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IOANNINA: PDF Print E-mail Ioanninahe Jewish Cemetery has tombstones dating from the 13th century. 25,365 sq. m. "Some years ago, the local Jewish Community transferred an area of 6,000 sq. m. of the cemetery to the Municipality of Ioannina. the Municipality (claiming the change of the city plan) has trespassed on a large part of the cemetery, trying to expropriate the area. The Central Board of the Jewish Communities of Greece, with the cooperation of the local Jewish Community, has strongly reacted to the Municipalities actions. The case is still open. The surrounding wall of the cemetery is not high, making it an easy target for vandals. It was vandalized in 1992. ...Reconstruction of hte surrounding wall, cleaning of the area, conservation works of 1,000 tombstones. The tombstones of historical interest need to be recorded. The cemetery must be graveled as well." [January 2001]

Association of Friends of Greek Jewry (AFGJ) and Kehila Kedosha Janina are supporting the restoration of the Jewish cemetery. Funds were given for the repair of the wall (heightened to prevent vandalism.) The wall has been completed along with the cement walkway. Cleanup of the cemetery continues. It is hard to estimate the final cost of the project since the present overgrowth makes it impossible to know how many tombstones are in the cemetery. Unfortunately, in Spring 2002, the cemetery was vandalized again; and the municipality is investigating whether this was an act of anti-Semitism. Source: Marcia Haddad Ikonomopoulos, email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , President: AFGJ [December 2002]


Synagogues Without Jews: photos. "The oldest synagogue in Ioannina existed in the 9th century C.E, and stood until 1810. This may be evidence of the initial Jewish settlement here, or, Jews may have arrived, as legend tells us, soon after the destruction of the 2nd temple.After various and many invasions by different nomadic tribes, the province of Epirus and its capital Ioannina fell to Ottoman rule from 1430 until 1913. As non-Moslems, Jews were second-class citizens; they paid a head tax to qualify for property ownership and paid twice the customs duties as Moslems did at the borders. On the other hand, they were free to worship and to organize their community with considerable autonomy.As adherents to a monotheistic faith, their status was somewhat raised and they were entitled to become diplomats, an occupation strict Muslims abhorred. Travel throughout the Ottoman Empire allowed contact with other Jewish communities and enabled some Ioannina Jews to become bankers and traders. Others became tinsmiths, silver and goldsmiths; dyers, shoemakers and manufacturers of veilsdobromyl, belts and embroidered garments.

Sultan Bayazid welcomed to his Ottoman lands the wealthy and educated Sephardi Jews, expelled from Spain and Sicily in 1492. In Ioannina, these Sephardim thought themselves superior to the indiginous Romaniot Jews and initially kept aloof. Eventually, the two communities merged; Sephardi prayer books dominated, although some Romaniot prayers and customs were retained, but Greek became the common language.With the decline of the Ottoman Empire, the death of Suleiman the Great in 1566 marked a sharp transition. Successor sultans were less tolerant; Jews were now forbidden ostentatious manners in public---dressing in prohibited costume could result in expulsion.

A kehillah of 800 was recorded in Ioannina in 1670, when 160 families engaged in silk manufacture. Rabbis visiting from Palestine were warmly welcomed and often stayed for extended periods. The rule of the cunning and cruel Ali Pasha from 1788 to 1822 brought a period of prosperity for Ioannina and the kehillah. Ioannina developed as a commercial center and  literary capital. Ali Pasha allowed the Jews religious freedom and appointed Jews to his council.The kehillah was originally contained in the kastro, the old walled city, with its synagogue, the Kahal Kodesh Yashan. When the community grew it expanded outside the city wall. This happened in 1540 when the kehillah numbered 5000 and again in 1841 when the community included more than 250 families. The Kahal Kodesh Hadash synagogue of 1841 was built outside the wall on the foundations of one from the 16th century.

Christian - Jewish friction, both religiously and politically based, escalated throughout the 19th century causing 1,500 of the 4,000 Jews living in Ioannina at the beginning of the 20th century to emigrate by 1906. Only the poorest of the kehillah remained.  Continuing economic difficulties and the lure of better opportunities caused many younger Jews to continue emigrating from Ioannina and Greece so that by World War II only some 2000 Jews remained. In March 1944, 1,870 Jews were deported to Auschwitz. Only 164 returned.

By the 1990s, 60 Jews still lived in a building in the Jewish quarter outside the old city, on the site of the Kahal Kodesh Hadash (new) synagogue that was demolished by the Germans. They continued to use the Kahal Kodesh Yashan (old) synagogue in the kastro, however, since the mayor of Ionnanina, Demetrios Vlachides, convinced the Germans to leave the building to the city as a library. A plaque in his honor hangs in the preserved synagogue.

After the war, the synagogue and hidden religious articles were returned to the community. As a gesture of thanksgiving, the diminished kehillah sent two of its Torah scrolls to Ioannina congregations abroad, one to Manhattan and one to Jerusalem. " [February 2009]

[UPDATE] Ioannina Jewish Cemetery Damaged by Storm [January 2015]

[UPDATE] Yom Kippur in Ioannina, by Christian Hermann, with photos of cemetery [October 2016]

Last Updated on Thursday, 13 October 2016 17:53
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