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The History of the Greek Experience

Jews have been in Greece since ancient times. They predate the Greek Orthodox Church as settlers in that region. Throughout the generations there have been influxes of Jews create a vibrant Jewish society. Learn at your own pace. All 10 minute lessons are pre-recorded and available at your leisure.
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About This Course

In the first section of the course, we're going to talk about the introduction, about the Jews under Hellenism and the late Classical period in the Byzantine Empire. What is Romaniote culture? What is this Jewish Greek culture and prayer rite of the Jews in the Byzantine empire? Then we're talking about what happened with Sephardic Jewry, how they arrived in Greece and the Greek Peninsula. And we're going to talk about how Italian Jews were expelled from Sicily in Apulia. How they arrived first in Western Greece and Corfu and then Ioannina and then later in Salonika. And we'll talk about when the Sephardic Iberian expulsive arrived in Salonika and the various parts of Greece; when they came from Portugal especially when the Inquisition was initiated in Portugal, in 1536.

We're going to talk about the golden era of Salonika in the 16th century with all the great poets and rabbis and the luminaries. We will explore each of the individual communities and how they amalgamated with each other because it was just too much. Originally each community had its own yeshiva, own school, own fabric industry, own treasury, own printing press all that became one eventually. Then the religious fervor and ecstasy and despair led to the rise of Sabbateanism, the false messiah of Shabtai Tzvi and about what happened afterward when there were three sects of Sabbatian followers who became a significant minority in the city called the Dumay. Later on, in the course, we'll talk about when they were transferred to Turkey and Istanbul and the general population exchanged in 1922, 1923.

Because of Sabbateanism, Salonika and Sephardic Jewry was in decline in the 18th century.

And then we have modernization and significant change due to Western education and Western culture and Europeanization and the Alliance IsraƩlite Universelle school systems throughout the Greek Peninsula. The Sephardic culture became a modern culture and not only religion driven. The Sephardic culture became enriched as a secular culture in drama, literature, and music.

We will also address the Venetian culture and how that influenced the Jews of the Greek Peninsula, especially in Crete, especially in the Ionian Islands.

This is a wonderful introduction to the diversity of the Jewish Greek Experience.


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Dr. Yitzchak Kerem

Staff Member #1

Kerem was a past researcher on Greek Jewry in the Holocaust at Yad Vashem, Jerusalem. He was a contributor to Pinkas Kehilot Yavan, 1999, editor of the Greek section, New Encyclopaedia Judaica, & past sub-editor of Encyclopedia of the Holocaust (Balkans section). Kerem has nominated over 1,000 Righteous Gentiles for Yad Vashem. He coordinated summer workshop researchers project on Sephardic Jewry in the Holocaust, 1999, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and was a documentary filmmaker on Greek and Sephardi Jewry and the Holocaust. Kerem was a contributor of articles in the Larousse Encyclopedia of the Holocaust and publications of the Ben-Zvi Institute.

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