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Salonika Center of Jewish Scholarship 140 BCE - 1945

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  • Haham Solomon Jacob Ayllon (c.1664 - 1728)
    Solomon Ayllon (1660 or 1664 - April 10, 1728) was haham of the Sephardic congregations in London and Amsterdam, and a follower of Shabbethai Ẓebi. His name is derived from the town of Ayllon, in what ...
  • Donna Beatrice Gracia de Luna Nassi (1510 - 1569)
    Donna Gracia Mendes Nassi YouTube Donna Gracia Mendes Nassi (Gracia is archaic Portuguese and Spanish for the Hebrew Hannah, also known by her Christianized name Beatriz de Luna Miques, 1510–1569) was ...
  • Chacham Tzvi Hirsch Ashkenazi (1658 - 1718)
    Chacham Tzvi . . צבי הירש אשכנזי, חכם צבי Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch ben Yaakov Ashkenazi (b.1656-9?, Moravia (most likely,Velké Meziříčí) - May 2, 1718, Lviv) (Hebrew: צבי הירש בן יעקב אשכנזי‎), known as the C...
  • Maran Yosef ben Ephraim Karo (1488 - 1575)
    Joseph ben Ephraim Karo , also spelled Yosef Caro, or Qaro, (Toledo, 1488 – Safed, 1575) was author of the last great codification of Jewish law, the Shulchan Aruch, which is still authoritative for al...
  • Maimonides "Rambam" (c.1138 - 1204)
    From Moshe (of the Torah) to Moshe (Maimonides) there was none like Moshe=== R' Moshe ben Maimon , Moses Maimonides the Rambam , [ca. 1138 (or 1135?) - 1204] was the preeminent medieval Jewish philosop...

SALONIKA - Thessaloniki

History of the Jews of Thessaloniki

It is believed that the Alexandrian Jews who arrived in ca. 140 B.C.E. were among the first Jews to settle in Salonika. The Apostle Paul preached for three consecutive Sabbaths in the synagogue of Salonika.

The Romans granted autonomy to the community, whose members lived in a neighborhood near the port; therefore, the Jews had the opportunity to develop strong commercial ties with many parts of the world. The Jews of Salonika during the Roman and Byzantine periods had Greek names and spoke Greek.


Salonika was also renowned as a center of Kabbalah. In addition to the rabbinical schools in Salonika in the 16th century, there was a bet midrash for piyyutim and singing, as well as a bet midrash for secular studies where medicine, natural sciences, astronomy, and other subjects were taught.

Among the most prominent were:

  • Joseph Caro the famous rabbinic decisor who lived in Salonika during the years 1532–34 and continued to work there on his monumental Bet Yosef
  • Solomon Alkabetz, the author of Lekhah Dodi
  • Isaac Adarbi, the author of Divrei Rivot and Divrei Shalom
  • Moses Almosnino, the author of many important works including Regimiento de la Vide and inventor of an astrolabe
  • Moses de Boton (d. 1570)
  • Abraham ben Moses de Boton (d. 1592), the author of the responsa Leḥem Rav and Leḥem Mishneh, a commentary on Moses
  • Maimonides' 12th-century code of Jewish law, Mishneh Torah
  • Samuel di Medina ("RaSHdaM"), who left over 1,000 responsa and is considered among those halakhic authorities whose decisions both in halakhah and in practice can be relied upon
  • Saadia Longo was a noted local poet
  • Israel Najara of Damascus, who was of Salonikan familial origin, spent time there.
  • Amatus Lusitanus, the physician who wrote treatises on circulation, taught in that above school of medicine when he settled in Salonika in 1558.
  • R. Hayyim Shabbetai (1556–1647) The famous halakhic authority author of the Torat ha-Hayyim and Teshuvot Rav Ḥayyim Shabbetai, lived in the city during the first half of the 17th century
  • Aaron Cohen Perahiyah, the author of Parah Matteh Aharon
  • David Conforte, author of Kore ha-Dorot
  • Eliya Judah Kovo, av bet din from 1670 and author of Shenei Me'orot ha-Gedolim,
  • Aaron Ḥayyim ha-Kohen (1648–1698), the great talmudic scholar author of the two-volume Matteh Aharon
  • Shabbetai Ẓevi, pseudo-messiah Expelled from Izmir ca. 1651–54
  • Asher Ben Emanuel Salem, author of Responsa Asher (1748)
  • Moses ben Solomon Amararillo, who wrote the 3-vol. Responsa Devar Moshe (1742, 1743, 1750)
  • Joseph ben David, author of Responsa Bet David (1740)
  • Saadi Halevi Ashkenazi, c (1850) who was an active publisher in Salonika and was a scion of a family that published many exegeses from Sephardi ḥakhamim in Salonika

140 BCE - Byzantine Period

After the splitting up of the Roman empire in 395 C.E., Salonika became the second most important city – after Constantinople – in the *Byzantine Empire. One of the very few emperors who acted favorably toward the Jews was Alexius I Comnenus, who during the First Crusade alleviated the taxes imposed upon them. In 1169 Benjamin of Tudela visited Salonika and mentions that at that time there were about 500 Jews in the city.

During the second half of the 14th century Salonika attracted Jews, among the first being Hungarian Jews in 1376.

Refugees from the 1391 riots in the Iberian Peninsula, mostly from Catalonia, found refuge in Salonika. In 1394, Jews migrated to the city from Provence.

In spite of the hardships they suffered during the Byzantine period, the Jewish community of Salonika flourished: most of the Jews were merchants, engaging especially in the silk trade. Jews from Sicily, Venice, and other Italian cities migrated to Salonika and formed the synagogues Sicilia Yashan and Italia Yashan. There was also a veteran Romaniot community in the city.

Turkish Conquest – Sephardi Immigration (15th–16th Centuries)

In 1430 Salonika was occupied by the Turks. At approximately the same time waves of Jewish immigrants started arriving in the town. In 1470 Bavarian Jews arrived in Salonika and formed the Ashkenazi community near the existing Romaniot community.

During the 15th and 16th centuries many Jewish expellees from Spain, Portugal, Italy, Sicily, and France, and refugees from North Africa, settled in Salonika. The largest numbers came in 1492–3 and 1536.

In 1514 the rabbinical triumvirate of Salonika issued a special haskamah regarding the Marranos as Jews as far as marriage and divorce were concerned, i.e., they practically regarded the Marranos as Jews in every respect.

The Jews of Salonika also engaged in the crafts, and the city was famous for its Jewish weavers and silk and wool dyers. Nearby there were gold and silver mines in Siderokastro and many of the miners were Jews. Another craft was the manufacture of jewelry.

Salonika became a center of Torah learning and attracted many students from abroad. During the 16th century there were numerous important rabbis whose influence spread beyond the borders of Salonika and even the Ottoman Empire.

17th Century

At the beginning of the 17th century the city once again suffered from plagues and fires (1604, 1609, 1610, 1618, 1620, 1630, 1636, 1640, 1648), causing emigration; nevertheless, by the middle of the century there were about 30,000 Jews, or half of the total population of the town.

Toward the end of the century a decline in commercial activities took place as a result of the decline of the Ottoman Empire, which had entered a state of continuous war with various countries and peoples. In spite of all these troubles Salonika remained a center of religious studies and halakhah.

While in theory, the 1568 edict provided Salonikan Jewry protection from the whims of the local authorities, in practice local governors and government officials in the capital often ignored it.

In 1636 the sultan ordered the execution of Rabbi Judah Covo when he underestimated the amount and quality of the cloth transmitted for tax payment from the Jews of Salonika to the authorities.

The most influential event for the Jewish community in the 17th century was the appearance of the pseudo-messiah Shabbetai Ẓevi. Expelled from *Izmir ca. 1651–54, he arrived in Salonika sometime afterward. In the beginning he was very well treated, and he preached in the Shalom synagogue; but later, when he married a Torah scroll, he was expelled after a decision made by the most important rabbis of the town.

Shabbetai Ẓevi's passage from Salonika and the conversion in 1666 that ensued caused turmoil among the Jews in Salonika; the community consequently felt the need to unite. In 1680 the 30 congregations merged into one, with a supreme council composed of three rabbis and seven dignitaries. The three rabbis were elected for life and could not be replaced unless all three died. The first triumvirate was composed of Moses b. Hayyim Shabbetai, Abraham di Boton, and Elijah Kovo.

18th–19th Centuries

As the Ottoman Empire declined, the community's financial situation in Salonika worsened, and French merchants began to gain control of business interests. In 1720–30, Portuguese Marranos, called "Francos," immigrated to Salonika. Most of them were well-educated, and among them were merchants and bankers, who had been established in Italy and in particular in Livorno.

They did not pay taxes to the sultan since they were considered as interpreters of the consuls. In the beginning they also refused to pay the relevant taxes to the Jewish community, but after a decision by the central committee of the community, they acceded to the community's demands. The Jewish population at that time was between 25,000 and 30,000. Nevertheless, both religious and secular studies declined, and only study of the *Kabbalah still flourished.

End of 19th–Beginning of 20th Centuries

Toward the second half of the 19th century the Turkish governors of the city initiated a further expansion of the town. A new port was built in 1889, which helped to develop trade. European culture and technology also began to flow into Salonika, and signs of this "Westernization" became apparent among the Jewish inhabitants as well. In 1873 the Alliance Israélite Universelle established a school, and additional schools along Western standards were also built.

The main Judeo-Spanish newspaper of Salonika, La Epoca, was founded in 1875 by Saadi Halevi Ashkenazi, who was an active publisher in Salonika and was a scion of a family that published many exegeses from Sephardi ḥakhamim in Salonika and elsewhere in the Ottoman Empire.

Some Salonikan Jews like Emmanuel Carasso, Moise Cohen (who was born in Serres and later changed his name to Tekinalp to assert his patriotism to Turkey). In 1908 Carasso was one of four Ottoman Jews elected to the Ottoman Parliament. He refused the appointment of minister of public works in 1910, but was elected to the Senate in 1912 (along with two other Jews).

Avraham Benaroya of Plovdiv, an active Bulgarian socialist and former student of Bochor Azaria, moved to Salonika in 1907 to try the challenge of organizing a socialist movement. Benaroya was ultimately exiled and imprisoned by both the Young Turk government and the Greek authorities after Salonika became part of Greece in 1912.

At the same time, the first Zionist organizations, Agudath Bnei Zion and Maccabee, appeared in Salonika. By the eve of World War II there were more than 20 Zionist organizations.

The Young Turk revolution marked a new "golden" era for the Jews of Salonika, and they could be found in every profession: merchants, tobacco workers, lawyers, physicians, teachers, while the Jewish stevedores of Salonika were famous. On Sabbaths the town and the port came to a standstill since the Jews did not work. When the Greek army entered the town in 1912, King George declared that Jews and all other minorities were to have the same rights as the Greek population.

After the Balkan Wars (1912–13), Salonika could no longer be used as the port for the Balkan states. Nevertheless, trade continued to flourish during World War I since Salonika became a center for Allied soldiers. In 1917 a great fire destroyed most of the town, leaving some 55,000 Jews homeless.

In 1924 a law (no. 236) was enacted which forced all the inhabitants of Salonika to refrain from working on Sundays, thus causing another wave of emigration. Some went to Palestine, while most immigrated to Paris, where they founded an important community.

Holocaust Period

The Salonikan Jewish community, which was the most prolific Sephardi cultural and religious center in the world and which dominated the city as a plurality or majority throughout most of 450 years since the Spanish expulsion, suffered greatly in the Holocaust. Its pre-World War II population of 56,000 was almost totally annihilated in the Holocaust – 98 percent of its Jewish community, 54,000 Sephardi Jews, died in Auschwitz-Birkenau, or during the long, exhausting Death March from January to May 1945.

Salonika, the heart of the Sephardi world, was thus destroyed, and everyday Sephardi life in a natural setting would never return.

Contemporary Period

After the war, survivors of the Salonikan community, together with remnants of smaller communities, concentrated in Salonika. As the Jews of the other communities spoke Greek, Ladino has all but disappeared as a spoken language in the community. The number of Jews fell from about 2,000 in 1946 to about 1,500 in 1971 as a result of emigration to Israel and, to a lesser degree, other countries.

Center of Hebrew Printing

Early in the 16th century (c. 1512), Don Judah *Gedaliah and his son (Moses) and daughter arrived in Salonika after fleeing from Portugal. Gedaliah had previously managed the printing press of Eliezer Toledano in *Lisbon; he brought at least some of the latter's typographical material with him, and later he had some new types cut. Many of his productions, in the main liturgical works, have been lost, but some important items have survived:

  • A Pentateuch with Onkelos and Rashi (1513);
  • The first edition of Jacob ibn Ḥabib's Ein Ya'akov (1515–23);
  • parts of Hagiographa with Rashi (1515);
  • the tractate Yoma; Tur, Orah Ḥayyim; a Pentateuch with Rashi's and Nahmanides' commentaries (1520);
  • Yalkut Shimoni on Prophets and Hagiographa (1521);
  • Solomon *Molcho's sermons (1529).

In 1525, Moses Soncino left Rimini (Italy) for Salonika, and in 1526 he issued the Yalkut on the Pentateuch and a maḥzor of the Catalonian rite in 1527.

His kinsmen Gershom and Eliezer arrived – also from Rimini – in 1526 and printed David Kimḥi's Sefer ha-Shorashim, together with Abraham Bedersi's dictionary of biblical synonyms, Ḥotam Tokhnit (1527), and a maḥzor of the Aragonian rite (1529), before moving on to Constantinople.

The Italian Soncino printing house of Rabbi Gershon Soncino established a branch in Salonika in 1527 and later in Istanbul in 1530. The famous dictionary Sefer Shoreshim of Rabbi David Kimḥi was published in Salonika, but due to epidemics and fires, the printing house closed.

Beginning in 1543 with Spanish refugees Solomon and Joseph Jabez, a great variety of Hebrew books were printed in Salonika, among them a maḥzor of the Ashkenazi rite (1551–55). For a time, the enterprise had to be transferred to Adrianople (1555).

Eventually Solomon Jabez went to Constantinople, whereas Joseph returned to Salonika in about 1560 and until about 1572 printed many works, notably a series of Talmud tractates based on the Bomberg and Giustiniani editions; works by Moses Almosnino; and translations into Judeo-Spanish and Provencal of parts of the Bible and prayer books. When he left, his typographical material was bought by David b. Abraham Azubib, who was active in printing from 1578 to 1588.

Shabbethai Mattathias Basevi (d. 1601) acquired the Jabez press, and he and his son issued various works until 1605, including a Midrash Rabbah (1594), an Ein Ya'akov, and a Shulḥan Arukh Oraḥ Ḥayyim (1595). The Salonika talmud torah administration printed a maḥzor of the Catalonian rite in 1695, and some Talmud tractates in 1707.

This press passed through various hands in the 18th century when many works were printed. During the time of Sultan Mustafa, the printing house of Raphael Yehuda Kalay and Mordecai Naḥman printed Rabbi David Pardo's Le-Menaẓe'aḥ le-David and Minḥah le-David, as well as Rabbi Eliyahu Mizraḥi and Rabbi Eliyahu Ben Ḥayyim's Mayim Amukim (1805), and more.

Between 1814 and 1941, eight more Hebrew printers worked in Salonika, among them the presses of Isaac Jahon; the Gemilut Hasadim Society, which was founded about 1870 and printed selections from the Zohar; and the Etz ha-Ḥayyim Society, which was founded about 1875 and printed maḥzorim.

Bezalel Halevi Ashkenazi came from Amsterdam to Salonika (ca. 1738) and continued his family's tradition of printing. In his printing press, he published many books of responsa, derushim, and exegeses in Hebrew and Ladino.

His descendants continued his printing activities. Saadi Halevi Ashkenazi (1820–1903) published the Judeo-Spanish newspaper La Epoca (1876–1912) in Judeo-Spanish Rashi script, but also coplas (a type of Judeo-Spanish balladry for holidays), and other ballads and piyyutim in Judeo-Spanish and Hebrew. The printing house existed until it was destroyed in the 1917 fire.

Leah Bornstein Makovetski noted the existence of 31 works of rabbinic derashot published in Salonika between 1750 and 1900. The last known publication of Hebrew rabbinic exegesis in Salonika was Rabbi Jacob Hanania Kovo's Kokhavme-Ya'akov in 1935.

SALONIKA -Thessaloniki Source


J. Nehama, Histoire des Israélites de Salonique, 5 vols. (1935–59); M. Molho and J. Nehama, In Memoriam; Hommage aux victimes Juives des Nazis en Grèce, 3 vols. (1948–53); idem, Sho'at Yehudei Yavan 1941–1944 (1965); T.B. Ashkenazi, Saloniki ha-Yehudit, Ḥissulah shel Ir va-Em be-Yisrael, 1 (1960); Saloniki Ir va-Em be-Yisrael (1967); I.S. Emmanuel, Histoire des Israélites de Salonique (1936); idem, Gedolei Saloniki le-Dorotam (1936); idem, Histoire de l'Industrie des Tissus des Israélites de Salonique (1935); idem, Matzevot Saloniki, 2 vols. (1936–68); Rosanes, Togarmah; F. Doelger, in: Joshua Starr Memorial Volume (1953), 129–33; C. Roth, in: Yalkut ha-Mizraḥ ha-Tikhon, 2 (1950), 114–8; idem, in: Commentary, 10 (1950), 49–55; M. Molho, in: Sefarad, 9 (1949), 107–30; idem, in: Sinai, 28 (1951), 296–314; idem, in: Homenaje a Millás-Vallicrosa, 2 (1956), 73–107; I.R. Molho, Tor ha-Zahav be-Toledot Saloniki ba-Dorot ha-Aḥaronim (1948); idem, in: Zion, 11 (1946), 150ff.; I.R. Molho and A. Amarijlio, in: Sefunot, 2 (1958), 26–60; Scholem, Shabbetai Sevi, index; idem, in: D.J. Silver (ed.), In the Time of Harvest (1963), 368–86; R. Hilberg, Destruction of the European Jews (1961), 442–8; A.E. Bakalopoulos, History of Thessalonika (1963); David ben Avraham Pipano, Hagor ha-Efod (1925).


# • Saltiel Family World Family Tree Collaboration

  1. Saltiel Charlap ibn Yahya Heraldry Research
  2. Shealtiel Family Worldwide
  3. Sefarad Org - Shaltiel
  4. Jewish Cultural History of Salonika, Turkey

A Gathering of the Shaltiel Clan in Salonika, by Michael HALEVY

The Saltiel family (also know as : Sealtiel, Shaltiel, Seatliël, Scietliel, Chartiel, Saltelli etc…) had taken it upon themselves to set forth on the long, long journey from their various homes in 16 different countries, to be in Salonika for the second gathering of their family (which apparently had been traced back to no less a person than King David himself).

The Sealtiel family is first mentioned on Spanish soil in the town of Gerona 12th October 1061.

  • Iris Fishof, curator of Jewish Studies at the Israel Museum, spoke about the art history of the magnificient fourteenth century illuminated manuscript, the Shealtiel Haggadah (Brother Haggada), now in the British Museum,
  • Shlomo Shaltiel, historian of Jewish Life of the late medieval Eastern Mediterranean, devoted himself to Kakyah Shealtiel, an important member of the family in Istanbul, who led the Jewish community, shortly after the Jews were expelled from Spain.
  • Diana Sommer, Director of the Dorot Genealogy Centre of Tel Aviv, gave an account of Jewish genealogical practices
  • Michael Halévy, who is currently engaged in a research project of the Portuguese Community of Hamburg, spoke on the Sealtiel family of Hamburg., spoke on the Sealtiel family of Hamburg.

In 1580, the family grounded their own communal synagogue, the Katalan Hadash, wich was derisively called " Figo Loco "  (Wild Fig), a name that is still used today.

After the devastating fire in 1917 in which nearly all the city's synagogues were destroyed, the Sealtiel joined the Sinagoga Mayor and played a major role i n the reprinting of the prayer book in accordance with the Catalan rite.

Later, many Sealtiels left the city and emigrated to France, Canada, Argentina, Mexico and the USA. Those who stayed, became victims of the German policy of extermination a few decades later.

In the course of the centuries, many Shaltiels turned their backs on the faith of their forefathers and became Protestants, Catholics, Mormons, or Jehovah'witnesses. However, just as their Potuguese-Spanish blood was more important to the first Marranos in Northern Europe than their religion, so it is that the Shaltiels welcome anybody who regards himself or, of course, herself as a cousin – a member of the Shaltiel family.

In a moving ceremony, the family, together with the small Jewish community of Salonika, gathered to commemorate those members of the family who had been murdered in the last war :

  • one hundred and twenty from Holland,
  • sixty-three from Greece,
  • fifty-four from France,
  • six from Italy and
  • five from Germany.

Adapted from the full version at A Gathering of the Shaltiel Clan in Salonika, by Michael HALEVY]


Ḥ.D. Friedberg, Toledot ha-Defus ha-Ivri be-Italyah… (19562), 130–42; A. Elmaleh, in: Ha-Tor, 4 (1923–4), nos. 12ff; also as: Le-Toledot ha-Yehudim be-Saloniki (1924); M.J. Covo, Etudes Saloniciennes (1928); J. Rivkind, in: KS, 1 (1924), 294–302; 3 (1926), 171–3; 6 (1930), 383–5; A. Yaari, ibid., 7 (1931), 290–308; 16 (1940), 374–81. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: D. Benvenisti, Yehudei Salonika be-Dorot ha-Aḥaronim (1973); R. Atal, Yahadut Yavan, mi-Gerush Sefarad ve-ad Yameinu, Bibliografiyah (1984), with later supplement; Y. Kerem and B. Rivlin, "Salonika," in: Pinkas ha-Kehillot Yavan (1999), 217–299; A. Matkovski, A History of the Jews in Macedonia (1982), 58; M. Ben-Sasson et al. (eds.), Studies in a Rabbinic Family, the de Botons (1998); A. Nar, "Social Organization and Activity of the Jewish Community in Thessaloniki," in: I.K. Hassiotis (ed.), Queen of the Worthy, Thessaloniki, History, and Culture (1997), 266–295; Y. Kerem, "The Deunme: From Catholicism to Judaism to Islam," in: C. Meyers and N. Simms (eds.), Troubled Souls, Conversos, Crypto-Jews, and Other Confused Jewish Intellectuals from the Fourteenth through the Eighteenth Century (2001), 150–63; A. Nar, "The Jews of Thessaloniki March through Time," in: Justice (Spring 1999), 9–13; E. Benbassa and A. Rodrigue, Sephardi Jewry, A History of the Judeo-Spanish Community, 14th–20th Centuries, 81; S. Salem, "Portraits of Famous Jewish Lawyers and Jurists in Greece," in: Justice (Spring 1999), 14–21; Y. Kerem, "The Talmud Tora of Salonika; A Multi-faceted Changing Institution from the 16th Century Traditionalism until Modern Political Zionism," in: Aviva Doron (ed.), The Culture of Spanish Jewry, Proceedings of the First International Congress, Tel Aviv, 1–4 July 1991 (1994), 159–68; L. Bornstein-Makovestky, "Halakhic Literature in Salonika between 1750–1900," in: Ladinar II (2001), 15–35 (Hebrew); Y. Kerem, "Forgotten Heroes: Greek Jewry in the Holocaust," in: M. Mor (ed.), Crisis and Reaction: The Hero in Jewish History (1995), 229–38; J.M. Landau, Tekinalp, Turkish Patriot (1984), index; M. Mazower, Salonica… 1430–1950 (2004); R.Lewkowicz, The Jewish Community of Salonika (2006).