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Restoring Rhodes synagogue  by Marcia Haddad Ikonomopoulos  - 11.00

The double eihal of the Rhodes synagogue
© Elias Messinas 1996

The Sephardic community of Rhodes, unlike most of the Sephardic communities in the Ottoman Empire, was formed by Jews who came from Constantinople, Thessaloniki and Smyrne, rather than directly from Spain after 1492. From the mid-16th century a noticeable Jewish presence was found on the island. There was a preexisting synagogue, Kahal Kadosh Gadol ("Holy Great Congregation", also called Kal Grande), initially a Romaniote synagogue which had been built in the 1480's and which existed until it was destroyed by British bombing during World War II. 
According to the inscription on the fountain in the courtyard of the synagogue, Kahal Shalom was built in Kislev 5338 (1577) , to cover the increased needs of the growing Sephardic community. Although renovations and improvements took place over the centuries, the basic structure has remained as it was when it was first constructed in the 16th century. 
At the beginning of World War II there were six synagogues within the Juderia inside the walled city of Rhodes: Kal Grande (Kahal Kadosh Gadol), Kal Tikkun Hatsot (built in the late 19th century), Kal del Midrash (located on Talmund Torah Street), Kal de El Ermano Shemuel Hanan (located on Kay Ancha), Kal de Ham Yusufachi Franco and Kahal Shalom. The only one that now remains is Kahal Shalom (The Holy Congregation of Peace) . All the others were destroyed during the war. The oil lamps salvaged from the other synagogues now hang from the arched ceiling of Kahal Shalom. In essence, Kahal Shalom now houses all that is left of the vibrant Sephardic community that once thrived on the island of Rhodes. 
Due to the efforts of the Rhodes Jewish Historical Society and Aron Hasson, a museum, which continues to grow yearly, is now housed in the former women's section, and the cemetery has been restored. Rhodeslis throughout the Diaspora continue to support efforts to preserve the few remnants of their ancestral community. 
Kahal Shalom is now in danger of collapsing. Erosion, caused by water damage, has corroded the porous stone and each stone in the effected area must painstakingly be replaced. This, along with other necessary renovations involving restoration of the pebble mosaic floor and repainting of the interior add up to a $250,000 restoration project. The recent listing as one of "The 100 Most Endangered Sites in the World" by the prestigious World Monuments Fund will enable us to draw world wide attention to the project and to assure that sufficient funds are raised to complete the necessary restoration. 
Kol haKEHILA and The Association of Friends of Greek Jewry have dedicated themselves to this task, and with the help of our faithful members we will make our dream a reality. All donations to this project are tax deductible. 

For more information about the Association send inquiries to: AFGJ, Kehila Kedosha Janina, 280 Broome Street, New York, NY 10002, e-mail: 

Marcia Haddad Ikonomopoulos is President of the Association of Friends of Greek Jewry and nominator of Kahal Shalom Synagogue to the World Monument Fund.


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