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The Jews were especially skilled in wool spinning, an industry imported from Spain which spread to all localities around the Thermaic Gulf. The synagogue functioned as a center for administration of the law and the economy; butchers, bakeries and dairies were nearby, all supplying food in the way required by the Jewish religion.

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When visiting Salonika in the mid th century, the French geographer Nicolas de Nicolay mentioned eighty synagogues, 58 all of which had until then maintained their individual identities. When a synagogue was destroyed by fire it was rebuilt on the same sacred site. Can any form of settlement, building type or stylistic feature be attributed to the Sephardi Jews? When presenting the proceedings of an international meeting on Sephardi architecture, Petruccioli raised this point.

This would particularly apply to Salonika, where the Sephardim formed the largest ethnic group and where Sephardi culture and economic influence were most firmly established. Having emphasized the importance of the relationship between the heikhal , the tevah and the minimum space for the congregation in the prayer hall, Nitzan-Shiftan 62 explains how the synagogue of Spanish rite changed from a basilica-type layout to a single hall, and to the four-column type in particular an adaptation to forms of local architecture , recalling that, in the Sephardi liturgical tradition, the bifocal space between heikhal and tevah had been adapted to the plan of the basilica, creating the four-column type in the smaller synagogues.

This layout, with the tevah in the center, was the most common in the Ottoman Sephardi synagogues which, in most cases, included the school and refectory both inside a walled courtyard cortijos. Established by the Jews from Aragon and Galicia, the Aragon synagogue 67 was the largest and richest in town until the early 18 th century; comprising a circular courtyard, it was laid out so that one part of the congregation stood on the spacious tevah , another next to the heikhal and a third at the center of the prayer hall, surrounded by wooden columns.

It may be added that the Provencia synagogue was one of the most significant, and the Italia synagogue was located next to a source of water known as the Madresika del Agua mother of waters.

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The Anglo-Jewish author and historian Elkan Nathan Adler said, on visiting the historic synagogues of Salonika in The seats are movable benches and sometimes chairs. The Sicilians possess quite gorgeous purple or crimson armchairs …. But each form is but the evidence that years ago the Salonicans, like the Persians of today, squatted on the ground as they prayed. Accommodation for the female synagogue-goers was none too abundant.

The galleries, or corners reserved for them, are scrupulously trellised or curtained off from the indiscrete gaze of opposite sex. They were just like the shelters provided for the Harem beauties in the theatre boxes at Cairo. It is large, and the Almemar is a lofty dais at the extreme west end, gallery high. The Ark is also highly placed and many elders sit on either side on a somewhat lower platform. Italia was most striking, for the synagogue is but half-built, the floor not yet bricked in, and the galleries of rough lathes, and yet the women climbed up the giddy steps on the scaffolding, and the hall was full of worshippers.

This description is integrated with photographs of the Catalan and the Talmud Torah synagogues in ruins after the fire of strongly built square piers without capitals linked by Islamic ogee arches, which were decorated with a cornice in the form of a recessed arch. These rubble masonry structures were very similar to public buildings erected by the Ottomans soon after the conquest.


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The following is an attempt to describe the three central synagogues of Salonika, namely the Talmud Torah , the Beth Saul and the Monastirioton from onwards. According to E.

In the 16 th century the Talmud Torah had to cater for multiple and varied collective needs, growing progressively as the institution concentrated all vital forces of the Jewish population of Salonika. A symbol of the unity of the Jews, the Talmud Torah provided lodging for travelers and a soup kitchen, as well as handling the release of Jewish prisoners and receiving and re-homing refugees. It consisted of a large corridor, a kind of gallery open to sun and wind, and enclosed by a balustrade.

It was here that the faithful would come together during the services. For the congregation, there were graduated benches in the form of an amphitheater along the four sides of the patio. If there were a large gathering, the patio itself would be used. The ground floor was not open to the central patio. In this large hall there were benches where the classes were organized, but no divisions between them. It was in this hall that people came to hear the decision of the rabbinical council in matters concerning the Jewish community.

The Scottish traveler William Lithgow wrote that Salonika had been converted into a university for the Jews where the Jewish clergy was educated to be sent to different cities. The metamorphosis of the Talmud Torah took place towards the end of the 19 th century, alongside the westernization and economic development of Salonika, a process largely led by the Jewish community.

A smaller building was set up to offer lodging to homeless people and travelers who were passing through. In the Talmud Torah complex was again destroyed by fire, and rebuilt with the help of many donors The new synagogue was praised by Joseph Klausner for its ample size and fine colonnades:.

Here is the oriental atmosphere and originality, holiness but also simplicity. The Talmud Torah , a complex of m 2 , had its own courtyard around which the schools and chief community institutions were built.

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The seat of the Arch-Rabbinate, the Jewish market, the ambulatory of the Bikour Holim foundation and the gymnasium of the Maccabi athletic club, founded in , were all close by. Extending for 4,m2 at the core of the Jewish quarter, the Talmud Torah complex included a number of synagogues and internal yards, a school and an asylum, as well as the bakery for unleavened bread. Aerial photos taken after the fire of August show that most buildings forming the Talmud Torah complex were still standing.

The synagogue was designed by the Italian architect Vitaliano Poselli 87 who at that time was also working on reconstruction of the Catholic church in Frank Street While the earlier synagogues were modest structures along blind alleys, or placed in upstairs rooms, but always an integral part of the urban fabric including auxiliary spaces and community institutions, the Beth Saul stood alone in a garden next to the new family mansion Villa Ida, V. Poselli, Built for private use inside a private estate, the synagogue was oriented with its main facade towards the Avenue des Campagnes , but was quite distant from the public eye.

The Beth Saul synagogue was a western-inspired building marking a clear break with the past. While bearing witness to a phase of cultural transition, 93 when the Jewish community was also fraught between tradition integration into the Ottoman Empire and innovation assimilation into French culture , the Beth Saul synagogue reflects a pursuit for modernity and an expression of cultural identity. Adler remarked that:.

After the Balkan wars Salonika was incorporated into the Greek State and separated from the territories that had formed its economic hinterland.

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Despite unease created over the new reality, local and international Jewry soon regarded the Hellenic government with increasing confidence, so much so that Jews from Monastir, Istip and Stroumitza moved to Salonika. According to the census the Greek population was already prevalent, and became even more so after when the city received 88, Greek-orthodox refugees from Asia Minor. The Monastirioton synagogue was founded in such turbulent years, with a donation made in by Ida Aroesti from Monastir in memory of her husband, Isaac, for the Jews from Monastir who had settled in Salonika.

Close to the site of a large school complex, 99 the Monastirioton synagogue was to fit into the newly designed urban blocks along Syngrou Street featuring a neo-Byzantine style, possibly following the aesthetic aspects of the reconstruction plan [ Fig. It was placed at the center of a plot cut out from an urban block, the square prayer hall The fine building designed by the Jewish architect E.

From the porch, men could gain access to the midrash or to the prayer hall, while women had a separate entrance to the staircase leading to the gallery and reception room on the upper floor [ Fig. Levy, Scaccabarozzi based on maps and photos published in E. Messinas, The Synagogues of Salonika and Veroia , During the German occupation the synagogue was occupied by the Red Cross and was therefore spared.

The list of synagogue names may perhaps suffice to show that no question raised by research, even one on architecture, can be answered without considering the complex settlement processes which have led to Salonika being called the city of the Jews , or mother of Israel. In a regime characterized by a blending of cultures, by interpositions from near and far, even the idea of context presents several aspects.

Ottoman Empire

This may be extended to include the institutional set-up, so entirely different from that prevailing in Europe, but also communities of such variety as to make simplification impossible. The idea of context acquires solidity the more we consider the original features of the city, and how these have reacted to exceptional processes of settlement, as in cases where a ceaseless inflow of populations and cultures has taken place. Onassis Foundation. Toksoz, B. Balestreri and M. Meriggi Milano: Libraccio Editore, , NOTE: based of research jointly carried out by the authors, this text has been mainly written by C.

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Scaccabarozzi has written paragraphs Salonika Jews before the Ottoman conquest ; The Beth Saul synagogue and The Monastirioton synagogue and is the author of many interpretative drawings that form a fundamental part of this research see captions. Quest Editorial Staff, Quest. Issues in Contemporary Jewish History. The Jewish Conspiracy Revealed Did the Germans Do It All? The Italian Shoah in International Historiography Primo Levi and the Italian Memory of the Shoah. Miscellanea Holocaust Research and Archives in the Digital Age. Holocaust Intersections in 21st-Century Europe.

The Great War. Portrait of Italian Jewish Life ss. A Historical Appraisal. Contested Narratives of a Shared Past. The Making of Antisemitism as a Political Movement. Political History as Cultural History Modernity and the Cities of the Jews. Jews in Europe after the Shoah. Studies and Research Perspectives. Abstract Until Salonika was also known as the Jerusalem of the Balkans for its predominantly Jewish population. The poleogenetic role of synagogues The Jews who arrived from the Iberian Peninsula found there the old Romaniote synagogue Etz Haim and the more recent synagogues Askhenaz , Italia and Sicilia.

The multi-purpose Talmud Torah According to E. Gilles Veinstein, Paris: Autrement, See also N. Carol Herselle Krinsky, Synagogues of Europe.