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IOANNINA (Janina) , name of town and region in Greece, N.W. of Athens. According to an old tradition, there was a Jewish community in Ioannina as early as the ninth century; the archaic Greek spoken by the Jewish inhabitants suggests that this may be true. During the first half of the 13th century the town was part of the despotate of *Epirus and the Jewish community suffered from persecutions. Jewish serfs are mentioned in two bulls, dated 1319 and 1321 respectively, issued by Emperor Andronicus ii Palaeologus (1282–1328). During his reign the emperor placed the Jews under his direct protection. In 1431 when the town was taken by the Turks, there was a sizable Jewish community, which continued to grow in succeeding generations. When Jewish refugees from Spain settled there, they assimilated into the local Romaniot population and adopted their Greek dialect. There were two synagogues, one known as the "old community," the other as the "new." Apulian and Sicilian Jews also settled in Ioannina and retained special circumcision and Purim customs. In 1612 the Jews were falsely accused of having handed Bishop Dionysios, the leader of a revolt, over to the Turkish authorities, who executed him. Ali Pasha, who was governor of the area from 1788 to 1822, imposed a heavy tax burden on the wealthy Jews. In 1821 when the Greek rebellion broke out, some Jews found refuge in Ioannina. In 1851, the community suffered a major blood libel. The 1869 fire ruined half the Jewish shops in the market. In 1872 there were anti-Jewish riots in the town. The local wealthy banker Effendi Davitchon Levy was one of four Jews in the Ottoman Empire elected to the first national assembly in 1876. The Hebron emissary Rabbi Ḥayyim Shemuel Halevy (Ha-Ḥasm'al) remained in Ioannina for more than three decades (1848–81) and prophesied that the redemption of Israel would take place in the year 5708 (1948). Ioannina Jews maintained trade relations with Europe and the East, and also engaged in silk weaving and the manufacture of scarves, veils, and silver belts for sale to the Albanians; there were also goldsmiths, dyers, glaziers, tinsmiths, fishermen, and coachmen among them. The wealthy merchant Meir Gani moved to Jerusalem in 1880 and initiated Jewish settlement in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem owing to his close connections to the Greek Orthodox Church, and he also purchased much land from the latter for the Jewish National Fund in Jerusalem in the Rehavia neighborhood as well the site of the present-day Israel Museum and land in the Dead Sea region (where Kibbutz Bet ha-Aravah was located). At the beginning of the 20th century, there were 7,000 Jews in Ioannina, but due to fear of political instability, compulsory military service, and economic decline, several thousand Jews began emigrating, heading to New York City. In 1910 the Jewish population was 3,000 and on the eve of the Holocaust it was 1,950. In the Depression of the early 1930s, many Ioanniote Jews migrated to Athens for economic betterment. The local Jewish poet, philologist, and teacher Joseph *Eliyia (1901–1931) is remembered and highly revered in contemporary Greece for his prose and poetry. On March 24, 1944, 1,860 Jews were seized by the Nazis and deported to Auschwitz. In 1948 there were 170 Jews living in the town, and by 1967 their number had dwindled to 92. The Ioannina community has continued to maintain the Romaniot prayer rite. A Ioannina synagogue, Bet Avraham ve-Ohel Sarah, exists in Jerusalem in the Maḥaneh Yehudah quarter.


J.M. Toledano, Sarid u-Falit (1945), 32–35; Bees, in: Byzantinisch-neugriechische Jahrbuecher, 2 (1921), 159–77. add. bibliography: R. Dalven, The Jews of Ioannina (1990); B. Rivlin, "Ioannina," in: Pinkas Kehillot Yavan (1999), 131–43.

[Simon Marcus /

Yitzchak Kerem (2nd ed.)]

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