Visitors to the Synagogue in Rhodes
Our private guide
something exciting about returning to Rhodes. Not many of the 90,000 people
came out to greet me but the souvenir stands were ready and the sweet smells
of the flowers, bakeries and restaurants drew me into the maze-like city as
it had before. This was an island teeming with history, crammed with
visitors and boasting great cruise ships from many ports. The day would go
quickly as we sat in the main square .the Square of the Martyred Jews, next
to the memorial to the victims of the holocaust and read from our trusty
One cannot imagine the original port with it’s great arch,
The Colossus of Rhodes, an ancient wonder.
I understood that this island figured prominently in the
Aegean civilization of ancient times. From the age of the Dorians it
flourished as a commercial center with colonies scattered throughout the
Aegean basin. In the 5th century BC the Dorian League became part of the
confederacy under Athens. But the League broke up around the 4th century BC
and by 332 Rhodes submitted to Alexander the Great. When he died, the
citizens of Rhodes revolted and sent the Macedonians packing, so to speak.
BC. Over the next 200 years it achieved prosperity and political power. It
became the center of culture with art and artists making a name for
themselves. It was the work of Chares in the 3rd century BC who created the
celebrated Colossus, built to celebrate their victory over the Persians. It
was a 98-foot statue of the sun God Helios, later replaced by Apollo. It was
destroyed by earthquake in 225 BC Here too lived the great Laocoon (
Lay-ah-ca-wan) who was the subject of great sculptures. Later they sided
with Julius Caesar in his struggle with Pompey.
By 394 AD the Rhodesians were attached to the Ottoman
Empire which lasted until 1309 when the Knights of St John of Jerusalem
occupied it. Later the Turks returned, lay siege to Rhodes and ruled the
island until the Turko-Italian War of 1912. The island was ceded to Greece
Today there is a flourishing economy based on agricultural
products manufactured goods, carpets, soap and brandy. Of course tourism
flourished with the expansion of the port and the construction of modern
Today, Rhodes has 27 beaches and international tourists
bungy-jumping or using go-carts, snorkeling, or on jet skis, banana-boats,
water bikes or para-sailing.
The city is teeming with restaurants and bars.
is another side to this fascinating city. Here in the midst of the maze of
tiny streets is a small but expanding synagogue, a testimony to the days
when Jews were free to live and worship here.
and the Spanish Inquisition, the Jews who left Spain settled in many of the
areas controlled by the Ottomans. Rhodes was one such place although there
were Jews there as far back as the second century BC, as one can read in the
book of Maccabees. Even the Jewish historian Josephus Flavius refers to the
Jewish presence in Rhodes.
Sephardic Jews brought with them their culture, their customs and
traditions. The language spoken was Ladino or Judeo-Spanish.
1920s there were about 4,500 Jews in Rhodes (the Capital of the island.
Rhodes was taken over by the Germans and on July 23 1944, 1673 members of
the Jewish Community were arrested and deported to Auschwitz. Only 151
war the island was ceded to Greece. Today there are only a handful of Jews
living in Rhodes but the ancient synagogue is being reconstructed with both
public and private funds and recently with the unstinting help of a Jewish
couple from South Africa who is spending their retirement seeing that the
building and museum is rebuilt.
The Kahal (Kadosh) Shalom Synagogue (Holy Congregation of
Peace) is the oldest in Greece and the last remaining in Rhodes. It has been
standing on central Dossiadou and Simiou Streets since the 1570s. It is
still used by visiting groups of former residents for special occasions,
High Holiday and Sabbath services.
It follows the traditional Sephardic style with the tevah
or prayer reading table in the center of the sanctuary, facing southeast
The floor is decorated with graceful black and white
mosaic stone patterns in a motif often seen in the Old City of Rhodes.
In 1934a balcony was created along the western wall of the
sanctuary as a result of the liberalization of religious policy. Prior to
that women were separated from men in rooms along the south wall.
In that space where the Mikvah or cleansing bath had
stood, there is a sanctuary and a newly acquired Museum of Jewish Rhodes.,
It was established in 1997 in order to preserve the Jewish
hertage on Rhodes as well as to advance public awareness and appreciation of
the history of the community.
the west entrance there is a plaque that states:
Peace in the world,
let there be peace…
May our eyes see the erection of the temple in Jerusalem.
With God’s coming, salvation abounds.
For more information or to make a donation to the museum
or reconstruction write to The Jewish Community of Rhodes
5 Polydorou St. (Old City), Rhodes, Greece, 85100
Their web site is
A typical old wedding
|The Jewish Cemetary is 2 KM outside the old city.
It is one of the oldest, best-preserved and historically significant
Jewish cemeteries in the world. The recent recovery and restoration
of 400 ancient burial stones that date back to the 16th and 17th
There is much more
to the Island of Rhodes than the city. It is about 540 Sq. miles
with many beautiful towns and a mountain peak about 4,000 feet above
sea level. The farms and seaports produce cotton, fruit, sponges and
The town of Lindos is worth visiting for at least
part of a day. It is in a beach area along the southeast coast.
Ancient city wall Rhodes
Arnie Greenberg June 2008
Write to me at Ultours@gmail.com.
You can Contact Professor Arnie Greenberg at:
Over the past few years, Professor
Greenberg has traveled with groups to France, Italy, Spain, Greece,
Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Prague and both Sorrento and the Bay of
Naples plus most of Sicily. His tours traveled to the far reaches of the
globe including Italy and most of
China (Beijing -Hong Kong) and to Russia where his group cruised the waters
from St.Petersburg to Moscow.
"He took a group to Greece and another to northern
Russia. In Nov 07 he took a tour group to much of India and ended his tour
groups by revisiting France. He now travels with his wife and friends. They
winter in Argentina or San Miguel Mexico. His newly found spare time
is taken up with his painting and writing. "I must write every day." His
current work is a cautionary manual for would-be tour leaders.. "So
You Want To Be A Tour Leader."
Arnie now travels with friends. He continues writing
Travel articles about unusual places but often concentrates on novel
writing. Two books based on French Art will be published this year.
Keep reading his web for travel ideas. His next
novel HELLSTORM'S Folly,
will be available this fall. He now
lives in British Columbia.
www.top-travel-ideas.com or contact him directly at
(More about the writer.)