KOS (Cos ), the second largest of the Greek Dodecanese Islands in the Aegean Sea off the shores of Asia Minor. Despite the absence of any direct reference to Jewish settlement, it is assumed that Jews lived there during the Second Temple period. Josephus (Ant., 14:111–3) quotes Strabo to the effect that the Jews deposited 800 talents of silver on Kos for security, for fear of its being seized by King Mithridates, who, however, succeeded in taking the money. Kos is also mentioned in an obscure passage in I Maccabees 15:16–23. Herod bestowed some gifts on the islanders (Jos., Wars, 1:423) and his family maintained relations with the local population after his death, and Jewish emissaries were said to have passed through the island (Jos., Ant., 14:233). Romaniot Greek-speaking Jews lived on the island during the rule of the Knights of St. John (1315–1523) and according to one source they numbered 1,500. The Jews were exiled to Nice (1502) by the Grand Master of the Order of St. John at Rhodes. When the island was captured by the Turks in 1522, Jews again settled on it. In the 16th century, several noted Italian Jewish families, such as Romano, Finzi, and Capeluto, resided on the island. The first known rabbi was Isaac Katan, who headed the community in 1700. A small synagogue was built in 1747. In 1850 a *blood libel was perpetrated on the island, but the instigators were punished. In 1861, The small community of Kos was subordinate to the community at Rhodes until 1870. In the second half of the 19th century, 40 Jewish families lived on Kos, but there were only 20 in 1880, ten in 1901, and three or four families in 1910. The Italians captured the island in 1912 and annexed it in 1923 under the Lausanne Treaty. During World War i and the Greco-Turkish wars (1918–23), there was an influx of Jews from Anatolia and Rhodes, and the community reached 160 persons. The old cemetery was at Cape Sable but disappeared by the early 20th century, and a newer cemetery was used. About 100 Jews were buried there between the two world wars and the oldest grave dated from 1715. The Baron Edmond de Rothschild visited the community in 1903 and financed a wall for the cemetery. The earthquake of 1933 killed five Jews and destroyed the synagogue, which had stood on a hill for centuries. In 1934 a new synagogue, Kahal Shalom, was built near the port and the Italian government financed half of the construction expenses. The Jews exported raisins and grapes to Egypt and Europe and traded in cloth, iron, and other goods. The 1938 Italian anti-Jewish racial laws were imposed on the Jews of the island. On the eve of the Holocaust, the community numbered 20 families. After the Germans captured the island on October 3, 1943, eight families succeeded in fleeing to Turkey. Following the German occupation of the Dodecanese in World War ii, about 100 Jews from Kos were deported to Auschwitz, together with those from Rhodes (July, 1944). Twelve of the Jews deported survived the death camps. Four Jews were exempt due to their neutral Turkish citizenship and survived. In the 1960s only one Jewish family remained on Kos. After the last local Jew, Michel Menashe, died in 1995, the synagogue closed and became a cultural center and library.
A. Galanté, Histoire des Juifs de Rhodes. Chio, Cos… (1935), 161–7; idem, Appendice à l'Histoire des Juifs de Rhodes, Chio, Cos, etc. (1948), 75–76; Schuerer, Gesch, 1 (19014), 432n.; 3 (1909), 4n. 2, 56. add. bibliography: L.P. Fargion, Il Libro della Memoria – Gli Ebrei deportati dall'Italia (1943–1945) (1991); B. Rivlin, "Kos," in: Pinkas Kehillot Yavan (1999), 347–50.
[Uriel Rappaport /
Simon Marcus /
Yitzchak Kerem (2nd ed.)]