The Jewish Community in Greece
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?The Jewish community in Greece has a very colorful and intriguing past, but it is also a history filled with undeserved discriminatory acts and hatred.? The earliest Jews came to Greece either in chains or because of persecution, and soon experienced more hardships and troubles.? And just when Greece had overcome its discrimination and its Jews began to breathe easily, the worst persecution of all befell the community.? The Jewish community in Greece was once large and prominent.? In fact, ?the country once boasted some of the most distinguished and ancient Jewish communities in the world.1 But only a shadow of its once glorious past remains, and Jews are currently facing discrimination today.? The best example of Greek Jewry is the city of Thessaloniki, which exemplifies the shifting community throughout history.? Greek Jews are still facing discrimination, but hopefully, Greek sentiment will change.
Greek Jews Throughout History
?Scholars are unsure when Jews first settled on the Greek isles, but most agree the earliest were slaves ?forcibly transported to Greece by way of Cyprus, Ionia, and the Greek isles by various enemies of Judah during the biblical period.?2? Jews came in waves to Greece, usually sold into slavery during wars, such as the Hasmonean War and the Maccabean Wars.? Later, when Rome conquered Asia, even more Jews came to Greece to escape Roman rule, and their numbers continued to increase.? Erich Kahler believes that this is just one reason why the number of Jews in Greece increased so steadily.? The other explanation is ?that Judaism was the first proselytizing religion, the first religion with a mission not only for its own tribe, but for all peoples.?3? In the Byzantine era, Jews met with difficulty from the Christian emperors, such as Constantine and Theodosius II, who ?limited the rights of Jews as citizens of the Roman Empire.?4? Later emperors such as Heraclius, Leo III, and Basil I tried to force all Jews in the empire to convert to Christianity.? Throughout the Byzantine era, Jews continually faced troubles, and life did not become easier with Ottoman rule, in which Jews faced political and economic pressures.? When Greece became a country in 1821, it ?recognized the civic and political equality of the Jews.?5? The lives of Greek Jews were greatly improved until the 1940s, when anti-Semitism and hatred removed them from their homes and robbed them of their lives.
History of Thessaloniki
?The Greek city of Salonika, or Thessaloniki, is an excellent example of the Greek Jewish community.? This ?illustrious, proud and powerful city? was the home of thousands of Jews for centuries.6? It was named after Alexander the Great?s sister and built by her husband, Kassandros.7? Kassandros is responsible for the first Jews moving to Thessaloniki.? He petitioned the Egyptian king Ptolemei to allow Jewish artists to come in 140 B.C.? The Jews in...