Kahal Shalom Synagogue

Rhodes, Greece

The Kahal Shalom Synagogue in La Juderia, the Jewish quarter of the city of Rhodes, is the oldest synagogue in Greece today.

There has been a Jewish presence in Rhodes for 2,300 years. They were, at times, persecuted by Romans, the Knights Hospitaller, and other rulers of the islands. During Ottoman rule, however, the Jews of Rhodes prospered, and many expelled Sephardim settled there, particularly in the city of Rhodes, where they built many synagogues. The Kahal Shalom Synagogue was constructed in 1577 (5338 in the Hebrew calendar), and has been in use ever since. The synagogue and its worshipers prospered under Ottoman rule into the twentieth century.

However, the Kingdom of Italy took over the Dodecanese Islands in 1912, and large numbers of the Jews of Rhodes had begun to emigrate during the 1930s, as they felt menaced by the Fascist Italian regime. When the Italian Fascist government fell, the Island came under direct German control in 1943, and more than 1,550 of the remaining 1,700 Jews were deported and met their deaths in concentration camps, largely putting an end to the use of Kahal Shalom. Kahal Shalom was the only of the four synagogues in La Juderia at the time to survive the bombing during the Second World War. Today, Kahal Shalom is only used for services during the summer, when there is an influx of Jewish tourists and Rhodeslis (Jews hailing from Rhodes) as there are only few Jews on the island today.

Layout

Most features of the Kahal Shalom Synagogue are typical of Sephardic and Ottoman synagogues. The bimah, or podium, from which the Sefer Torah is read, is in the center of the sanctuary, as in most Sephardic houses of worship. The floor is a mosaic using the black and white local stones used in pavements around Rhodes. An unusual feature of the temple is the fact that there are two hekháls (Torah arks), on either side of the door leading into the interior courtyard. There is also a fountain in the courtyard used for handwashing by the Kohanim before reciting the priestly blessings.

Plaques

A number of plaques adorn the exterior and interior of the synagogue. Most, primarily in Ladino, the language of the Sephardic community, and Hebrew are dedicated to those who maintained the synagogue. Another, in French, is dedicated to the members of the community who died during the Holocaust.

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Address

Dosiadou και, Rhodes, Greece
See all sites in Rhodes

Details

Founded: 1577
Category: Religious sites in Greece

Rating

4.7/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Brad Blois (7 months ago)
I went here specifically to read the names of the deported Jews during the Holocaust. A difficult task emotionally each person deserves to be remembered. The shocking difference between visiting a war cemetery and a Holocaust memorial is you seldom see family names repeated on headstones whereas a Holocaust memorial is entirely family names. Entire families men,women and children wiped from existence. If anything take the time to read one family of names. Time well spent, never forget!
Matthew Clarkson (8 months ago)
A quite superb museum attached to the only remaining synagogue in Rhodes. The museum collection itself is wonderfully put together with a lot of love and attention, it is also hugely moving. I learned a tremendous amount about Jewish life and also what makes the Jewish community on Rhodes unique. There is a lot of written information but also a free app available if you prefer your info in audio form. Entrance to the synagogue and museum was €6pp and was worth every cent. For me, the best museum we visited in Rhodes city.
Aud Hege Santi (8 months ago)
One of the oldest synagogues. It is well restored and the people working there have a lot of history to share with the visitors
Barış Deniz Keser (9 months ago)
the Kahal Shalom Synagogue, a site of immense historical and cultural importance located in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Rhodes. Built in 1577, this is the oldest synagogue in Greece and one of the oldest in Europe, serving as a living testament to the once-thriving Sephardic Jewish community of Rhodes. **Architectural Features** The synagogue's design is a blend of Sephardic and Ottoman influences, evident in its unique layout and ornamentation. The structure houses a central bimah (podium) and is adorned with beautiful stone arches. The wooden Ehal, or Torah ark, is a significant feature, intricately crafted and adorned. **Historical Context** Rhodes had a vibrant Jewish community for centuries, and the Kahal Shalom Synagogue was at its spiritual and communal heart. However, the community was decimated during World War II, when the majority were deported to Auschwitz. The synagogue thus stands as a monument not just to religious practice, but also to memory and resilience. **Museum and Memorial** Adjoining the synagogue is a small but impactful Jewish Museum, displaying a collection of photographs, ritual objects, and artifacts that trace the history and customs of the Jewish community in Rhodes. There's also a poignant Holocaust memorial within the synagogue's courtyard, honoring those who were lost. **Cultural Importance** Today, the synagogue is no longer a regularly functioning house of worship due to the small size of the current Jewish community. However, it is often opened for special ceremonies, cultural events, and educational tours. **Visitor Information** The site is open to visitors, and there's a modest admission fee that goes toward maintenance and educational efforts. Photography is usually permitted, but it's always good to check the latest visitor guidelines. Spending an hour or so here will give you ample time to explore the synagogue and the adjoining museum. **Nearby Attractions** The Kahal Shalom Synagogue is within walking distance of other significant landmarks in the Old City, including the Grand Master’s Palace, making it an integral part of any historical tour of Rhodes. I hope this tour stop enriches your understanding of the diverse cultural tapestry of Rhodes and the Sephardic Jewish legacy that is so poignantly encapsulated here. Thank you for your visit, and please take your time to absorb the depth of history that this site offers.
Itzik levy (Izikl) (2 years ago)
The synagogue in the old city of Rhodes The synagogue is also a museum of Judaism in Rhodes. Entrance to the synagogue and museum costs 4 euros. The entrance is in a side alley until you reach it you don't see the place, so enter and walk until you reach it. The synagogue is in excellent condition. The Ark of the Covenant, bulbs and seats are in excellent condition, so you can get a full impression of the Judaism that was there. A well-kept patio and a small museum that describes the history of the Jews in Rhodes.
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