Chabad of Thessaloniki !

History of Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki is known by Sephardim the world over as Saloniki. Jews have inhabited this city since ancient times. It was one of the largest Jewish community in the world during the middle ages and was the economic powerhorse of the Ottoman Empire. Saloniki was a major center of Torah learning, attracting students from throughout the Diaspora and supplying rabbinical graduates throughout Europe. Its nickname, “Le Madre de Israel/The Mother of Israel” was more than poetic. It accurately describes the nurturing that Saloniki provided for the centuries following the Expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492.

Although most of Salonika's Jewish population were sent to their deaths by the Nazis, thousands of Jews the world over consider Salonika and the surrounding Balkan and Turkish lands as their ancestral homeland.

Inception Chabad Center of Saloniki and Re-emergence of Jewish Life Since the arrival of the Chabad Shliach, Rabbi Yoel Kaplan in 2008, many unaccounted for Jews are re-emerging from the ruins and from the scattered villages in the Lower Balkans; all of whom are historically linked to Salonika. During World War 2, many Jewish children were hidden with Christian or Muslim families. At best these survivors were only vaguely aware of their Jewish ancestry, and now through Chabad of Salonika and Balkan Jewish Communities, many are rediscovering their glorious Jewish ancestry heritage.

Hundreds of Jews have been able to experience their first Passover Seder in Salonika, Tirana and Podgorica, Montenegro and Macedonia through Rabbi Kaplan’s efforts. Through Chabad of Thessaloniki, the first Bar Mitzvah since World War Two was celebrated in Kosovo.

Rabbi Kaplan has traversed the Lower Balkans bi-annually to hand out tefilin and mezuzot, to ferret out hidden Jews, to visit the sick, to deliver kosher food for the holidays. Aitz Hayim rabbinical interns spread out to arrange Passover Seders and Rosh Hashana in a number of communities.

In addition to the historical significance, Thessaloniki is a destination for many tourists, professional conferences and cultural events. International Jewish businessmen often pass through Thessaloniki today, as in ancient times when it was home to a major international port that was completely closed to business on Shabbos for hundreds of years due to the large number of Jewish-owned businesses operating here.

Rabbi Yoel Kaplan & family are here to revitalize Jewish life in Greece. Happily hosting locals, tourists, and businessmen for Shabbat, holidays.

Feel free to contact us. We're here for you & we're looking forward to meeting you.

- The Kaplans


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