Jewish Community of Thessaloniki (Salonika)

Part 3 of 3 (Page1)

The Community of Thessaloniki Today


The Jewish Community of Thessaloniki is a Legal Entity under Public Law.  It comes under the jurisdiction of the Ministries of Education and Religion, according to Law No. 2456/1920, “On the Jewish Communities”.  It is accountable to the State and submits its budget and accounts for approval.

Its highest authority is the twenty-member Community Assembly elected by general election every four years.  The Assembly elects through secret ballot the five-member Community Council constituting its executive authority.  The Council appoints various Committees responsible for specific sectors (Cemetery, Synagogues, school, school care, welfare, medical care, management of real estate property, summer camps, public relations).  The Community Administration carries out the decisions of the Community Council and the Committees.


The Jewish Primary School:

Since 1979 the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki has been operating a six-year primary school and nursery attended by about 80 children.  The school is housed in the traditional building of the charity organization “Matanoth Laevionim” where until the Holocaust free meals were served to poor students.  In addition to the National Curriculum, Hebrew, English and French are taught, as well as Jewish Religion and History.  The nursery admits children from the age of three and a half.

School Care:

The Community’s care for education is extended to secondary school pupils and students of Universities and Technical Studies Institutions.  Students and inadequate means are supported and subsidies and loans and those who excel receive scholarships.

Summer Camp:

Ever since the first post-war years the Community introduced the institution of summer camp for children, the only such camp among the Jewish communities in Greece.  At first it was located on Perea beach, just outside Thessaloniki, later in Chalkidiki, and lately at Plaka Litohorou, at the feet of Mt. Olympus.  Today the camp hosts 150-200 children aged 7-15.  They come from all the Jewish communities in the country, but also from abroad.

Youth Center

The community maintains a Youth Center that organizes various recreational and cultural events, such as dance parties, excursions, and seminars.

Clubs-Social Life

  1. The “Brotherhood” cultural club which organizes various events at its location on 24, Tsimiski Str.
  2. The ladies organizations with a wide range of social and cultural activities.
  3. The “MACCABEE” athletic club, with basketball and table tennis teams.
  4. The “Greece-Israel” Association which promotes closer bonds between the two peoples through various activities.

Charity Activities

 Welfare Care

The Community offers subsidies to its less privileged members and has recently introduced a series of measures in order to support young couples, as an incentive against the demographic problems facing the community.  There is also a loan fund for businessmen and small industry owners.

The Community maintains a clinic offering full medical and pharmaceutical coverage to its less privileged members, on an outpatient basis.

“Saul Modiano” Old Peoples’s Home

The “Saul Modiano” Old Peoples’s Home was founded on a donation by Saul Modiano, a Jew from Thessaloniki who died in Trieste in 1924.

It was inaugurated in 1932 in its own building on Queen Olga Str.  The purpose of the Home was to offer care and shelter to the elderly members of the Community.

Saul Modiano Old People's Home

The Home operated continuously until the German occupation.  In 1943 its inmates shared the fate of the rest of the Jewish population of Thessaloniki.  They were deported and exterminated in the Auschwitz gas chambers, and the institution was closed.

The Home reopened and resumed operation in 1974, under the enlightened leadership of David (Dick) Benveniste, chairman of the Community Council, in order to serve the needs of elderly Greek Jews, irrespective of their city of prior residence.

It was decided that a new building had to be erected in order to fulfill modern requirements and specifications.  The construction and procurement of all necessary equipment were completed in 1981 and since then the institution has been in operation.  Admission is open to men and women members of the Jewish communities of Greece who are over 65 years of age.  It is housed in a six-floor building.  Each floor has seven single and two double bedrooms, as well as a lounge.  On the ground floor there is a synagogue, a restaurant and a reception hall.  The institution employs the necessary administrative, health and auxiliary staff.  The Community physician visits the institution and examines its residents once a week.  There is also occupational therapy by trained personnel.  All Jewish holidays are observed and officially celebrated at the Old People’s Home.  The Community ladies and school students often take part in the Home’s activities.

Thus, in the few years it has been in operation thanks to the full and multi-level support of the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki, the “Saul Modiano” Old People’s Home has established itself as a genuine “Home for our Parents”, a warm shelter where Jewish senior citizens live in a happy, dignified and comfortable environment, among people who embrace them with love and care.

The New Jewish Cemetery

The Nazis destroyed the ancient Jewish cemetery of Thessaloniki that covered about 300,000 sq. m. in the area where the University Campus is situated today.  The graves were looted and tombstones were scattered all over the city.

After the liberation, the Community founded a new cemetery in the Stavroupolis area.  Some tombstones from the old cemetery were carried there and a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust has been erected.

Monument to the Holocaust Victims


The Monasteriotes’ Synagogue

They Synagogue of the Monasteriotes was founded with a donation by Ida Aroesti to the memory of her husband Isaac.  Families from Monastir in Yugoslavia who had settled in Thessaloniki after the Balcan Wars (1912-1913) and World War I (1914-1918), also contributed to the synagogue’s building and furnishing.

The foundations were laid in 1925 and construction lasted two years.  The Synagogue was officially dedicated by the Chief Rabbi of Thessaloniki Chaim Raphael Habib on 27 Elul 5687 (1927).

During the Nazi occupation the Monasteriotes’ Synagogue was the center of the ghetto that was created in the inner city.  When the entire Jewish population was deported to the death camps, the Synagogue was used by the Red Cross as a warehouse, thus avoiding destruction by the Nazis.

Jews of Thessaloniki tourtured by the Nazis at Liberty Square

Immediately after the liberation in November 1944, the few Jews that had been saved by Christian friends and those who had joined the National Resistance Forces found refuge in this Synagogue.  When normal Community life was restored it became the central Synagogue of Thessaloniki.

In June 1978 the earthquake that shook the city caused extensive damage to the building and its services were suspended until the delicate task of its restoration was completed, with funds provided by the Greek Government that considered it as one of the historical monuments of Thessaloniki.  Today it is in operation for the religious needs of the Thessaloniki Jews.

“Yad Lezicaron” Synagogue

This Synagogue was opened in 1984, dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust.  It was built on the site of the small “Bourla” prayer house (Caal de la Plaza) that had been operating since 1921 to meet the religious needs of the numerous Jews who worked in the nearby market place.

Interior of the "Yad Lezikaron" Synagogue

“Saul Modiano” Synagogue

There is also a small synagogue in the Old People’s Home for their religious needs.

The "Beth Saul" Synagogue

Cultural Activities


Museum of Jewish Presence in Thessaloniki

It is housed in the listed building erected in 1904, at the junction of Venizelou and 13, Agiou Mina Str.  This imposing building, in the heart of the commercial sector, survived the 1917 conflagration, and has since housed the Bank of Attica and the press offices of the French language Jewish newspaper “L’ Independent”.  Exhibited are religious and ceremonial objects, ethnographic material (Utensils, costumes), and historical documents (newspapers, photographs, and out of print editions).  A specialized library, radio, and film archives, a collection of Sephardic popular songs and accounts of Holocaust survivors, as well as other surviving archival material, such as plans and prints of historical buildings, synagogues, and old maps, are also available.  The “SIMON MARKS” section includes on a permanent basis, a copy of the permanent exhibition “Thessaloniki – The Metropolis of Sepharadism”, from the Beth Lohamei Hagettaoth kibbutz in Israel, incorporating details of the history of the Jews and their fields of activity up to the time of the Holocaust.  Another section of the Museum, houses the “Holocaust Exhibition”, from the Auschwitz Foundation in Brussels.

Ladino Society

The Ladino Society of Thessaloniki was formed in 1999, by members of the Cultural Activities Committee of J.C.T. 

The Society’s goals are :

  1. To contribute to the research in the field of Judeo-espaniol language and Sephardi culture in general.
  2. To promote interest in the language, both internationally and within the community, and especially among the younger generations, in order to safeguard the Judeo-espaniol language as an important and integral part of our cultural identity.

The activities of the Society include the organization of events and conferences on Judeo-espaniol, the creation of a library, the sponsorship of new publications, and the instruction of the language to the young members of our community.


The Community has, in the last few years, funded a series of publications on its history and traditions.  These publications are:

  1. “Agada Sel Pessach”

Editor: Barouh Schiby

It is trilingual (Greek, Hebrew and Spanish in Latin characters and “Rashi”).  This book has been recognized as a true work of art.

  1. “In Memoriam”

by M. Molho and J. Nehama:

It is the account of the Holocaust of the Jews of Greece.  It was originally written in French and published right after the War.  It has been out of print for some time.  The Jewish Community of Thessaloniki undertook its republication both in the original French version and in a Greek translation By George Zografakis.

  1. “The History of the Jews of Thessaloniki”

by J. Nehama in 7 volumes

The Community has funded the reprinting of the first five volumes that had been out of print while the author was still alive.  The Community also funded the first publication of the last two volumes of this monumental work and also its complete translation in Greek.

  1. “The Synagogues of Thessaloniki”

by Alberto Nar

  1. “The Proverbs of the Sepharadim Jews of Thessaloniki”

by George Zografakis

  1. The translations of the Hymns and the Prayer Book of the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur)

By Asher Moissis

A special edition of the “Chronika” magazine for the 2,300 year anniversary of the city of Thessaloniki.

Other publications that were funded by the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki and the Ets Ahaim foundation are biographical accounts by our fellow citizens of their experiences in the death camps (Menashe, Natzari, Nahon, Yakoel, Handali, Stroumsa).

The Hellenic House

The Jewish Community, in an effort to encourage the research and study of Ancient Greek literature and to further promote closer bonds between the peoples of Greece and Israel, undertook the construction of a wing at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  Named “The Hellenic House”, it was inaugurated on March 14, 1984; many eminent personalities from the world of politics and culture were present.  The wing was dedicated to the memory of the Greek-Jewish students who were killed during the Holocaust.

The Jewish Community of Thessaloniki was honored by the Academy of Athens and the Rotary Clubs of Thessaloniki for this historic gesture.

Modern Jewish Monuments of Thessaloniki

Among the very few recent historical monuments of our city that survived to our day some buildings that belonged to Jewish families or housed charity institutions stand out.  The most important ones are:

“Villa Allatini”

(198 Vassillissis Olgas Str.)

A work by the Italian architect Vitaliano Pozelli.  It was built in 1888 as the summer residence of the Allatini family, a family famous for both its business and community activities.

Between 1909 and 1912 it was used as the prison-residence of Abdul Hammid II, who was overturned by the Young Turks.  In 1926 it hosted the newly founded University of Thessaloniki while during the 1940-41 War it was used as a hospital.  Today, Villa Allatini houses the Prefecture of Thessaloniki.

Other monumental buildings that belonged to the Allatini family and are still in use today are the mills on Antheon Str. And their Bank on Stock Market Square.

“Villa Fernandez” (Casa Bianca)

(at the corner of Vassillissis Olgas and Th. Sofouli Str.)

Built in 1910 by the Italian architect Pierro Arigoni as a residence of the Jewish businessman Dino Fernandez, it has since been associated with the romantic involvement of his daughter Aline with Lieutenant Aliberti.

“Villa Mordoch”

(162, Vas. Olgas Str.)

Built by the Greek architect Xenophon Paeonides in 1905 as a residence of the Turkish Division Commander Saifulah Pasha.  In 1923 it was bought by the Jewish family Schialom and in 1930 by another Jewish family, the Mordochs.  After World War II it housed successively the services of ELAS, the 3rd Army Corps headquarters, and the Social Security Institution of the City of Thessaloniki.  Today it is used by the Municipality of Thessaloniki as and Exhibition Hall for paintings.

“Villa Jacob Modiano”

(68, Vas. Olgas Str.)

It was built in 1906 as the residence of Jacob Modiano by the engineer Eli Modiano.  In 1913 the villa was bought by the City of Thessaloniki and offered as a palace to King Constantine.  It was used in the inter-war period as the residence of the Governor General of Macedonia, and it later housed the Military School of Medicine.  Since 1970 it has been housing the Macedonian Popular Art Museum.

The visitor interested in the sites associated with the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki can also visit the picturesque Modiano Market, the ”Saul Modiano Arcade”, the Hippocrates Hospital, built in 1907 by the Jewish Community with the financial support of Baroness Clara de Hirsch, and finally “Yenni Djami” built in 1902 by the “Donmehs” (Jews who had converted to Islam in the 17th century) and used later as Thessaloniki’s Archaeological Museum.  Since the completion of the new Archaeological Museum, Yenni Djami has been used for painting and sculptures exhibitions.

Jewish Community of Thessaloniki

Useful Addresses:

Monasteriotes’ Synagogue

35, Syngrou Str. - 546 30 Thessaloniki, Greece

Tel.: (031) 524968

Yad Lezicaron Synagogue

24, V. Heracliou Str. - 546 24 Thessaloniki, Greece

Tel.: (031) 223231

Ladino Society

13, V. Heracliou Str. - 546 24 Thessaloniki, Greece

Tel.: (031) 275665

Museum of the Jewish Presence in Thessaloniki

13, Agiou Mina Str. – 546 24 Thessaloniki, Greece

Tel.: (031) 250406,-7

Community Offices, Rabbinate, Community Center

24, Tsimiski Str. – 546 24 Thessaloniki, Greece

Tel.: (031) 272840, 277803, 221030, 221124,

Fax:  (031) 229063

E-mail :  Jct

Cemetery and the Holocaust Monument

Stavroupolis (opposite the “AGNO” factory)

Thessaloniki, Greece

Tel.: (031) 655855

Jewish Primary School “Talmund Torah Agadol”

7 Fleming Str. – 546 42 Thessaloniki, Greece

Tel.: (031) 849347, 837177

“Saul Modiano” Old People’s Home

89, Kimonos Boga Str. – 546 45 Thessaloniki, Greece

Tel.: (031) 848473

Jewish Martyrs’ Square

Enclosed by Papanastasiou, Priamou and Karakassi Str.

Did You Know That….

1.         Jewish presence in Greece spans more than 2,400 years?

2.         In the 2nd century BCE, the Athenians had erected a statue of the Jewish leader Hyrcanus on the Agora, honoring him for his expressed feelings towards the Athenian Republic?

3.         Until the arrival of the Sepharadim from Spain, in 1492, the Jewish communities of Greece used the Greek language, and assumed Greek names?

4.         Around 50 CE, Paul preached in Thessaloniki’s synagogue on three consecutive Saturdays?

5.         The 20,000 Sepharadim who came to Thessaloniki in 1492 gave new life to the city that was almost deserted after the Turkish conquest of 1430? The historian Apostolos Vacalopoulos writes “…The commercial activity of those Jews was a special incentive for the economic growth of the Gteek inhabitants of the city, which, combined with other factors, led to their national awakening in the 19th century…”.

6.         During the Greek national uprising of 1821:  A. Reporter Lafitte, a French Jew, with his moving articles in “France Libre”, roused French public opinion in support of struggling Greece?  B. The Chief Rabbi of Westphalia in Germany collected donations in the Synagogues for the Greek liberation fighters?  C. Moses Gaster, a Jew, diplomatic agent of Holland in Bucharest, helped Alexandros Ypsylantis escape from the Turks after the lost battle of Dragatsani?

7.         Jews of international renown, such as Max Nordau and Salomon Reinach, supported in every possible way Greek national aspirations in Crete and Macedonia?

8.         David Sciacky, a Jewish physician, took an active part in the fighting during the Macedonian struggle, helping sick and wounded Greek fighters around the Yannitsa Lake area?

9.         Greece with Eleftherios Venizelos as Prime Minister and Nicolaos Politis as Foreign Minister, was one of the first countries that accepted the Balfour Declaration on the creation of a jewish National Home in the Palestine?

10.      Henry Morgenthau, and American Jew, led an international movement of solidarity to Greece, during the suffering that followed the Asia Minor defeat, and settled in Thessaloniki as President of the International Committee for the Rehabilitation of Refugees?

11.      12,898 Jews served during World War II in the Greek Army, defending their country? That 343 were officers? That 513 died and 3,743 were wounded? That among the first casualties was Colonel Mordechai Frezi from Chalkis?

12.      In 1943, the leaders of the Jewish Communities of Serres, Drama, and Cavala, refused to denounce their Greek nationality, although pressured to do so by the Bulgarian authorities? That a few months later all the Jews of those cities were turned over to the Germans who killed them?

13.      That Christian Greeks sheltered to the persecuted Greeks, risking their own lives? That the Church and Clergy, the National Resistance Movement, the Gendarmerle, and the Metropolital Police were the first to help? That the Chief of Metropolitan Police, Angelos Evert, issued thousands of false identity cards to Jews, helping them to evade the Nazis?

14.      The Archbishop of Athens, Damaskinos, sent a letter of protest to the German occupation authorities, demanding that they cease persecuting the Jews? That this letter, unique in the whole of occupied Europe, was co-signed by 27 Presidents of various Organizations and institutions, such as the Athens’ academy, the Chamber of Commerce etc.?

15.      Jews were assisted by the Bishops of Thessaloniki, Gennadios, of Dimitrias, Christodoulos, of Chalkis, Gregorios, and of Zante, Chrysostomos? That the Bishop of Zante helped by the Mayor of the city Loukas Carrer, prevented the arrest and deportation of the local Jews?   That the same was done in Katerini by Mayor Athanasios Vassilladis and Chief of Police Papagergiou?

16.      That the Greek State, having by law inheritance rights on the property of Greeks who die leaving no inheritors, refused to benefit from the plight of the Greek Jews, and waived its rights by law?


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