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Veroia

VEROIA

VEROIA (Karaferia, Beroea, Veria) , city in Macedonia, Greece; W. of Salonika. When the apostle Paul was expelled from Salonika (49 or 50 c.e.), he fled to Veroia and preached in its synagogue (Acts 17:1–10). Inscriptions testify to the existence of a Jewish population there during the first centuries of the Christian era. Judah Ibn Moskoni visited in the 14th century and found a small Jewish library there, pointing to the existence of a small Jewish community. During the first half of the 15th century the preacher Ephraim b. Gerson of Veroia was well known. There was a Romaniot synagogue in the Balat Quarter of Constantinople named after the Jews of Veroia, who were forced to relocate to the capital after the Ottomans conquered it in 1453. In 1540 there were 54 Jewish family heads from Veroia in the capital. In 1688–89, the Karaferia (Veroia) Synagogue in Istanbul had 45 family heads (220 people).

After the 1391 riots in Spain, Jewish refugees arrived in Veroia in the first half of the 15th century. In the latter part of the 16th century, the Veroia Jewish community had 200 families or 1,000 people. Expellees from Spain and Marranos who migrated first to Salonika eventually moved to Veroia. There amassed three groups in Veroia; veteran Romaniot Jews, Spanish and Portuguese Jews, and Italian Sicilian Jews. The known Iberian families were Estruza (Strumza), Sidis, Perpinian, and the descendants of Joseph Pinto and Daniel Solomon.

The Jews lived in an area called Barbuta, a street with 50 houses. The Jewish quarter was triangular and its gates were locked at night. The current synagogue building was only built in the 18th century.

During the 16th and 17th centuries the Jews of the city of Veroia engaged in weaving, tailoring, and the making and selling of cheese. The Spanish and Portuguese Jews brought to the city the wool industry. With the arrival of more Iberian Jews, the authority of Salonika over religious life increased and the Romaniot influence waned. The Veroia Jewish community took on the minhagim of Salonikan Jewry, with an emphasis on leniency as opposed to strictness and adopted the Salonikan "neficha" system of *sheḥitah.

The 19th century was tranquil and prosperous for the Jews of Veroia. Most of the Jewish children learned in Greek and Turkish schools and only a minority learned Hebrew in the "Hevra" or talmud torah as it was called. The synagogue was expanded and a mikveh was added in the back. The Jewish women dressed like Salonikan Jewish women, but outside of the Jewish ghetto they wore veils like Muslim women. The Jews of Veroia had handwritten Hebrew piyyutim, in a mixture of Hebrew, Turkish, Spanish, and Greek, which they chanted on the Sabbath, festivals, and special events.

In 1880 there were 149 Jews; in 1904, 500; and in 1908, 600. After the 1897 Turkish-Greek war, Jews from Thessaly left Larissa, Trikkala, and elsewhere and settled in Veroia. The Ottoman Turks of Veroia called the local Jews "andaluzus" in accordance with their Castillian origin. In the first decade of the 1900s at the end of Ottoman rule, Jews in Veroia had a ḥevra kadidsha for burials and an organization for mutual assistance. The La Hermanidad Club hosted social events. After the 1908 Young Turk Revolution, Jews began to move out of the Jewish Ghetto into the new city. The level of the Jewish school was not high, and most Jewish children learned in Turkish and Greek schools. Thus, they lacked knowledge of Jewish history and Jewish law. With help from the *Alliance Israélite Universelle, the community bought a building, and brought a principal from Salonika. Within a short time, 120 boys and 40 girls studied in the school.

Veroia was annexed to Greece after the Balkan Wars of 1912–13. After the wars several Jewish families left for Turkey and Bulgaria. On the other hand, Jews from Salonika fled to Veroia to escape the epidemics of 1911 and 1913. The Jews in Veroia lived in wooden houses in their own quarter. Their dialect, except for slight variations, was similar to that of Salonika. They owned fields and vineyards near the town, which were cultivated by tenant farmers. The Jews also engaged in agricultural trade, moneychanging, and moneylending. However, they also had small stores, were artisans (mainly shoemakers), tinsmiths, broom makers, and olive pickers. Other Jews worked as goldsmiths, as bankers, and in industry.

In 1923, 60 children studied in the Jewish community school. The Jewish girls, for lack of a Jewish girls' school, went to local Greek schools. In 1920, Zionist activists formed a mutual assistance society. In 1925 there was a blood libel against the Jews and a local Jewish leader was accused of kidnapping and hiding a Christian boy. The Jews went to the police and the matter was settled without further reverberations. In 1927, 80 children studied in five grades in the Jewish school.

In 1940 there were about 850 Jews (150 families) in Veroia. Many young Jewish men from Veroia fought against the invading Italians in Albania from October 28, 1940, until April 1941. When the Germans invaded Salonika and famine erupted due to neglect; some 170 Salonikan Jews came to Veroia. The Nazi Rosenberg Commission also came to Veroia to survey Jewish books and archival material, and to look for anti-German material and documentation on anti-German activities in the synagogue. The Germans made the Jews wear yellow stars, and warned them not to hide partisans or other Jews in their homes.

Jewish community president Menachem Strumza encouraged local Jews to flee from the city and hide. However, in Veroia many believed Salonikan Chief Rabbi *Koretz, who tried to calm the Salonikan Jewish population under Nazi occupation. Not only did Jews in Veroia hesitate to hide, but many of those who hid returned to their homes. Rabbi Shabbetai Azaria fled after he gave a talk to the Jewish community, upon German orders, that encouraged enduring the hardships and urged staying at home and remaining in the city. Menachem Strumza also hid in the mountains with the help of Greek-Orthodox friends. On the evening before the day of the deportation, 144 Jews from Veroia fled from the city to the villages in the Bulgarian occupation zone. A local Greek-Orthodox notary, Sideropoulos, collaborated with the resistance and brought Jews from Veroia to two hiding places in the mountains – to Peiria, and to Vermion. On the last day of Passover 1943, at the time of the morning Shaḥarit prayer, the Nazis arrested the Jews, and locked them for three days in the synagogue. Gathered there were also Jews who had fled from Salonika and Jewish refugees from the Bulgarian occupation zone in eastern Macedonia and western Thrace. The Jews of Veroia, together with the Jews of Phlorina and Soufli, were brought to Salonika and from there were sent to Auschwitz/Birkenau.

The Nazis deported 680 Jews from Veroia to Poland in 1943. The agronomist Lazaros Azaria joined the partisans in 1942 and set up agricultural cooperatives in the villages of the mountainous areas of the partisan strongholds to provide food for all in the area. After the war, once the civil war began, he was pursued as a Communist, and fled to Ereẓ Israel through *"illegal" immigration, eventually reaching Palestine in December 1946, after internment in Cyprus.

Thirty-four families (numbering 132 people) remained in Veroia after the war. The Metropolit Polikarpos guarded the ritual ornaments and Torahs scrolls during the German occupation and returned them to the community after the liberation. The synagogue structure and interior was neglected. David Cohen took care of the synagogues for decades.

In 1948 there were 111 Jews, but they eventually moved to Salonika or Israel. About 70 were left in 1949, 36 in 1958, and three by the 1960s. Rabbi Shabbetai Azaria moved to Salonika and served there as rabbi until his death in ca. 1982. The cemetery deteriorated, and though kis, the Central Board of Jewish Communities of Greece, in Athens knew of the problem, it did nothing. The Greek architect Elias Messinas led a campaign for the renovation of the synagogue in the 1990s. The synagogue is preserved as a Greek national historic monument. Two Jewish families remained in the early 21st century.

bibliography:

M. Molho, in: Minḥah le-Avraham… Elmaleh (1959), 192–96; M.L. Wagner, in: Libro del Homenaje a Menéndez Pidal, 2 (1924), 193–94. add. bibliography: L. Bornstein-Makovetsky and B. Rivlin, "Veria," in Pinkas ha-Kehillot Yavan (1999), 110–16; M. Novitch, Le Passage des Barbares; Contribution a l'Histoire de la deportation et de la Resistance des Juifs grecs (1982), 72–77.

[Simon Marcus /

Yitzhak Kerem (2nd ed.)]

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