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The oldest synagogue in Greece

June 4, 2010 23:09

Aside from the house of worship, there are few visible signs of a two-millennia-long Jewish presence except for a simple, black marble memorial.

JEWS LIVED on the island from the second century B

rhodes synagogue 311. (photo credit:Evey Ruskin and Dan Izenberg)

On our first day in Rhodes, after tiring of the stores on Socrates Street, we turned, by sheer luck, on to Dossiadou Street and soon found ourselves in front of the beautifully restored, 16th-century Kahal Shalom Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in Greece.

The spacious, Sephardi-style house of worship has a beautiful wooden bima in the middle of the men’s section and an exquisite, traditional white pebble floor with black pebble decorations. Behind the synagogue is a museum, funded by far-flung descendants of the Jewish community, displaying textiles and documents which explain the daily lives and the rituals of the Jews of Rhodes.

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There was an almost continuous Jewish presence in Rhodes from as early as the second century BCE. until July 23, 1944, when Nazi troops rounded up and deported more than 1,600 members of the community (except for 42 who held Turkish citizenship). All but 151 died in Auschwitz.

Aside from the synagogue, there are few visible signs of a two-millennia-long Jewish presence except for a simple, black marble memorial in several languages in the Square of the Martyrs. However, one narrow street flanked by a park on both sides is named Alhadef Street after a wealthy Jewish community leader who donated his lands to the city. And in a nearby fish restaurant, a stone plaque engraved with Hebrew letters indicates that the building was once a home for Jewish girls.
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