The Newsletter of the Greek Jewish Monuments VOL. 1, NO. 2, Fall 1998
|Table of Contents
Conservation of the synagogue of Veroia
by Elias V. Messinas
Professor Nandor Glid - Sculptor of the Holocaust Monument in Salonika
A letter from Volos
by Asher J. Matathias
The Jewish Museum of Rhodes
Raphael Program 1998-1999
Become a partner in Preserving Greek Jewish Monuments
| Kol haKEHILA is an independent publication, published
four times a year. Its purpose is to inform the general public on the state
of the Jewish monuments in Greece today. Its goal is to encourage support,
research and assistance towards the preservation of the Jewish monuments
throughout Greece. Readers of Kol haKEHILA are encouraged
to contribute information on research, documentation, preservation, exhibitions,
new publications, and all other information relevant to the history, architecture,
current state and preservation of the Greek Jewish monuments. Production
and distribution of Kol haKEHILA is made possible through
This issue was written and edited by Elias V. Messinas. Special thanks to all those who supported Kol haKEHILA and contributed information.
Editor: Elias V. Messinas, AssocAIA, RA, Architect-researcher
Address: Kol haKEHILA, POB 8062, Jerusalem 91080, Israel
|Opening the second issue of Kol haKEHILA,
we would like to welcome all the new subscribers! All of you new members
of our KEHILA, that joined our effort in the preservation of Greek Jewish
monuments, have shown with your subscription and letters that this effort
is a worthy cause, at a time when everything is lost to progress, assimilation,
and high-technology. Your warm welcoming of this effort, which came in
the form of letters, e-mails, postal cards and telephone calls, was the
best proof that despite all, there is indeed a special group of people,
our KEHILA, that is still interested and worried about the disappearing
Jewish heritage of Greece. We thank you all, and we hope that this effort
will continue, until we have secured the future of the existing Jewish
monuments of Greece.
As we promised in the previous issue, we are dedicating a large part of this issue to present in detail the project of the conservation of the synagogue of Veroia. This endangered synagogue, the oldest synagogue of northern Greece, is in the center of our attention, in an effort to complete the conservation effort that begun in 1994. In this issue we are also remembering the late Prof. Nandor Glid, the sculptor who created the Holocaust monument of Salonika, we are briefly previewing the Jewish Museum of Rhodes and the Raphael Program 1998-1999, we are presenting KEHILA members? letters, and our new subscribers - i.e. the new members of our KEHILA.
Since the conception of Kol haKEHILA, we have been making every possible effort to make this newsletter available through the web. Our wish is to be able to provide not only an online newsletter, discussion groups, and other features to strengthen our KEHILA, but also to be able to hold online temporary, or permanent, exhibitions on Greek Jewish monuments and links to other related sites. Before we are able to realize this wish and have our own site, though, we have made the newsletter available online, at the site of the European Sephardic Institute, courtesy of Moise Rahmani, editor of Los Muestros. Kol haKEHILA extends its gratitude to the European Sephardic Institute for its hospitality! Please visit Kol haKEHILA online at www.sefarad.org.
Before we close, we would like to thank Sam Gruber, director of the Jewish Heritage Research Center, and Prof. Carol Krinsky for their contribution to this issue.
In the next issue we will feature among others a detailed presentation of the Raphael Program 1998-1999 that Greece, Italy and Germany prepared, in cooperation with the Center for Jewish Art in Jerusalem, towards the documentation and preservation guidelines for their synagogues; a presentation of the synagogue Kahal Kadosh Yashan, in Ioannina, the building that was chosen in Greek as a case-study for the Raphael program, and an update on the restoration of the synagogue of Chania, Crete, by Nicholas Stavroulakis, director of the project.
Kol haKEHILA wishes to all the Jewish members of our KEHILA - Happy New Year 5758 to you and your families - Aniada buena y alegre para vostros todos i voestras famillas!
by Elias V. Messinas, AssocAIA, RA
Interior of the synagogue of Veroia in 1995. The eihal is to the right.
(Photographer: Socratis Mavromatis)
(Source: Messinas, E., The synagogues of Salonika and Veroia, Athens 1997, p. 130)
|Veroia, a small town in the Greek province of Macedonia, has a very
long history dating from antiquity. Veroia, located only about one-hour?s
drive from Salonika, was one of the cities that St. Paul the Apostle visited
during his second trip to Greece, in the 1st century AD. The Jewish community
of Veroia, which received St. Paul at its synagogue, dates from antiquity.
It was a Romaniot community, which grew further after the 15th century,
and the arrival of the Sefardi Jews from the Iberian peninsula.
The almost completely preserved Jewish quarter, called Barbouta, dates from the early and mid-19th century. It is of a defensive and introverted typology, where the houses are built around an open courtyard, with access only through two gates that used to be locked at night. The houses communicated among them with doors that opened from one to the other, without being exposed to the common courtyard. The Jewish quarter is located west of the Byzantine walls of Veroia and adjacent to the sloping banks of the Tripotamos River, both of which form a second layer of defense to the protected quarter. This protective and introverted arrangement is common to the Jewish and Greek Orthodox quarters of the Ottoman Empire prior to the Tanzimat Reforms that led to the emancipation of the Ottoman Jews and other minorities (1839-1856). Prior to the Second World War, 460 Jews lived in this quarter. In May 1943, during the German occupation, 424 Jews were arrested by the Germans, and locked temporarily inside the synagogue, before being deported and killed in concentration camps in Poland.
Today, there are only two families living in Veroia. The Jewish quarter, empty of any Jewish life, still stands but with new occupants, most of them children of refuges from the surrounding villages, who took over the houses after the deportation of the Jews. They later legally purchased these houses from the temporarily re-established Jewish community in the 1950s and 1960s. The Jewish houses, though, still keep their original identity, in the form of inscriptions and dates in Hebrew, drawn on the exterior walls of the houses. For example, on the exterior walls of the house of the Mordochai family, one of the few who escaped deportation, thanks to their Christian neighbors who hid them inside the attic of an old mosque, is adorned with the following inscriptions:
"If I forger thee, O Jerusalem, Let my right hand forget her cunning" (Psalms, 137, 5) and the date 5619 (1858).
The synagogue, built before 1850, is located at the northern point of the triangular open courtyard of the Jewish quarter. It blends modestly with the surrounding fabric of adjacent Jewish houses, in scale, materials, and detailing. It is a wooden frame building built behind a stone masonry wall and a portico, the only elements that give this building a more prominent character. According to Nicholas Stravroulakis, Emeritus Director of the Jewish Museum of Greece, "the structure is somewhat theatrically built insofar as the front is of stone and appears quite solid and only in examination is it apparent that the entire structure rests on wooden supports and these have rotted in place, making the entire structure tremble at times." The synagogue is constructed in the local vernacular style, and built by Balkan local builders, who formed the builders? guilds of the Ottoman empire, called isnaf. Throughout the Ottoman Empire these men built houses, palaces, aqueducts, mosques, churches, and other commissions for their Turkish, Armenian, Greek Orthodox and other patrons within the vast borders of the Ottoman Empire, preserving with their work the construction traditions that evolved during Byzantine times.
In terms of its historical importance, the synagogue of Veroia is unique. It is the last remaining standing synagogue in northern Greece, outside Salonika, a region where there used to stand over 100 synagogues before World War II (Salonika alone had over 60 synagogues and midrashim). These synagogues were destroyed during the war, and the years immediately after. The synagogue in Veroia is also the oldest standing synagogue in northern Greece (Monastirlis in Salonika dates from 1927). It is a very unique example of local vernacular architecture, the work of the Balkan builders? guilds, and it is the last remaining example in northern Greece within a fairly well preserved Jewish quarter. The synagogue itself is a unique combination of local builders? tradition used for a religious Jewish building: the synagogue in Veroia, together with the synagogue in Ioannina (Eprirus) are the last surviving such examples in Greece.
The synagogue is a rectangle, single-story structure, with interior women?s gallery, and basement. It is approximately 192sq.m. (2,066sq.ft) of floor area. The interior is divided by six columns; four mark the central core of the main prayer hall, and two separate it from the entrance. The portico of the main entrance is an influence from outside Veroia, probably Kastoria or Pilio. The women?s gallery is elevated and accessed from a door outside the south wall. It is also separated from the rest of the prayer hall with a wooden lattice, a common traditional separation prior to the Tanzimat Reforms. The basement consists of two spaces, an open one to the south and a closed one, reached from a door on the north wall. To the west of the synagogue, adjacent to the steep sloping river bank of Tripotamos, are the remains of the mikveh. The decorated eihal of the synagogue is located on the east wall, towards Jerusalem, while the temporary readers? desk, that serves as a bimah, is located in the center of the hall. The ceiling decoration, including an octagonal rosette and a shallow dome, in the center and western part of the ceiling respectively, may suggest that the permanent bimah, probably destroyed in World War II, was located along the western wall, rather than at the center of the hall. The floor of the synagogue is plain wood, except for the central area, among the four columns, that is adorned with decorative terrazzo tiles. The wooden areas of the floor were once adorned with colorful carpets, a local tradition of Veroia.
The conservation effort
The budget of the conservation work
Misc. taxes (18%)
| Estim. cost ($)
The Salonika Holocaust monument
(source: Jerusalem Post )
|In November 1998, the Jewish community of Salonika celebrates the first
anniversary of the monument to Holocaust victims in their city. This month
also marks the first anniversary of the death of the creator of this brilliant
monument. Professor Nandor Glid, the sculptor who created the most unique
holocaust monument erected in Greece to this date, passed away shortly
before his piece was erected in its site. The monument was instead completed
by his sons Daniel and Gabriel Glid, in the city that lost 96% of its Jewish
population in the Shoah.
The erection of the monument was undertaken on the occasion of the year 1997, when Salonika was declared the Cultural Capital of Europe. Following a national competition, announced in December 1996 by the Greek Ministry of Culture, department of the Arts and Erection of Monuments, which failed to bare a winner, the late Prof. Glid was invited to create the monument. The site chosen for the monument was a street intersection, near the pre-World War II Jewish quarter 151.
During World War II Prof. Glid who was born in Yugoslavia in 1924, was
taken to Szeged for forced labor, while his family was liquidated in 1944
at Auschwitz. He later fought on the side of the partisans until he was
wounded in March 1945 at Bolman. He was awarded the Order of National Merit
in 1972. He became a professor at the Academy of Applied Arts in Belgrade
in 1975, and elected as chairman, and then rector of Belgrade University
of Arts in 1979 and 1985 respectively. He exhibited his work widely. Among
his monuments are those at Mauthausen, Zavala (Bosnia, 1958), The Ballad
of the Hanged (Subotica, 1967), Dahau (1968), Yad Vashem monument (Jerusalem,
1979), and the monument of the Jewish victims of the genocide in Belgrade,
on the bank of the Danube (1990). This last served as the model for the
monument in Salonika. The Salonika monument to the victims of the Holocaust
is in the form of a fire and a menorah, which rises from the ground on
a tubular base, then springs out in an intricate composition that resembles
bodies, until it reaches the sky, with the bodies transformed into birds
with open wing - a very beautiful gesture and a very elegant composition
by Asher J. Matathias
|For a month, we have been enjoying the warmth and hospitality of Anna's
parents -- Maurice and Toula Franses -- in Volos, Greece, the beautiful
city of our birth, combining vistas of the seashore and nearby Mt. Pelion.
We travel to Macedonia, the country's northern province, and marvel my mother's (and Alexander the Great's) birthplace, Salonica, the European Union's 1997 cultural capital. Its recognizing structure is Lefkos Pyrgos (a white tower, which is really grey), reminiscent of the city's medieval Venetian past. Salonica is noted for its brilliant existence during the Ottoman Turkish occupation (1453-1912), when the sultan gladly welcomed the expelled Sephardic Jews from Spain in 1492, and with their energy and wisdom fashioned "the Jerusalem of the Balkans."
In our travels we seek co-religionists, the synagogue, Jewish museum, or Holocaust monument, even the Jewish cemetery. In Volos I assisted the resident rabbi / cantor (my father-in-law) in chanting Shabbat worship services with gusto, employing tunes I learned at home, in America. Anna was engaged as an interpreter, when a touring group from Afula, Ramat Zvi, Israel made a scheduled stop in Volos. Jewish community president Rafael Frezis showed us the artist's depiction of a Holocaust memorial, soon to be erected in the plaza of Volos City Hall. The cost was assumed by a native son, now a successful businessman in New York, Victor Politis.
The Jewish population continues to dwindle, even as many in the public and private sectors of life are voicing regret that this once vibrant contingent of the body politic is no more. Its demise was heralded in the Holocaust, with an astounding 95% casualty rate! Today, only 5,000 Jews live in Greece, a bare 100 men, women, and children in Volos, ever-challenged by assimilation and intermarriage. Last year, the handful that make up the contemporary Rhodes Jewish community, issued an appeal to their brethren in America for a Torah scroll. The message was carried by Byzantine scholar Marcia Haddad- Ikonomopoulos, recently a Queens College honors graduate. In a telephone call from Hania, Crete, she related the happiness of the community, and her own joy, when the cousins Reggie Goldberg and Marion Crespi (with their offspring) hand-delivered this invaluable parchment containing the Five Books of Moses, a portion of which is recited every Saturday morning in the synagogue. Bravo! Bravo to all who participated in this holy mission, making possible hope for this congregation's continued existence.
May your summer have been as healthy, restful, happy, and eventful (in that order) as ours has been; and may we all, in the Five Towns, and everywhere, in the coming religious New Year 5759 strive "to live for each other ... to live with ourselves."
Sincerely, and with affection,
Asher J. Matathias is originally from Volos and currently lives in the United States.
from: www. rhodesjewishmuseum.org
Aron Hasson, Founder and President of the Rhodes Jewish Historical Foundation
at the synagogue Kahal Shalom
(source: web site of Rhodes Jewish Museum)
|We invite our readers to visit the site of the Jewish Museum of Rhodes,
which includes visual and historic material on the Jewish community, the synagogue and the Jewish cemetery in Rhodes. Kol haKEHILA will present the synagogue Kahal Shalom and the Jewish museum of Rhodes, in one of the future issues.
Excerpts from the web site of the Jewish Museum of Rhodes: "So why a museum? The Jewish community on the Island of Rhodes, known as "La Juderia", was once a thriving center for learning and living which was ended by the Holocaust. Today, the Island of Rhodes is one of the most popularly visited vacation places in the Mediterranean Sea. The vacationers come from all countries of the world, utilizing international charter air flights as well as luxury cruise ships. These visitors walk the streets of "La Juderia" lacking knowledge of its Sephardic Jewish history. In fact, during the months of April to October, the Kahal Shalom has approximately 75 visitors per day. Unfortunately, there is almost nothing at the Kahal Shalom to inform it's visitors of it's unique history. Although most of the remnants of Jewish life is absent as a result of the Holocaust, this Museum is an important first step of more expansive efforts in preserving the unique history of the Jews of Rhodes."
Kol haKEHILA will present the museum and the synagogue Kahal Shalom in Rhodes in a future issue.
Excerpts from the Program application
|This year Greece is participating together with Italy and Germany in
the European Community action program proposal titled:
"Endangered Jewish Sites in Europe: The synagogue".
The purpose of this year?s Community action program in the field of the Jewish cultural heritage, is designed to highlight the common cultural heritage features and transitional cross currents that have helped towards the emergence of a common cultural heritage across the European borders. Furthermore, this common Jewish cultural heritage that has developed across Europe, has maintained the uniqueness of the Jewish heritage of each specific country, offering a pattern of different architectural expressions, within a common type.
Jewish heritage in Europe, spanning over 2,000 years of history in countries such as Greece [Nehama, J., Histoire des Israelites de Salonique, Vol. 1, Thessaloniki 1935, p. 10 and Acts (16-18)] is one of the most important extant Jewish heritage today. This heritage also includes nuclei of Jewish life and culture that have had a great deal of influence to other countries around the world, such as the Jewish heritage of Italy, with roots to antiquity [Foerster, G., A Survey of Ancient Diaspora Synagogues, in Levine, L. (ed.), The Ancient Synagogues Revealed, Jerusalem 1981, pp. 169-171]. This important heritage only lately has been receiving the attention that it deserves.
With only few exceptions, Europe suffered under the Nazi regime in the 1930s and 1940s. However, the group that counted the greatest losses in people and property were the numerous and, many ancient (Such as the Jewish communities of Chalkis and Ioannina, in Greece), Jewish communities of Europe. For example, Germany itself lost hundreds of synagogues during Kristallnacht, in 1938.
This program will offer the rare opportunity to the three participating high education EU partner institutions -Greece: National Technical University of Athens, Germany: Technische Universitat Braunschweig, and Italy: Jewish Community of Milan, to study and discuss in the depth issues pertaining to the architecture of the European synagogue. The network among these three partners will be further enhanced with the participation of the Center for Jewish Art, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, and the European Council for Jewish Communities, in London, UK.
Kol haKEHILA will present this project in detail in the next issue.
and the other architectural treasures of the pre-World War II Jewish communities of Greece,
suffered a great deal from Nazi persecution. Half a century of ignorance and neglect
led to the loss of the most part of this important heritage.
The interest that has been raised in the last years, in Greek Jewish monuments
has led to serious efforts towards their documentation, study and preservation.
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