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Chabad of Thessaloniki


Balkan Jewish Communites 



Our Mission

We are dedicated to the revival of the Sephardic - Ladino heritage, and to developing infrastructure for Jewish communal life in the Balkans.

With headquarters in Thessaloniki, Greece, we provide opportunities for Jews of the region to strengthen ties with their Sephardic heritage. Chabad center offers hospitality for Sephardic Jews worldwide to reconnect and discover their ancestral roots, and for historians and scholars to deepen their knowledge.

Thessaloniki, called “La Madre de Israel”, became the center of Sephardic life following the  expulsion of Jews from Spain in the 15th century. Following over 400 years of flourishing culture, 95% of the population were deported to Auschwitz and were lost. 

Thessaloniki is an important link in the legacy of Sephardic Jews,who have been dispersed and scattered around the globe. It is steeped in history from the time of the Holy Temple. 

The Beginnings of Thessaloniki Chabad Center - and the  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.

Expansion and the appointment of Yosef Kaplan 

While Rabbi Yoel Kaplan traverses the Lower Balkans to ignite the light of Judaism and to ferret out hidden Jews as well as to serve as the Chief Rabbi of Albania, Yosef Kaplan was appointed by Merkos International as Shliach to Saloniki in 2014. He manages the Chabad Center in Saloniki and is the Rabbinical Director of Balkan Kosher Certifications.  

In addition to the historical significance, Thessaloniki is a destination for many tourists, professional conferences and cultural events. The availability of Kosher food, services and accomodations makes it possible for Sephardim to connect with family history.  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.

The Kaplans  are here to revitalize Jewish life in Greece, and happily host locals, tourists, and businessmen for Shabbat and holidays.

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

The Kaplans


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.

About Chabad:

We are proud to be part of the global network of Chabad emmisaries, spearheaded by the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

To learn more about Chabad, click here