MembersRemembering Jewish Ioannina: The Holocaust and Greek Jewry

“One rabbi had half his beard shaved; another was forced to discuss the Talmud whilst being beaten.”

By Rachel Avraham | | Topics: Holocaust Survivors, Greek Jews
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou looks up and around at the photographs displayd at the "Hall of Names" commemorating the six million Jews killed by the Nazis during World War II. Most of Greece's Jewish community were among that number. Photo: Kobi Gideon/Flash90

The first Jews settled in Ioannina in 70 CE, right after the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans. According to the Oral Tradition, the lives of the Romaniot Jews were spared by Titus when he decided to dump them on the Albanian coast instead of drowning them in the sea. Most of these same Jews would eventually make their way to Ioannina, which would become the center of Romaniot Jewry. During the first half of the 13th century, these Jews would suffer from various persecutions. However, things improved for the Jews under the reign of Emperor Andronicus II Palaeologus. When the Ottoman Turks arrived in Ioannina in 1431, they found a sizable Romaniot Jewish community.

Under Ottoman Turkish rule, a sizable community of Sephardic Jews who were expelled from Spain and Sicily in 1492 would arrive in Ioannina under the invitation of Sultan Bayazid II. I am a direct descendent of these Jews. Aviva Ben-Ur noted in Sephardic Jews in America: A Diasporic History that Sultan Bayazid II saw the expulsion of the Jews from Spain as an...

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