Thessaloniki is a city that stands apart, not only for its status as the largest port and one of the most beautiful in greece, but for its special designation as «the mother of israel (la madre de israel)». During the 15th century, sephardic jews were welcomed to the city following their expulsion from spain, and in the subsequent centuries, Thessaloniki`s jewish population became the largest in europe. By the start of the 20th century, Thessaloniki was not only home to a large number of jews, it was a jewish city in essence.
Today, Thessaloniki`s jewish community is small, but alive. The jews have had a strong influence on the development of Thessaloniki, leaving a noticeable mark in its architecture, character, and cuisine. This city has plenty of amazing sights to explore and to delve into its history.
Thessaloniki is home to numerous jewish monuments, representing their heritage as well as their culture. However, it is not possible to take in all of them in one tour, so we list a few of the noteworthy places.
In 1927, the Monastirioton Synagogue was constructed in memory of Isaac Aroesti, with a generous donation from his widow, Ida Aroesti, as well as with assistance from families originating from the small town of monastiri (now known as bitola) who had relocated to Thessaloniki after the conclusion of wwi. During the wwii, the Synagogue, despite the mass deportations of jews, was used as a storage facility by the red cross, thus sparing it from destruction. Today, the synagogue stands as a shrine, preserving the memories of the past and still serving the community.
Yad lezikaron Synagogue was constructed in honor of those who perished in the holocaust. This edifice was built on the spot of a small place of worship, otherwise known as the market synagogue, which had been the spiritual residence of people who worked in the nearby market.
The Aristotle square is the focal point of Thessaloniki and most of the surrounding structures are owned by the city`s jewish population. In the past, these constructions were held by affluent jewish people of the city, and their personal preferences, situations, and narratives were reflected in the intricate architecture.
Established in 1997, this museum offers a chance to witness ancient scripts and gravestones close to the city boundaries, along with a great exhibition portraying the jews` lives in Thessaloniki before wwii. The museum also takes care of uncommon books and archives.
It’s the most painful and influential symbol at the same time. During the nazi rule, thousands of jews were transported from this station to extermination camps like livestock. It`s hard to come to terms with the misery, suffering, and terror of those dark days, but we must never forget.
The tragedy of these monuments is immense, but they also teach us timeless lessons of courage and kindness in the face of horror. Jewish architecture also has a unique history, with casa bianca being a notable example. This mansion has elements of renaissance and art nouveau styles, but it is also remembered for a forbidden romance that survived the holocaust. The building has been restored to perfection.
Transfer to Thessaloniki
The first idea and a marvelouse view of the city at the Trigonion Tower in Upper Town.
Memories & Faces of Jewish history of the city. Excursion in the Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki
Liberty square is where the Holocaust in Thessaloniki started 1942
Visiting the historic Synagogue of Monastirioton
The old Jewish cemetery (what is left of it...) & the Eastern Thessaloniki Jewish Settlements
Transfer back to Halkidiki
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- Good mood and explorer’s spirit are a must - You’ll definitely want to document your journey, so make sure your digital devices have plenty of space for lots of photos and check their batteries - Pocket money for souvenirs, food and possible on the go expenses - Bottled water
- Since we’re going to visit holy places, please, wear casual, plain clothes covering knees and shoulders - Headcover and sunglasses if suited to the weather