How old is the Jewish presence in Greece? This question is quite complicated, as there was a strong interaction between the Greek and the Jewish community, even from ancient times. That is why Jewish monuments in Greece are some of the most important sites of Hebrew legacy in Europe! In this article, we have prepared for you a list of themost important Jewish monuments to visit in Greece, that are great examples of the Hebrew century old presence in the country.
Some History First!
The first wave of Jewish immigration was during the Hellenistic times! Since then, this community was settled in the Greek geographical space and the members of it were called Romaniotes, a term indicating their long-term presence in Greece. The second wave of Hebrew immigration took place during the early years of Ottoman rule in Greece. This population originated from the Ibiric Peninsula and arrived in Greece after their exile from Spain and Portugal!
The members of this Jewish community were called Sephardim and most of them settled in big cities in northern Greece, with great commercial significance, such as Thessaloniki and Kavala. Sephardim brought with them their own culture and language, along with their occupations! The most common among them was trading, manufacturing, printing and financing, making their contribution to the economic growth of the areas that they were settled in, quite important!
Although, Jewish population had sporadic hardships depending on the governments of the time, they continued thriving in the area reaching a population of approximately 80.000 until 1940, when the persecution of the Jews in Greece but also all over the world, took place. In a very short period of time, 87% of the Greek- Jewish population was perished in Nazi Concentration Camps!
Today, we can honor the presence of Hebrews in Greece by visiting the following The Jewish monuments of great historical value all over the country!
Jewish Museum of Athens
The Jewish Museum of Athens is located on Nikis Street, in the area of Plaka. The museum was built in 1977 and its purpose is to collect, preserve and exhibit findings of the Jewish legacy in Greece! The museum’s collection consists of religious and everyday objects of the Jewish life. It also has many documents and great photographic material to display. The museum’s operating hours are between 9pm-2.30am.
Beth Shalom Synagogue
Beth Shalom Synagogue is the main synagogue of Athens, Greece. It was built in 1935 from the Sephardim community of the city. Its architectural style is austere, influenced by Greek antiquity and it was made of white Pentelic marble. The building was renovated in 1975.
As it was stated, Thessaloniki was the most important center for the Jewish population of Greece, having a great contribution into making Thessaloniki a cosmopolitan city of great commercial importance! Here are only some of the many Jewish sites that you should visit in Thessaloniki.
Jewish museum of Thessaloniki
The Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki located in the very center of the city, where the Jewish quarter used to be, its existence is a silent witness to the great Jewish presence in it. The museum is housed in the old office of the Jewish newspaper L’Independant and it was one of the few Jewish buildings that were saved after the great fire, that took place in Thessaloniki in 1917.
The Jewish museum exhibits a timeline of Sephardim Jewish life, starting from their immigration to the city in the 15th century and ending with the inhumane annihilation of their population during the Holocaust! Among the exhibits of the museum are some tombstones from the old Jewish Cemetery of the city, which was destroyed during the German occupation. The museum also exhibits objects from the every-day and religious life of the Hebrew population of Thessaloniki along with photographs and various documents.
Modiano Market is an enclosed market in the center of Thessaloniki. It was built, after the great fire of Thessaloniki between 1922 and 1925 next to the old Talmud Torah synagogue, a place of great religious significance for Jewish. Modiano Market took its name from the architect Eli Modiano, a member of the Italo-Jewish Modiano family who owned the area. The market covers an area of several blocks, and it remains a place of great commercial and cultural significance in Thessaloniki!
Greek transfer Services give you the chance to explore the Jewish heritage of Thessaloniki in a magnificent day tour in the most important Jewish Landmarks of the city!