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Romaniots

ROMANIOTS

The name Romaniots is employed to define the original Jewish population of the territories of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople, the Balkans, and Asia Minor, and their descendants in all matters relating to their customs, language, and tradition. The family names of the Romaniots were Greek, their synagogues were known by Greek names, and they were considerably influenced by Greek culture and especially the Greek language, which had also been adopted in their synagogue services. In 1547 a translation of the Torah in Greek and Ladino was published in Constantinople. The Greek translation was printed in square characters (see *Judeo-Greek). The customs and special versions of the Romaniots' prayers were collected in the "Maḥzor Romania" which includes the New Moon prayer given in Judeo-Greek. For many years, they read the Book of Jonah on the Day of Atonement in Hebrew and in Greek. It was also the custom to read Ruth, Lamentations, the tractate Avot, and a commentary to the Song of Songs in Greek. From the 16th century, the Romaniots were on the defensive culturally and socially against the waves of immigrants who arrived from the European countries, notably from *Spain and *Portugal, and who gradually imposed their way of life and customs on the existing population. The number of their synagogues decreased and their Greek dialect became limited to the Greek Jews in the towns of Kastoria, Ioannina, and Chalcis and to the *Karaites of the Haskoy district of Constantinople. The synagogue of the "Gregos Community" continued to exist in Constantinople until 1660, that of *Sofia until 1898, and that of *Adrianople until it was burnt down in 1905. Among the customs and traditions of the Romaniots may be mentioned the seven wedding blessings that are recited at the betrothal (erusin) ceremony, whereas the usual custom is to recite it at the actual marriage ceremony. Originally, the husband did not inherit from the wife but later the marriage contract was amended according to which the husband shared the wife's inheritance with her offspring.

bibliography:

Rosanes, Togarmah, 1 (19302); Assaf, in: Sefer ha-Yovel le… S. Krauss (1937), 169–77; D. Goldschmidt, in: Sefunot, 8 (1964), 205–36; J. Starr, The Jews in the Byzantine Empire (1939), passim; idem, Romania (1949), passim; A. Galanté, Les Juifs de Constantinople sous Byzance (1940), 55–58; idem, Histoire des Juifs d'Istanbul, 2 (1942), 171–6; S. Marcus, The Judeo-Spanish Language (1965), 144–7.

[Simon Marcus]

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