Museum Established in 1997
Background of the Founder and Museum
I was born in Los Angeles and am a third generation “Rhodesli”. I am an attorney in Los Angeles where I have been practicing immigration law since 1980. During my first three years of law practice, I worked for the Jewish Family Service in Los Angeles representing the agency with their refugee and religious asylum cases. Since March 1982 I have practiced immigration law in the Westwood area of Los Angeles.
In 1974, and later in July 1996, I have written articles for the Western States Jewish History concerning the Rhodeslis who emigrated to Los Angeles. This was carried out with the encouragement and cooperation of its editor, Rabbi William Kramer.
I was inspired to visit the island of Rhodes in 1975 by stories told to me by my grandparents. Its special charm and history fascinated me. Several years later, in 1995, I went back to Rhodes with my family for my children to learn of our family heritage. It was during that trip that I noticed the need of advancing the public awareness and appreciation of its unique history unfortunately devastated by the Holocaust.
June 1995 — Family trip instigates idea for a Museum:
The photo below was taken during June 1995 in Rhodes in front of the three windmills (“los tres molinos”).
It was a gathering of the Hasson and Soriano families in order to learn more about our family heritage.
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 with vacationers coming from all countries of the world, utilizing international charter air flights as well as cruise ships. These visitors walk the streets of “La Juderia” lacking knowledge of its Jewish history many of whom visited the sole remaining synagogue, the Kahal Shalom. Unfortunately, there was nothing at the Kahal Shalom to inform its visitors of its 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.
In 1997 I created two institutions to fulfill this goal. First, I established the Rhodes Jewish Museum, which exhibits photographic materials and other artifacts, and secondly I set up the Rhodes Jewish Historical Foundation, which is a non-profit organization to be used as a vehicle for furthering this goal. In October 1997, I created this web site in order to be an information source for people interested in the history of the Jews of Rhodes as well as those planning to travel to Rhodes. The web site was originally designed with the kind assistance and computer expertise of my brother, Don Hasson. The current web site has been developed by Kyle Gentile of “…Gentile Website Designs…”.
I hope the web site will be an enjoyable learning experience for all viewers. Aron Hasson
May 1997 Visions for a Museum:
The first two vacant rooms shown on the left would be the easiest to restore for the planned museum. These rooms were previously used as the women’s prayer rooms and had been vacant since the Holocaust.
The two photos on the right show how sample photos would be initially arranged for an envisioned museum. Demonstrating are Albert Almeleh in one photo and Rachelle & Daniel Hasson in the other photo.
June 1997 — Obtaining the “green light” from the Jewish Community of Rhodes:
The administration of the Jewish Community of Rhodes agrees to the establishment of the museum. The members, shown below left to right: Maurice Soriano, Albert Covo and Jacob Sakkis.
Letter from the Jewish Community of Rhodes:
Dear Mr. Hasson,
We refer to the meeting of the Committee of the Jewish Community of Rhodes to which you took part. During this meeting you developed your ideas about the creation of a Museum of Jewish life in Rhodes, mainly based on photographs and to be located in the side rooms of the synagogue.
Further to the discussion on the subject, the Committee took the following decision, as per translated minutes of its session of June 24, 1997.
The Committee of the Jewish Community of Rhodes, composed of Mssrs. M. Soriano, A. Covo and J. Sakkis, having heard the proposition of Mr. Hasson from Los Angeles, on the creation of a Jewish Museum in the premises of the synagogue of Rhodes, finds it most interesting and historically indispensable and therefore decides:
a.) To entrust Mr. Hasson with the task of further gathering documents among the Jews of Rhodes in the Diaspora, in order to enrich his valuable collection. b.) We entrust Mr. Hasson to act on our behalf and promote these projects among our brothers in the Diaspora so that funds can be raised either from individuals or from institutions…
With sincere regards,
Albert Covo, Vice President
September 1997 — Getting the Museum Ready:
Planning the restoration with team of workers in the courtyard (“cortiju”) of the Kahal Shalom. The team consists of: architect, electrician, carpenter, painter and assistants. Photo shows Jacob Sakkis, one of the three members of the Rhodes Jewish Community, directing the construction of the first phase of the museum. In the photo, left to right: Joseph Alhadeff (of Brussels) and Jacob Sakkis. The rooms were quickly renovated within a short 3 week time period.
The before and after photos shows the work being undertaken to restore the women’s prayer rooms for the Museum:
October 1997 — Museum opens to its first visitors:
The photos below show the first museum visitors reading and viewing pictures.
After two years of restoration, the Jewish Museum of Rhodes has reopened as of April 28, 2006. Background: the Museum is located in the Old City of Rhodes, in rooms adjacent to the Kahal Shalom synagogue. The space was used for the women’s prayer rooms until the Holocaust when the Jews of Rhodes were deported to Auschwitz. Since then the rooms were vacant and the roof had constant rain leakage. In 1997 the Jewish Museum of Rhodes was established utilizing two of the rooms. It was created to advance the public awareness and appreciation of the unique history of the Jewish community with a photographic collection which documents life in Rhodes before the War. In 2004 the Jewish Community of Rhodes undertook the long needed repair of the roof as well as restoring the interior. In addition, the Museum has expanded from the original two rooms into the four additional rooms, making it now six rooms.