The Jewish Community of the Island of Rhodes has a rich history that dates back to the second century BC, with the earliest reference to it appearing in the book of Maccabees. The Jews of Rhodes like the other Jews living in Greece and in its Islands spoke Greek and conducted the religious services in Greek, following the Romaniote rite, which is distinct from Sephardi, Ashkenaz, and Italian rites.
The Jewish community in Rhodes was most influenced in the last 500 years by the influx of Jews from Spain , who fled at the time of the Spanish Inquisition. Their descendants are known as Sephardic Jews, derived from "Sepharad", the Hebrew word for Spain . These Jews brought with them their culture, their customs and traditions, one of the cultural aspects was linguistic, the language they spoke was Espanyol, as they called it, also known as a Ladino and "Judeo-Spanish". The Jewish Quarter of the city was affectionately known as "La Juderia".
At the beginning of the 20th century, many young Jews left the Island in search of better economic opportunities in the Americas and in parts of Africa . In the early 1920s the community had reached its peak population of 4.500 souls. In 1943 Rhodes was taken over by the Germans, and on July 23 of the next year, 1673 members of the Jewish community were arrested and deported to the Auschwitz extermination camp, where most of them were slaughtered. Only 151 survived. In 1947 the Island was ceded to Greece . Today there are only a handful of Jews living in Rhodes.
|Alhadeff Street||Israelite Universelle School||Parts of the Jewish Quarter|
The Square of the Martyred Jews (known in Greek as Evreon Martyron) is located in the heart of the former Jewish Quarter. The Square was originally an area of Jewish homes and small shops. However, the area was bombed during World War II, and in its place was established a small park and square. The present fountain ornamented with three seahorses replaced a previous fountain that was destroyed during WWII. The Holocaust Memorial was dedicated on June 23, 2002, in memory of the World War II victims from the islands of Rhodes and Cos.
The Seahorse Fountain at
the end of Calle Ancha
|Parts of the Jewish Quarter||The Holocaust Memorial|
The Kahal Shalom Synagogue Built in the year 1577, the Kahal Shalom is the oldest synagogue in Greece and the sole remaining Jewish synagogue on Rhodes still actively holding services. The full name of the building is Kahal Kadosh Shalom (Holy Congregation of Peace). The interior of the Kahal Shalom Synagogue follows the traditional Sephardic style of having the "tevah" (the prayer reading table) in the center of the sanctuary facing southeast toward Jerusalem . As a result of a liberalization of religious policy, in 1935 a balcony was created to be used as a women's prayer area. Prior to that time the women sat in the rooms adjacent to the south wall of the synagogue that viewed the sanctuary through curtained openings. Those rooms have been converted into the Jewish Museum of Rhodes.
|The Kahal Shalom Synagogue||Cupboards where multiple Torahs are kept||Women's prayer area (balcony)|
The Rhodes Jewish Museum Here you will be provided with information regarding the historical exhibition, created by Aron Hasson, which is located in the rooms formerly used as the women's prayer rooms at the "Kahal Shalom" synagogue. It is home to a memorial of the once large Jewish community in Rhodes , displaying many photos and memorial plaques.
The Jewish Cemetery Originally the Jewish cemeteries were located inside the Old City of Rhodes. In the 1930s, the Italian government forced the relocation of the cemeteries from the Juderia to an area outside the Old City walls and into its present location in the new city . The Jewish Cemetery is one of the best preserved in Europe and contains tombstones from the 1500s to the present. It is located outside the Old City of Rhodes along the main road towards Kalitheas and Faliraki. Excavations of additional tombstones are continuing. During the last five years over 300 burial stones have been uncovered.
The "Rhodesli" are a little-known Sephardic sect that moved to the Mediterranean island of Rhodes in 1492 following their expulsion from Spain and Portugal . They lived on Rhodes until World War II. Their culture, which is began in 800 B.C. survives as a small √©migr√© community in Los Angeles . Their complex ethnic and religious heritage is unique in the world today. The Rhodesli are Jews who speak a rare medieval Spanish dialect (Ladino) and observe traditions derived from Turkish, Moorish, Spanish, and Jewish sources that remain mostly unchanged from centuries past.