The Jewish Quarter of Rhodes is located in the eastern section of the Old City of Rhodes near the pier of the cruise ships. The Kahal Shalom synagogue and the Jewish Museum of Rhodes are located on Dossiadou Street (see map below). If you are traveling to Rhodes during the off-season you may only visit the synagogue and museum by making prior arrangements with the office of the Jewish Community of Rhodes.
The museum and synagogue hours: 10am to 3pm, through October 31. Closed on Saturdays. During the “winter season” starting November 1, the museum and synagogue is closed although arrangements are possible by appointment by contacting: email@example.com (or phone: 30-22410-22364).
During the past five hundred years the background of the Jews of Rhodes was influenced principally by the Jews who fled Spain at the time of the Spanish Inquisition. The descendants of the Jews from Spain are called “Sephardic” Jews and they spoke the Judeo-Spanish language (also called “Ladino”) and is similar to modern Spanish.
During the 1930′s there were approximately 4,000 Jews living in Rhodes. At that time there were four synagogues and a Rabbinical College. Today the Jewish community of Rhodes consists of approximately 30 people. The Kahal Shalom synagogue conducts High Holiday services, as well as Friday night services when there is a minyan. There is no kosher facility in Rhodes.
Summer 2013: Personal Walking Tours of the Jewish Quarter
The past summer we were fortunate to have the services of Isaac Habib to provide tours of the synagogue, museum and Jewish Quarter of Rhodes. Isaac lives in Cape Town and has visited Rhodes numerous times and has a wealth of knowledge and sentiment for the history of ” La Juderia” from the Jewish perspective (his family lived in the Jewish Quarter of Rhodes prior to the Holocaust). He offered these tours during June, July and August.
The following photos show Isaac Habib in the main Jewish business square and at the 16th century Hebrew plaque in the courtyard (“cortiju”) of the Kahal Shalom synagogue describing these Jewish landmarks. Isaac also is a poet of “Ladino”, the ancient language of the Sephardic Jews who lived in Rhodes.
Present Landmarks of the Jewish Community
Around the Jewish Quarter (historically known as “La Juderia”) there are several stone plaque monuments reminding us of the existence of Jewish life in Rhodes. The stone plaques which still exist today are written in Hebrew, Ladino, Italian and French. Many other landmarks have been destroyed by the bombings of World War II and by subsequent changes. Nevertheless, walking around the Old Jewish Quarter today still reveals several interesting landmarks (indicated on the map below).
- Please Select a number on the map to read about the location
The “Square of the Martyred Jews”. Located at the end of “La Calle Ancha”.
The street called “La Called Ancha” was the heart of the Jewish Quarter and was situated where the residential area ended and the business district started. The main street was known for hundreds of years as “La Calle Ancha” which means “the wide street” in the Judeo-Spanish (“Ladino”) language. The present fountain ornamented with three seahorses replaced a previous fountain that was destroyed during World War II.
Holocaust Memorial; located in the “Square of the Martyred Jews”
The Holocaust Memorial was dedicated on June 23, 2002 in memory of the World War II victims from Rhodes and the island of Cos. The dedication of the black granite column was a culmination of several years of planning by the Greek government in collaboration with the Jewish Community of Rhodes.
The monument is six sided, each having a different language: Greek, Hebrew, English, French, Italian and Judeo-Spanish (“Ladino”). The memorial is inscribed with the words: “IN ETERNAL MEMORY OF THE 1604 JEWISH MARTYRS OF RHODES AND COS WHO WERE MURDERED IN NAZI DEATH CAMPS. JULY 23, 1944.”
Joseph Notrica Donation of 1915; located on the corner of Perikleous & Ikarou Streets
There are a few homes surrounding a courtyard that was donated by Joseph Notrica for the Jewish community. There are two plaques, one on each side of the corner.
Background information: Joseph Notrica was a prominent banker who had no children. The income monies received were designated to help the poor of the community, particularly for needy children. The courtyard has a prominent date palm tree, and it was known to the community as “El Datlar”.
Alhadeff Family Donation Plaque of 1935 in “Ladino” (Judeo-Spanish); located on Calle de los Ricos (#5 Gavala Street)
Background information: this property was donated to the Jewish Community of Rhodes by the well known Alhadeff family. The family previously lived in the building prior to its donation.
Kahal Tikkun Hazot Synagogue; located on Calle de los Ricos (#8 Gavala Street)
The “Tikkun Hazot” was built in the 1870′s and the name comes from the “midnight service” and refers to the services before dawn.
Background information: It is situated on the street known in Judeo-Spanish (“Ladino”) as Calle de los Ricos, because the wealthier people lived on that street. The synagogue was therefore informally called “Kehila de los Ricos” because it was attended by the wealthier families of the Jewish community.
Old Jewish Cemetery; located just outside the wall of the Old City
The cemetery existed there for hundreds of years until 1938, when it was forced to be moved by the Italian fascist government to its present location 1½ kilometers (1 mile) away.
Alhadeff Park; located in the central part of the Jewish Quarter
This park cross-sects (intersects) a main part of the old Jewish Quarter. The street running through the park is called Salomon Alhadeff Street. In 1933 the land was donated to the city of Rhodes by the prominent Jewish family of Salomon Alhadeff.
Kahal Grande Synagogue; located between Calle de Kahal Grande and Calle de la Escola (between Thiseos & Kisthinou Streets)
The full name of the synagogue was the Kahal Kadosh Gadol (the Holy Great Congregation) and was also called Kehila Grande in Judeo-Spanish (“Ladino”). During World War II the synagogue was accidentally damaged by Allied bombings targeting German ships docked at the nearby port.
The remains of the Kehila Grande, including the perimeter, floor and other features can still be seen. The synagogue is believed to have been built in the late 1400′s after the Turkish siege of 1480. It actually replaced an existing Jewish synagogue that was built earlier but destroyed by cannon balls during the conflict of 1480.
Although heavily damaged in 1944 during World War II bombings, the structural walls of the Kehila Grande synagogue remained standing for several more years. During the next thirty years, the walls collapsed and the area filled with rubble. In 2003, the Greek government cleared away the 4 feet of debris which had accumulated exposing the foundation of the perimeter walls, floors and other features.
1904 Dedication Plaque of the Alliance Israelite Universelle School; located in the center of Calle de la Escola (Kisthniou Street)
The dedication plaque above the fountain of the Jewish school of Rhodes is all that exists today. The large two story building was damaged during the bombings of World War II and eventually came down during the 1960′s.
Background information: During an August 1903 visit to Rhodes, the Baron and Baroness Edmond de Rothschild donated 15,000 francs to build the school. The school building was completed at the end of 1904. During the Italian occupation, the school changed its name to “Scuole Israelitiche Italiani”. Different from previous schools in Rhodes, the Alliance school was attended not only by boys, but girls as well. Included in the entryway is a 1913 inscription that recognizes the beneficial deeds of the Italian regional administrator.
Notrica Foundation Community Building; located at the north end of Calle de la Escola (Kisthiniou Street)
Established during the 1920′s this building was used as a Jewish community center for several purposes. This building was donated by the Joseph Notrica Foundation to the Jewish Community of Rhodes. It is now a Greek school.
Background information: As explained by Heskia Franco, in his book the Martyrs of Rhodes and Cos: “The Jewish Community had a fine building, called the Notrica Foundation, a Foundation which was established thanks to the generosity of Joseph Masliah Notrica, our great benefactor. The ground floor was used for overflow classes from our school which was next door. The upper floor housed the Community’s offices and those of the Bene Brith Association, and a vast hall was used for lectures, and also as a meeting place for all Community activities.”
At the top left facade is a white plaque with the inscription (translated from Greek): “Establishment of Joseph Notrica”.
“Puerta de la Mar”; located in the northeast corner of the Old City
Translated from Judeo-Spanish (“Ladino”) “Door to the Sea”. This was a relatively small gateway to the sea and was situated in the northeast residential area of the Jewish Quarter.
The Rabbinical College; located at the end of La Calle Ancha
In 1928 the Rabbinical College was established as the natural need for the development of a center for spiritual learning. The school attracted professors and students from several countries and earned an international reputation. Its graduates have played important roles in several Jewish communities.
During that time it had 4 locations. The first two locations of the Rabbinical College were located in the Old City of Rhodes in the Jewish Quarter while the second two premises were located in the New City of Rhodes. For a few years (approximately 1929 to 1932) the Rabbinical College was temporarily housed in a building built by the Crusaders, the Hospice of Saint Catherine. This is at the end of “La Calle Ancha” as it was known to the Rhodeslis and this part of the street was called “el espejo” in Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) because it looked like a mirror.
Plaque of 1767; located in the middle of Calle de Talmud Torah (#4 Vizantiou Street)
The small white tablet is located above a doorway located close to the Kehila Midrash synagogue. In this small room was where the community coffins were kept.
Translation from Hebrew: “With a good sign, this 8th day, month of Nisan, year 5527 (1767) from creation of the world.”
Kahal Midrash Synagogue; located in the middle of Calle de Talmud Torah (Vizantiou Street)
The Kehila Midrash was built in 1865 by the wealthy Camondo family from Constantinople (Istanbul). It was located upstairs and is the vault area above the street. It is currently a residence.
Background information: it was built with money donated by the wealthy banker, Abraham Camondo. It became known as a synagogue which had shorter religious services than other synagogues.
Kahal Shalom Synagogue & the Jewish Museum of Rhodes; located on Calle de Kahal Shalom (Simiou Street)
The Kahal Shalom, also known as the “Kehila Shalom”, is the oldest synagogue in Greece, and the sole remaining Jewish synagogue on Rhodes used for services. The Kehila Shalom is believed to have been built in the year 1577. The full name of the building is Kahal Kadosh Shalom (the Holy Congregation of Peace).
The interior of the Kehila 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. There is also a balcony that was created in 1935, as a result of a liberalization of religious policy, 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 are now being utilized for the Jewish Museum of Rhodes.
Location of Jewish Family Homes
Many Rhodesli descendants are interested in learning the location of their family home in the Jewish Quarter, also known as “La Juderia”. Therefore, the following 5 maps have been created to try to provide that information, despite 60 years having elapsed since the War and although many homes were destroyed in bombings.
The locations have been recalled from over 20 former residents of Rhodes, the primary sources are Joseph D. Alhadeff, Stella Levi, Sylvia Hasson-Berro, Sami Modiano, Diana Galante Golden, Sara Hanan Gilmore, Albert Almeleh, Rosa Israel Ferera, Joseph Natan Hasson, David Galante, Albert Menashe, Morris Barkey and others. This “location of homes” project is ongoing and therefore if you are able to share information regarding your family home please forward to us so that we will try to corroborate and it for inclusion when the below maps are updated.
We hope you enjoy this special insight into the closeness of this unique Jewish community.
Family homes around the Calle Ancha:
Family homes around the Kahal Shalom synagogue:
Family homes around La Fasana:
Family homes around Calle de Los Ricos:
Family homes around the Kahal Grande synagogue:
3 Views of the Business Square in the Old City of Rhodes
Most of the visitors to the Old City of Rhodes do not realize the extent of the Jewish presence that existed before the War. Many of the landmarks are gone making it difficult to appreciate what existed. Therefore, in order to help people learn of this history, I have prepared these 3 photos indicating the types of businesses and the names of the owners during the 1930’s. Total accuracy is not possible due to the length of time which has passed as well as the fact that businesses changed during that period of time. The primary source of this information is from Joseph D. Alhadeff of Brussels. This main business square was previously known as “Tcharshi Kemado” and “Piazza del Fuoco”.
View of the Jewish businesses during the 1930’s located on the north side of the square:
View of the Jewish businesses during the 1930’s located on the south side of the square:
View of the Jewish businesses during the 1930’s located on the west side of the square:
The Square of the Martyred Jews:
The “Square of the Martyred Jews” (known in Greek as “Martyron Evreon”), is located in the heart of the former Jewish Quarter. The present park area of 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 World War II.
Hotels and Accommodations
If you are an adventurer and would like to have a first hand experience and would not mind leaving behind some of your accepted conveniences there are several pensions in the Old City located in the former Jewish Quarter. They are actually homes previously owned by Jewish families that were converted into modest to good accommodations. One of the best situated is the Cava d’Oro Hotel located at Kistiniou Street #15 (phone #30- 22410-36980), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org . Other more modest pensions are the Spot Hotel located at Perikleous Street #21 (phone # 30-22410-34737), Hotel Iliana located Gavala Street (phone # 30-22410-30251) and Pension Eleni located at 25 Dimosthenous Street (phone #30-22410-73282).
There are several modern hotels in the New City, which are a 5-minute drive away from the Old City (about a 15 minute walk). Two of the more popular ones are the Mediterranean Hotel (phone # 22410-24661) and the Grand Hotel (phone # 22410-26284). The Sheraton (formerly the Hilton) Hotel (phone # 22410-75000) is a 10 minute drive further away (closer to the airport).
Excursion to the Jewish Cemetery
The Jewish Cemetery is one of the best preserved in Europe and contains tombstones from the 1500′s to the present. Excavations of additional tombstones are continuing and during the last five years over 300 burial stones have been uncovered.
The cemetery is located outside the Old City of Rhodes along the main road to Kalitheas. It takes 5 to 10 minutes to drive there from the Old City. It is possible to pick up a taxi at the taxi station just outside the Jewish Quarter of the Old City next to “St. Catherine’s Gate”, also known as the “Marine Gate”.
Panoramic View of the Kahal Shalom Synagogue
Louis Davidson has provided an extraordinary photographic view of the synagogue. This is viewable on the website called “Synagogues360″, located at: http://www.synagogues360.org/synagogues.php?ident=greece_005