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Print References:

Galant, Abraham. Histoire des Juifs de Rhodes, Chio, Cos etc. Istanbul, Soci Anonyme de Papeterie et d'Imprimerie (Fratelli Haim), 1935. 177,ii p. p., facsims., 23 cm. Language: French. Jews -- Greece -- Rhodes (Island) -- History. Jews -- Aegean Islands (Greece and Turkey) -- History. Bibliographical footnotes.

Freedman, Warren. World Guide for the Jewish Traveler. NY: E.P. Dutton Inc, 1984.


Website references:

Synagogues Without Jews: photos. "

Rhodes was planned and built around 407 B.C.E. by Hippodamus, the foremost architect of his time. It became the most aesthetic city in the Mediterranean basin and a harbor for ships from the Mediterranean and Africa's west coast. Jewish traders settled in Rhodes as early as the second century B.C.E. Rome tolerated the Jews scattered over the empire until Christianity spread in earnest in the third and fourth centuries.

The crusaders ruled Rhodes during the 14th and 15th centuries. Jews lived peacefully under them, although they were confined to their own section of the city where they built their large synagogue in the 15th century. The Italian Jewish traveler, Meshoullam ben Menahem da Volterra described the Rhodians' struggles in 1480. Jewish men and women participated then in battles to repel a Turkish attack. Due to massive destruction and the earthquakes of 1481, many Jews left the island, leaving only 22 Jewish families in 1493. Despite their poverty, they led their lives with dignity. The kehillah followed the Romaniot Greek-language tradition, the liturgy of which differs from both Sephardic and Ashkenazic traditions.

As the 16th century opened, Cardinal D'Aubusson initiated forced conversion of the Jews to Catholicism and other persecutions. His intended expulsions were rescinded only because he died suddenly. Soon after, Christian pirates captured more than 2000 Jews and forced them to work on fortifications. When the Turks, under Suleiman the Magnificent (1520-1566) besieged the island, the Jews sided with the invader who was victorious.

The kehillah prospered under tolerant Ottoman rule for nearly 400 years until 1912. Suleiman had encouraged exiles from Spain to settle in Rhodes and gave them favorable conditions, such as autonomy and religious freedom, housing and certain tax exemptions. Jews outnumbered the Turks and created in Rhodes a major Sephardic center that absorbed the earlier Romaniot kehillah and led them to adopt Sephardic customs and Ladino.Community life centered around the synagogue. There was the large Romaniot synagogue, Kahal Gadol dating from 1480 and the Sephardic synagogue Kahal Shalom built in 1577 that is the only one still standing. There were two other smaller synagogues and several houses of study.Reveling in the epithet "Little Jerusalem," the kehillah was well organized and the Jewish quarter hummed with Jewish life. The upper echelons of Rhodian Jews were bankers, diplomats, doctors and international traders. The majority of the Jews, however, remained poor and worked as peddlers, tailors, blacksmiths and fisherman.

After the Balkan wars in 1912, Rhodes and its 4500 Jews came under Italian rule. The last great chief rabbi Reuven Eliyaahu descended from a line of Rhodian rabbis, aimed to confer Jewish values on the younger generation. As twentieth century ideas and contact expanded, many of the young Jews went abroad to study and sometimes to settle in foreign lands. While some were leaving the island, newcomers arrived during the war for Turkish independence from allied occupation. In 1931, the new Fascist governor, Mario de Vecchi, introduced anti-Semitic laws and closed the yeshivah. Those Jews who could afford to escape, fled to Palestine, Tangiers, or Rhodesia. The Germans took control of the island in 1943. In 1944, the Gestapo entered and began mass deportation without any intervention by British forces. As the Nazis rounded up Jews, compassionate Muslim neighbors helped to hide Judaica and Liturgical articles. The objects were returned after the war and are now on display at the Jewish museum in Athens. Of the 1,641 Jews deported, only 179 survived. Few retuned to the island after the war. There were 40,000 Jews in Rhodes before the war. Now, only 35 remain." [February 2009]

  • Jewish Cemetery: {10682} at 8 Simmious St. Jewish cemetery is the middle of three cemeteries.Names from the stones displayed at the web site are excerpted below. The numbers refer to the year of burial. Beyond the triple-arched entrance gate are rows of neat white crypts with inscriptions dating back many centuries. A marble monument identifies the 2,000 Jews of Rhodes and Kos killed by the Nazis. For more information, contact Lucia Soulam (Sofocleous 6E, Rhodes Greece 85100) or Morris Soriano (Odos Cos 3, Rhodes, Greece). Lucia is a survivor of Auschwitz. Both Lucia and Morris are elderly but Lucia is the caretaker of the Kal De Shalom Synagogue in Rhodes. She speaks Judeo-Spanish (Ladino), Italian, Greek and a little French and Turkish. Morris speaks Ladino, French, Turkish and Greek. Both speak very little English. Source: Arthur Benveniste e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

    A listing of the 1,167 tombstones in the Jewish cemetery of Rhodes, including the plot locations exists but does not include the over 200 newly discovered tombstones which date from the 1500's to the 1840's.) The Rhodes Jewish Museum and the non-profit Rhodes Jewish Historical Foundation, founded by Aron Hasson, can be contacted at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

    Images and translations of a few of the 17th-19th century tombstones are available on their website at [February 2002]

    News and photos of the Cemetery Restoration Project are at http://www.RhodesJewishMuseum.Org/news.htm . [2000]

  • Kal Shalom, a Sephardic Synagogue survived the Nazis on the Isle of Rhodes. On the wall of the Synagogue is a memorial plaque with the names of the families lost when the Nazis deported the Jewish community to Auschwitz. Here is the entire text of the plaque: "EN MEMOIRE DES DEUX MILLE MARTYRS DE LA COMMUNAUTE JUIVE DE RHODES ET COS BRUTALEMENT ANEANTIS PAR LES MEURTRIERS NAZIS DANS LES CAMPS DE CONCENTRATION EN ALLEMAGNE 1944-1945 QUE LEUR ANE REPOSE EN PAIX." Translation: Of the two thousand martyrs of the Jewish community of Rhodes and Cos Brutally annihilated by the murderous Nazis in the Concentration Camps in Germany 1944-1945 May their soul(s) rest in peace. (Names follow here) {10108}. "A LA MEMOIRE DE MON PERE ASCHER MA MERE SAROTA, MON FRERE JACQUES ET MA SOEUR FLORE AVEC SON MARI M. LEVI TOUS DEUX DEPORTES YEDID CHARHON 1969." Translation: "To the memory of my father Ascher my mother Sarota, my brother Jacques (James, Jacob) and my sister Flore (Flora) with her husband Mr. Levi both deported Yedid Charmon 1969". Translation Source: Richard William Miller on JewishGen Digest. [1998


"The Jewish Traveler" by Esther Hecht, found in the August-September 2002 issue of Hadassah Magazine archived at, has information about Rhodes and mentions Carmen Cohen, Community Secretary, who has genealogical archival information. She speaks English. The article notes that the Jewish cemetery is located between the Christian and Muslim cemeteries on the road to Faliraki on the southeastern edge of the city. One section lacks gravestones because "The families did not manage to have a stone prepared before they were deported." Also fact is the fact that a number of stones include "carvings of scissors, a reminder that Rhodeslis were textile dealers and tailors." Source: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it [September 2002]

Last Updated on Monday, 16 February 2009 21:53
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