west) reconstruction of Beit Shaul Synagogue in Salonika. The design of the synagogue is clearly influenced by the Rue de la Victoire Synagogue in Paris, built in 1874 by architect Alfred Aldrophe. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Back elevation (east) reconstruction of Beit Shaul Synagogue in Salonika. The projection of the heikhal is visible in the center. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Side elevation (south) reconstruction of Beit Shaul Synagogue in Salonika. The projection of the heikhal is visible to the right. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Longitudinal section reconstruction of Beit Shaul Synagogue in Salonika looking south. The heikhal and bimah are to the left. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Cross section reconstruction of Beit Shaul Synagogue in Salonika looking east towards the heikhal and bimah. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Cross section detail reconstruction of Beit Shaul Synagogue in Salonika looking east towards the heikhal. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Diagrammatic floor plan of the office building on Vassileos Irakliou Street in Salonika. Yad Lezikaron Synagogue is located in this building. Based on a floor plan provided by the Jewish Community of Salonika, and the survey by architect Elias Messinas in April and June 1995.(Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Interior elevation of Yad Lezikaron Synagogue in Salonika looking east towards the heikhal, which belonged to Ohel Yossef (Kehila Sarfati) Synagogue, moved to Ashkenazi (Burla) Synagogue when the previous synagogue was demolished, and finally to Yad Lezikaron when Ashkenazi Synagogue was demolished. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Main floor plan of Lezikaron Synagogue in Salonika. Based on the survey by architect Elias Messinas in April and June 1995. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Interior elevation of Yad Lezikaron Synagogue in Salonika looking south. The heikhal is to the left, the bimah in the center and the ezrat nashim balcony to the right above the entrance. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Site plan of the Yavanim Synagogue in Trikala, built in the 19th century, based on the survey by architect Elias Messinas in May 1994. I take this opportunity to thank Telis Kapetas for assisting in the survey. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Main floor plan of the Yavanim Synagouge in Trikala, built in the 19th century. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Diagrammatic floor plan of the main prayer hall of the synagogue in Veroia built in the 19th century. A movable table, placed in the center of the four columns, served as the bimah in recent years. The plan is a typical evolution of the â€œOttomanâ€? type. (P.M. Koufopoulos Architects and Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Diagram showing the possible phases of the evolution of the synagogue in Veroia. Legend: Phase 1: (1) (Main entrance) (2) Prayer hall (3) Ezrat nashim (4) Access to the mikveh (5) Heikhal (6) Bimah (7) Benches. Phase 2: (1) Main entrance (2) Prayer hall (3) Ezrat nashim (4) Access to the mikveh (5) Heikhal (6) Bimah 7) Benches (8) Stairs leading to ezrat nashim (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Main floor plan survey of the synagogue in Veroia in October 1995, prior to the restoration of the building. The lines to the right indicate the different floors (wooden planks and terrazzo floor tiles in the center). (P.M. Koufopoulos Architects and Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Basement plan survey of the synagogue in Veroia in October 1995, prior to the restoration of the building. The rectangle to the right is the basement of the original core, while the open room to the left is the basement of the later extension. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Ceiling plan survey of the synagogue in Veroia in October 1995, prior to the restoration of the building. The octagon in the center right is in the center of the four-column ceiling, and the octagon at the top may have been above the original bimah. (P.M. Koufopoulos Architects and Elias V. Messinas Architect)
East elevation survey of the synagogue in Veroia in October 1995, prior to the resotration of the building. The stone masonry elevation is facing the courtyard of the Jewish quarter. (P.M. Koufopoulos Architects and Elias V. Messinas Architect)
West elevation survey of the synagogue in Veroia in October 1995, prior to the restoration of the building. The three windows in the center mark the outline of the original elevation. The later construction is separated from the earlier phase by the damage on the exterior plaster. (P.M. Koufopoulos Architects and Elias V. Messinas Architect)
North elevation survey of the synagogue in Verois in October 1995, prior to the restoration of the building. The outline on the plaster marks the limits of the ezrat nashim prior to its alteration at an unknown date. (P.M. Koufopoulos Architects and Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Cross section survey of the synagogue in Veroia in October 1995, prior to the restoration of the building. Looking north. The door in the center left was the entrance to the synagogue at a previous phase, and behind the windows in the center was the ezrat nashim; their wooden lattic is still visible under the plaster surface. The heikhal is to the right. The dome (left) was most probably over the original bimah. (P.M. Koufopoulos Architects and Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Cross section survey of the synagogue in Veroia in Octopber 1995, prior to the restoration of the building. Looking south towards the balcony of the most recent ezrat nashim. (P.M. Koufopoulos Architects and Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Longitudinal section survey of the synagogue in Veroia in October 1995, prior to the restoration of the building. Looking east towards the heikhal. The outline of the previous phase of the roof is visible in the attic. This clearly gives the outline of the original core of the synagogue — a typical “Ottoman” type, i.e. a rectangle core with four columns in the middle, and the enlargement of the building towards the south. In the center left is the heikhal and to the far right, in section, is the ezrat nashim balcony. (P.M. Koufopoulos Architects and Elias V. Messinas Architect)
East elevation preservation proposal of the synagogue in Veroia in 1997. The preservation of the building was intended to both respect its historic character and restore certain elements (such as the entrance portico) with morphology compatible to the traditional character of the building and the tradition of the snaf. This proposal was not implemented. (P.M. Koufopoulos Architects and Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Main floor plan of the synagogue in Volos. The bimah is in the center of the hall. The morphology of the floor plan is clearly inspired by the Temple in Jerusalem. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Site plan of the synagogue in Volos, built in 1960 to replace the earlier synagogue (18651870) destroyed during the earthquake of 1955. Based on the survey by architect Elias Messinas in June 1995. I take this opportunity to thank Rafael Frezis for assisting in the survey. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Second floor (ezrat nashim) plan of the synagogue in Volos. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Xanthi Main floor plan reconstruction of the synagogue in Xanthi built in 1926 and demolished in 1995. The synagogue is to the left and to the right is the building that served as the Jewish school and community center built at the same time and demolished shortly before the synagogue. The reconstruction of the synagogue to its pre-Second World War condition, is based on the in situ survey by architect Elias Messinas in October 1993 and July 1994, verbal descriptions of the building, photographs of the synagogue circa 1980 by Timothy deVinney (Jewish Museum of Greece), and a fragment sketch of the building by N. Stavroulakis located in the archive of the Jewish Museum of Greece. The reconstruction of the Jewish community school/community center is based on a survey in 1962, located in the archives of the Central Board of Jewish Communities of Greece (KIS).(Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Second floor (ezrat nashim) plan reconstruction of the synagogue in Xanthi. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
The Jewish community center (top) and the synagogue (bottom) in Xanthi marked in black on the city plan of 1939. (YPEHODE, scale 1:500, 1939)
Longitudinal section reconstruction of the synagogue in Xanthi, looking south towards the ezrat nashim balcony. The heikhal is to the left and the main entrance to the right. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Cross section reconstruction of the synagogue in Xanthi, looking west towards the main entrance. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Cross section reconstruction of the synagogue in Xanthi, looking east towards the heikhal. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Side elevation (north) of the synagogue in Xanthi facing the Jewish school and community center, built in 1926 and demolished in 1995. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Front elevation (west) reconstruction of the synagogue in Xanthi. This elevation was the main entrance facing a courtyard. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Side elevation (south) reconstruction of the synagogue in Xanthi. This elevation was facing Anatolikis Thrakis Street. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Side elevation (south) reconstruction of the synagogue in Xanthi. This elevation was facing Hatzistavrou Street, a main street in Xanthi leading to the central covered market of Xanthi. (Elias V. Messinas Architect)
Glossary Aba Blue felt, used for the uniforms of the Jenissaries.
Ezrat nashim Separate, often raised, women section in the synagogue; also called women’s gallery.
Ahavat Re’im Charity institutions. Aggadah (Haggadah) The prayer book of the holiday of Pessah.
Faux-marble Artificial marble, meaning a painting technique which renders a surface to resemble a marble surface.
Agudah Association or Guild.
Gabai Treasurer of the assembly administering the Jewish community.
Apanaxi A low door in the property wall that connects two houses and permits secure communication, invisible from the street.
Gabela Indirect tax paid by the members of a Jewish community. Gemilut Hassadim Charity institutions.
Ashkenazim Jews coming from Central and Eastern Europe (Ashkenaz= Germany). Astreha The projection of the roof of the traditional Veroian house. Bagdati A light interior wall construction which consists of a timber frame, covered with laths and finished in plaster. Beit Din Religious Court.
Gregos (Greeks) Refers to the Romaniotes. Gyftokarfa Large-headed metal nails that reinforced the wooden gates of the traditional Veroian house courtyard gate. Hayati The roofed balcony of the traditional Veroian houses. Halakhah An accepted decision in Rabbinical law; also refers to those parts of the Talmud concerned with legal maters.
Beit El House of God. Hamam Turkish bath. Beit Knesset The synagogue. Beit Midrash Religious school.
Haskamot The decisions that a local Rabbi issues, as Head of the Rabbinical Court
Bikur Holim The clinic / hospital of the Jewish community.
Havlu Towel used at the Turkish baths; also called makrama.
Bimah The place in the synagogue at which the Torah is placed and read; in the Romaniote synagogues it is placed against the western wall and in the Sephardic in the center of the hall (also called tevah, or reader's desk or platform).
Hazan (pl. hazanim) A trained religious reader, who conducted the prayer in the synagogue. Heder Elementary school.
Conversos Term applied in Spain and Portugal to converted Jews, and sometimes more loosely to their descendants; also called crypto-Jews and Marranos. Djizia Personal tax in the form of commodities. Eclecticism Architectural style, using elements of different styles and periods.
Heikhal ha-kodesh (Éhal ha-kodesh) The ark in which the Torah scrolls are kept in the synagogue; it is located against the wall facing Jerusalem (in Greece, towards the East or the South-East). Also called Aron ha-kodesh. Hippodamian model Geometric organization of city blocks and streets, used by Hippodamus from Miletus, in the end of the 6th century BCE.
Eretz Israel The Land of Israel. Isnaf or snaf Builders guild. Etz Hada’at Tree of Knowledge. Etz Hayim Tree of Life (also Etz Hahayim).
Josef Caro (1488-1575) Spanish Talmudist in Ottoman Palestine, author of Shulhan Arukh.
Judeo-Spanish Language that derives from Spanish, enriched with Hebrew influences, spoken by the Sephardic Jews. Kaldirim The pebble-paved street of a town. Kendi Gelen The Jews that settled on their own free will in Istanbul. Kessef Mishna Josef Caro’s Commentary on the Mishnah Torah of Maimonides. Koudarei The craftsmen (carpenters, masons, builders, etc.) members of an isnaf.
Parohet Curtain adorned with rich decoration, which covers the doors of the heikhal in the synagogue. Payanta The diagonal wooden members that reinforced the wooden frame of the chatma wall. Peratis Metal member that locked the courtyard gate of a house from the inside; also called ambara. Petsia Community tax paid by the members of the Jewish community. Piyutim Religious poems.
Las Incantadas The idols.
Plokaria A light wall construction made of wooden posts and thin wooden strips knitted horizontally.
Leha Dodi Mystical hymn written by Solomon Alkabetz.
Portico A roofed structure that forms the entrance on a façade.
Makramas Bath towel.
Romaniotes The Greek-speaking Jews of the Byzantine Empire.
Maíamad Hakahal The board that administers a Jewish community.
Sahnisi The projecting volume of a façade, similar to a bay-window.
Ma'aminim The Jews that converted to Islam, following the example of their leader, the pseudo-messiah Shabbetai Zevi; also called Dönme.
Sefaradim The Judeo-Spanish-speaking Jews that came to Greece from the Iberian Peninsula (Sefarad = Spain).
Marbitz The Rabbi — leader of the Jewish community.
Sefer Torah (pl. Sifrei Torah or Sefarim) Torah scrolls.
Melamed The teacher of the Jewish community.
Shohet Ritual butcher.
Menorah The seven-branch candelabra.
Shulhan Arukh The most accepted code of Jewish halakhah written by Josef Caro.
Mikveh Jewish ritual bath consisting of a facility employing fresh-flowing water, used for the women's monthly cleansing ritual; also used for analogous rituals by men.
Sürgünlü The Jews that were forced to settle in Istanbul.
Minderi A fixed wooden bench which is constructed along the interior walls of a room.
Talmud Compendium of the discussions on the Mishna by generations of scholars and jurists in many academies over a period several centuries. The Jerusalem (or Palestinian) Talmud mainly contains the discussions of the sages of Eretz Israel; the Babylonian Talmud incorporates the parallel discussion in the Babylonian academies.
Minhag Romania Ancient religious ritual followed by the Romaniotes.
Talmud Torah Religious school and synagogue.
Mishnah The earliest codification of Jewish oral law.
Tannaim The rabbinic teachers of the Mishnaic period.
Mishneh Torah Commentary on the Talmud by Maimonides.
Tanzimat The reforms introduced in the Ottoman Empire in 1839 and 1856 giving all the religious minorities equal rights to the Muslims.
Millet “Religious Nation” for minorities in the Ottoman Caliphate.
Mohel The performer of circumcisions. Parnas Chairman of the assembly administering the Jewish community.
Torah Handwritten parchment scroll of the Pentateuch kept in the synagogue ark (see Heikal ha-kodesh) and read from at Monday, Thursday, and Sabbath services.
Tosefta A non-canonical collection of teachings of the Tannaim, contemporary to the Mishna.
Abbreviations AIU Alliance IsraĂŠlite Universelle
Tsatmas A light wooden structure that consists of vertical wooden posts and horizontal canes knitted around them; it is finished in plaster. In Veroia it is also called dolma-bulme. Yagli A plaster mixture of lime, sand and goat-hair.
KIS (Greek) Kentriko Israilitiko Symvoulio Central Board of Jewish Communities of Greece. The umbrella organization of the Jewish communities of Greece OPAIE (Greek) Organismos Perithalpsis Aporon Israiliton Ellados Organization for the Rehabilitation of the Jews in Greece
Yeshiva Rabbinical seminary. Znar-ia Horizontal wooden ties, used in stone-masonry construction.
YPEHODE (Greek) Ypourgeio Perivallontos Horotaxias kai Dimosion Ergon Ministry of Environment Urban Planning and Public Works
bibliography JEWISH SOURCES Blackman, P., Mishnayoth-Kodashim, London, Mishna Press, 1954 ___________ , Mishnayoth-Taharoth, London, Mishna Press, 1955 ___________ , Mishnayoth-Order Moed (vol. II), London, Mishna Press, 1977 ___________, Mishnayoth-Order Taharoth (vol. VI), London, Mishna Press, 1977 Mishneh Torah, Warsaw-Vilna, Am Haolam Press (undated) Shulhan Aruch, Jerusalem, Mahon Hatam Sofer, 1966 The New Testament, Cambridge, Univeristy Press, 1966 Talmud Bavli (Babylonian Talmud), Jerusalem, 1976 The Babylonian Talmud, Rabbi Dr. I. Epstein, London, Soncino Press, 1938 Tur (volume Orah Haim), Jerusalem, Mahon Hatam Sofer, 1965
MISCELLANEOUS SOURCES Tribute to Salonika, Archaeology (Athens, issue 7, May 1983) (Greek) Balkan Traditional Architecture (Athens: Melissa, 1993) (Greek) In Memoriam (Athens: The Central Board of Jewish Communities, 1979) (Greek) Greek Traditional Architecture (Athens: Melissa, 1989) (Greek) Encyclopedia Judaica The Intellectual Contribution of the Jews of Salonika, Paratiritis (Salonika, issue 25-26, 1994) (Greek) Salonika in Maps (Salonika: Association of Survey Engineers, 1985) (Greek) The Jews of Salonika – Memories, Anti (Athens, issue 543, 21.1.1994) (Greek) The Jews of Greece – a study in neo-Greek minorities, Sihrona Themata (Athens, issue 52-3, 7-12.1994) (Greek) The Jews in Greece: Matters of History, proceedings (Athens: Gavrielidis, 1995) (Greek) Proposals for new Urban Planning (Athens: YPXOP, 1984) (Greek) The Jewish Encyclopedia Chronika (Athens: The Central Board of Jewish Communities—KIS) (Greek) Ta Nea mas (Athens: The Central Board of Jewish Communities—KIS) (Greek)
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A Study of Synagogues in Macedonia and Thrace • Elias V. Messinas • ASF/Sephardic House & Bloch
Elias V. Messinas is a graduate of the Yale School of Architecture and Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem. His doctorate thesis at the National Technical University of Athens, under the guidance of Prof. Giorgos Sariyiannis, Prof. Doron Chen, and Prof. Aleka Karadimou-Gerolympou, examined the Greek synagogues, their architecture, and their relationship to the urban fabric of the historic city and the Jewish quarter (15th-20th century). He further expanded his research supported by an Ally Kaufmann Fellowship at the Technion Institute of Technology Faculty of Architecture, under the guidance of Prof. Daniel Shefer. He has been studying and documenting the Greek synagogues since 1993. He has lectured, published, and exhibited his research on the synagogues in the United States, Israel and Europe. In 1995 he initiated and coordinated the initial phases of the preservation program of the synagogue in Veroia in cooperation with the Municipality of Veroia, and the support of the Getty Grant Program. In 1997 he published the book The Synagogues of Salonika and Veroia in Athens, Greece, and created Kol haKEHILA the newsletter and website for the Jewish Monuments of Greece. Since 1995 he has developed an expertise in environmental preservation and ecological buildings. He has pursued research at the Desert Architecture Unit of the Ben Gurion University on the retrofit of energy-saving solutions in existing buildings. His research was supported by an exchange program of the Ministry of Education of Greece and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel under the guidance of Prof. Isaac Meir. He also attended the M.Sc. interdisciplinary program “Environment and Development” at the National Technical University of Athens under the guidance of Prof. Dimitris Rokos. Since 2005 he is the founding chairman and managing director of international environmental NGO ECOWEEK with activity in Europe and the Middle East. He shares his time between Aegina and Jerusalem, where he practices and teaches “green” Architecture and Design and is a consultant for “green” buildings, among others, to the Ministry of Environmental Protection of Israel.
The Synagogues of Greece
THE SYNAGOGUES OF GREECE: A STUDY OF SYNAGOGUES IN MACEDONIA AND THRACE is the result of nearly two decades of research and in-situ work by the author, an Ivy League educated architect, and an offspring of Greek Jewry himself. The manuscript was based on the author’s Ph.D. dissertation at the National Technical University of Athens, Greece and a post-doctoral Ally Kaufmann Fellowship research at the Technion Institute of Technology, Israel. Based on unpublished archival sources, this book traces the history of the synagogues, the Jewish quarters and Jewish communities in Greece, from antiquity, through Byzantine and Ottoman times, contemporary history and the Holocaust, when 87% of Greek Jewry was annihilated. Being the first — and so far, the only — extensive and comprehensive study and survey of the synagogues of Greece, this book fills a large gap in the documentation, knowledge and understanding of Jewish life and Architecture in Greece, and — hopefully — sets the ground for further study and research. The book is based on in-situ surveys, and to a large extent on unpublished documents from the pre-Second World War archives of the Jewish communities of Greece now at the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. It is also based on archival research around the world – including Alliance Israelite Universelle, Weiner Library, Beth Hatefutsoth, Yad Ben Zvi, Joint Distribution Committee, Central Board of Jewish Communities of Greece (KIS), Jewish Museum of Greece, and others. The reader will learn about the nearly 100 synagogues and numerous Jewish quarters standing in Greece before the Second World War, most of which have since been lost. Also, will find names, family and community ties, places of residence, and unpublished facts on Jewish social and professional life in Greece, before the Holocaust nearly erased two thousand years of flourishing Jewish life in Greece. Today, with no more than 5,000 Jews in Greece, there are less than 10 synagogues standing and only a few surviving Jewish quarters.
The Synagogues of Greece A Study of Synagogues in Macedonia and Thrace Elias V. Messinas Edited by Sam Gruber Published for American Sephardi Federation (ASF)/Sephardic House by Bloch Publishing Company, Inc. in association with Bowman & Cody Academic Publishing
THE SYNAGOGUES OF GREECE: A STUDY OF SYNAGOGUES IN MACEDONIA AND THRACE is the result of nearly two decades of research and in-situ work by...
Published on Jan 10, 2011
THE SYNAGOGUES OF GREECE: A STUDY OF SYNAGOGUES IN MACEDONIA AND THRACE is the result of nearly two decades of research and in-situ work by...