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4 YOUR SAY… 6 WHAT’S NEW
In or out? We asked readers how they voted in the EU referendum. Here are the results of our JR survey.
Teenage kicks Mike Leigh writes of his friendship with the late playwright Arnold Wesker. Safe landing Leora Eren Frucht on the Israelis reaching out to refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos.
Bonjour Golders Green! Rebecca Schischa meets the French Jews who are calling London their home.
History in the painting As the East End prepares to commemorate 80 years since the Battle of Cable Street, David Rosenberg reveals the remarkable story behind the street’s famous mural.
30 WHAT’S HAPPENING
Listings Our three-month guide to art, books, film, music, theatre and other cultural events in the UK and in Israel this summer.
Try this! Fancy yourself as a DJ? Leeds’ Radio Jcom is a good place to start.
G R E E C E
If you go to Greece… Jewish communities are dotted throughout Greece, from the highest mountain ranges to the most isolated of islands. When a Jewish Renaissance tour visited the country this May, we only made it to a handful of the places listed below – the rest we’ll leave for you to uncover for yourselves
THESSALONIKI On a Friday night, the community centre above Thessaloniki’s Yad L’zichron Synagogue is buzzing. Children run around the tables set for Friday night dinner and locals greet each other as 33-yearold Israeli-born Rabbi Aharon Israel searches for challah to begin the blessings. Thessaloniki is home to around 1,000 Jews and has a Jewish primary school, an elderly residential home, and a Jewish Museum.
The city was the centre of global Jewish culture from the 15th century until around 1900 – you can still see the merchants’ magnificent villas on Vassilisis Olgas Street. But during World War II virtually the entire community – 53,300 inhabitants – were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau and the Jewish cemetery (covering 300,000 sq metres) was destroyed. After liberation, a new cemetery was founded in Stavroupolis,
where there is a Holocaust memorial. Yad L’zichron Synagogue was built in 1984. The older Monasteriotes synagogue was built in 1927 and survived the war as it was used as a Red Cross warehouse. Badly damaged in the 1978 earthquake it continued to be used. After a huge restoration project, it re-opened on 15 May. Jewish Museum Thessaloniki: www.jmth.gr
VERIA The entrance to the Barbouta (Jewish area) is through a narrow entrance, which opens out onto a few cobbled streets. Amidst these sits the stone synagogue. Inside, the sky-blue painted space and colourful ceilings are stunning, but it is the view from the windows that takes your breath away. The building is suspended above the rushing Tripotamos River and looks out over a canopy of trees. The present synagogue dates from 1850 and is ideally located: flowing water separates it from the former cemetery on the other side of the river and the mikvah (ritual bath), which you can still see today, was located below the building, opening onto the river.
A Greek-speaking Romaniote community existed here by the time St Paul visited on his missionary trips in 50 and 57 AD and those fleeing the Iberian Inquisitions swelled the population in 1492. But the beautiful synagogue was also a place of imprisonment. On 1 May 1943, German troops surrounded it whilst the community was celebrating Passover inside and 850 people, including 300 teenagers and children, were held captive for three days. They were then forced to walk to Thessaloniki, from where they were deported. Some escaped by joining the partisans in the hills, but at the end of the war only 111 Jews returned. Today no Jews live in the town.
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The synagogue was restored in the 1990s and is maintained virtually singlehandedly by Evi Meska, a non-Jewish resident of Veria, who has made it her mission to preserve the memory of its Jewish community. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
VOLOS The port town of Volos is a bright spot amidst the otherwise tragic story of Greece’s 20th-century Jews. Its synagogue was built in 1870 for a thriving Romaniote community of mostly tobacco merchants. In the 1920s it boasted 2,000 members, but by the time the Germans occupied the city in 1943, Volos was home to 882 Jews.
Here the story takes a different trajectory from that of other occupied cities. The chief rabbi of the area, Moses Pesach, was friendly with Volos’s Bishop Yoachim, who asked the German Consul in Volos to advise him about the situation for the town’s Jews. The consul warned him that the Jewish residents must leave urgently. Although 155 people were deported, many others fled with the partisans and escaped. The city authorities also issued fake ID cards in which Jews could use fake Christian names – many continue to use these names today and some of these cards are displayed in the community centre next to Volos synagogue.
Today around 70 Jews live here. The synagogue, set amongst rose bushes and orange trees, was built in 1988. Services take place every Friday. The congregation eat afterwards in the community centre. “There are few cities in Greece where there are such good relations between Jews and Christians,” says Mr Vaggelis, the synagogue’s (non Jewish) proprietor.
IOANNINA This was the capital of Greek-speaking Romaniote Jewry. During the war 1,850 Jews were killed. Today the community numbers 34. See p22.
tours of the synagogue and the pre-war Jewish neighbourhood. Israeli tourists frequent the island, shopkeepers study Hebrew, and there is a even a kosher restaurant, Haim’s Taverna. See p20.
CRETE By the end of the 15th century the island had four synagogues, but by World War II the Jewish population had dropped to 400. In June 1944, Crete’s Jews were ordered onto a ship, which was sunk by the British as she left port. Today the restored ancient synagogue at Chania survives. See p27; www.etz-hayyim-hania.org
THE ISLANDS: KHALKIS, AEGINA, DELOS, ZAKYNTHOS (ZANTE) The Greek islands include what was the oldest Jewish community in Europe at Khalkis, where there is a Romaniote synagogue and cemetery, and the tiny island of Aegina, which boasts the mosaic floor of a Roman-era synagogue dating from the 2nd or 3rd century. Delos has a 1st-century synagogue. Don Joseph Nassi, a Jewish diplomat of Portuguese marrano descent and an influential Ottoman figure, governed the island.
CORFU Jews have lived here since at least 1160. The community prospered under Venetian rule but in 1622 a ghetto was established. Under Napoleon, Jews were emancipated, but a series of blood libels from 1856 to 1918 propelled many to emigrate. On the eve of World War II the community stood at 2000 and the local Ionian Academy even boasted a department of Hebrew Language. But in 1944, virtually the entire community was deported to Auschwitz. Today a handful of Jews remain, as well as a Romaniote synagogue at Velissarious Street. In 2011, arsonists broke into the building, destroying many prayer books, including some dating from the 15th century.
The community on the Ionian island of Zakynthos dates from 1522. During World War II, the community owed its life to two men: the island’s bishop, Chrysostomos Dimitriou, and the Mayor of Zakynthos, Lucas Carrer. In 1943, the German commander demanded at gunpoint that the Mayor hand over a list of the island’s Jews. Carrer, together with the bishop produced a list with two names on it: “Chrysostomos, Bishop of Zakynthos” and “Lucas Carrer, Mayor of Zakynthos”. This, together with a letter from the bishop, was sent to Hitler. Amazingly, the order for roundup was recalled, and the island’s 275 Jews were saved. Today a monument to the two stands in the synagogue. RHODES Josephus mentions the Jews of Rhodes in the 1st century CE, and Benjamin of Tudela found 400 Jews here when he visited in the 1100s. By the 13th century, the Knight Hospitalers of St. John in Jerusalem, who ruled the island, let the community build a synagogue. But 20 years later Jews were expelled, only to return as slaves. They flourished under the Ottomans but after the Balkan Wars many moved to Africa.
ATHENS With his checked shirt, bushy beard and trilby, Gabriel Negrin looks as if he could have stepped out of a hipster bar in London’s Dalston. But looks are deceptive: Negrin is the Chief Rabbi of Greece, and on the 27-yearold’s shoulders lie the hopes of the country’s fragile community. “Someone has to take responsibility for taking on the position. If not me, who?” He asks, speaking from the bima of the spacious Beth Shalom Sephardic synagogue. Built in 1935 and renovated in the 70s, it is the main place of worship for Athens’
Jews. Across the road is Romaniote Etz
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The Germans occupied the island in 1943; most of its 1,800 Jews were deported. Only 151 survived – 40 saved by Turkish consul general, Selahattin Ulkumen.
Hayyim, built in 1904, used during
High Holy Days.
The community was probably well established by the time of St Paul’s visit to the synagogue in 50/51 BCE. In the 19th century Jews migrated to the new capital for economic reasons – Etz Hayim is still referred to as the Ioannina synagogue after its first founders. During World War II, many Jews were hidden by their Christian neighbours. The Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, Damaskinos, played a major role in defending them, while the head of Athens police, Angelos Evert, issued false ID cards. Others escaped to join the national resistance or crossed by boat to Palestine. It’s estimated around 1,000 Athens Jews were deported.
Today a small number of Jews live on the island. The Kahal Shalom Synagogue, dating from 1577, has survived. Sanuel Modiano planned to have his bar mitzvah inside the synagogue but instead spent it in Auschwitz. The 85-year-old still guides
After the war, those who had survived in other parts of Greece gravitated to the city and the community thrived during the 1950s. Today it numbers around 2,500. See athjcom.gr n
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ON THE COVER Greece: what now? Sephardis, such as the Ottoman merchant on our cover, once dominated Greek urban life. That history was swept away under the Nazis. Can Greek Jews survive economic crisis and farright threats to blossom in the 21st century? JR’s Rebecca Taylor travels the country to find out.
Last of the Romaniotes The ancient community of Ioannina is dwindling but its spirit is strong.
Costa del Salonica Historian Mark Mazower reveals how Spanish Sephardis transformed 16thcentury Salonica into a little slice of Iberia.
Ping pong wizards Judi Herman grabs a bat as the stage adaptation of Howard Jacobson’s novel, The Mighty Walzer, arrives in Manchester.
4 4 POETRY
Shakespeare’s Jewish muse? Ed Simon speculates that the Bard’s ‘Dark Lady’ might have been the radical poet Amelia Lanyer.
Synagogue in a bus garage Newbury Park bus station is the unlikely home for a vibrant Jewish community. Michelle Huberman interviews the Essex ‘boys’ who wouldn’t meet anywhere else.
Dancing in Djerba JR’s CEO Janet Levin reports from the frenzy of the annual pilgrimage to Djerba, Tunisia (photo above by Slim Gomri).
Hen(na) party Young couples are reviving an ancient tradition of wedding henna parties.
Strange new worlds Ayelet Tsabari’s short stories are groundbreaking, says Lyn Julius.
Curiouser and curiouser Monica Bohm-Duchen explores the eccentric and tiny works of émigré artist Friedrich Nagler.
4 8 COMEDY
Gorilla in a kippa Judi Herman meets the wags who are peppering the comedy circuit with a dose of Jewish humour.
The lost lands of Levo a David Conway’s music festival is attracting musicians from all over the world to a small Slovakian town.
Jumpin’ Jack Flash Peter Watts uncovers a world of gangsters and glamour at the heart of David Litvinoff’s troubled life.
Faded flowers Former soldier Ranen Omer-Sherman reviews Matt Friedman’s Pumpkinflowers.
Holy murder! Vesna Domany Hardy uncovers the violent world of Bible translation in Harry Freedman’s new book.
Thou shalt eat veg The Jewish Vegetarian Society is branching out...
58 UNEXPECTED ISRAEL
Pomegranates Excerpts from Ruth Corman’s book on the Israel you never hear about.
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