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

4.8/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Ronni Guggenheim (11 months ago)
Beautifully restored and very emotional exhibit on Rhodos Jewry and their hardship during 2nd world war.
Alexander Stern (12 months ago)
Definitely worth visiting. Very reasonable entrance fee. So informative with several interesting stories. Some of the stories are very sad, but they need to be heard. I would recommend this to everyone visiting Rhodes. Also there is a nice little gift shop with reasonably priced things.
Maureen Purcell (12 months ago)
A beautiful, restored synagogue with a museum attached. The museum was very informative and personalized the local jewish community that had been living in Rhodes until WWII. Overall, very moving commentary. You should definitely visit.
Terry Ruane (12 months ago)
informative but a very small synagogue with a detailed history nothing really special of note
Jonny A (2 years ago)
Hidden gem in the old City. Lovely restored synagogue with gems from throughout history and incredibly interesting stories of the Jews of Rhodes. Well worth a visit.
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