KAVALLA


KAVALLA, city in Macedonia, Greece. After the capture of Budapest by the Turks in 1526 Hungarian Jews were brought first to Sofia, and in 1529 to Kavalla. Eventually both Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews settled there. Eventually, the Sephardi community influenced the Ashkenazim in matters of halakhah, and they assimilated into the general Sephardi community. In the 16th century, there were four synagogues and a total of 500 Jews in the community. In 1676 the Jews comprised a third of the general population. By 1740 the Jewish population had dwindled to barely enough families for a minyan. The city developed in the first half of the 19th century due to the presence of local relatives of Mohammed Ali, who was born in Kavalla and as Egypt's ruler contributed greatly to local growth. In the mid-19th century, as the port developed, several affluent Jewish families from Salonika moved to Kavalla. In 1880, the Jewish community numbered only 24 families, half of them from Salonika and Serres. The city's synagogue, Beth El, was built in 1885. In the 19th century the Jewish community was augmented by an influx of tobacco merchants. A Jewish boys' school was founded in 1889 and in 1905 a coed Alliance Israélite Universelle school was established. Blood libel accusations circulated against local Jews in 1894, 1900, and even 1926 under Greek rule. In the latter incident, the Jews were falsely blamed for the murder of a girl, and Greek-Orthodox rioters destroyed Jewish property in the ensuing riots.

By 1900, the local Jewish community had grown to 230 families, comprising 1,000 to 1,300 people. About half the Jews worked in the tobacco industry and most of the others were storekeepers. There was also a group of poor Jews. In 1913 the Jewish population numbered 2,500, 3,200 in 1923, and 2,200 in 1940. Many Jews worked in the tobacco warehouses. As the Jewish community grew, so did Jewish poverty. In 1900, the Jewish community had several welfare societies: Ozer Dalim, Ezra be-Ẓarrot, Ahavat Re'im, and a soup kitchen for children called Melo ha-Peh Leḥem.

In the First Balkan War, in November 1912, Bulgaria captured the city, and seven prominent Jews were arrested on suspicion of collaborating with the Turks. The Jews suffered, like the rest of the population, from neglect, and in the winter 120 families received food and coal for heating from the Chief Rabbinate of Bulgaria, the Alliance Israélite Universelle in Paris, and donors from among Hungarian Jewry. The Greeks took over the city on July 6, 1913, and brought relief to the residents of the city. In 1916, the Bulgarians recaptured the city, and the Jews, like the other residents of the city, suffered from starvation. Many were affected by the bombings. Many were recruited for forced labor by the Bulgarians, and again suspicions of treason circulated. Greek rule returned on October 19, 1918. That same month, 120 Jews and Muslims were mobilized for forced labor to repair war damages. Jews also had to do such menial work as cleaning the streets and Greek- Orthodox homes. The Jewish community complained to the French government via the Alliance Israélite Universelle and after six days the Jews were relieved from this burden.

In 1913 the local Zionist Or Zion society was established. Judah Ḥayyim Perahia edited its weekly Judeo-Spanish newspaper, Ha-Ẓiyyonut.

In the 1920s, two-thirds of the Jews worked in the tobacco industry and a hundred were shopkeepers or worked for merchants. As early as 1921, there were accounts of the Greek government forcing Jews to work on the Sabbath and taking Sunday as their day of rest. In Kavalla, as opposed to many other cities where the Jews protested, many Jews opened their businesses, including the president of the Jewish community himself. The community suffered greatly from the worldwide depression in the 1930s. In 1931, there were 200 unemployed Jewish tobacco workers. Throughout the 1930s, the local Jews received financial assistance from the Salonikan Jewish community.

In 1941 Kavalla came under Bulgarian occupation. The Jews were pressured to assist the Bulgarians against the Greeks but they resisted. In retaliation the Bulgarians, guided by the Nazis, applied the racial laws in 1942 (see *Bulgaria, Holocaust). In the summer of 1942 many hundreds of Jews were put to forced labor in Kavalla and a few months later in early 1943 another group was sent to Bulgaria to work. On March 3, 1943, 1,800 Jews were arrested and later deported to the Treblinka death camp in Poland. Part of the Kavallan Jewish community was on the Karageorge when the Bulgarians shot passengers on the Danube River. The Jewish population in 1948 numbered 42; according to the 1967 census there were 47 Jews living in Kavalla. By the beginning of the 21st century, the last elders of the three remaining families had passed away and no more Jews resided in the city. There still remains a Jewish cemetery intact.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

J.B. Angel, in: Almanak Izraelit (1923), 72–75 (Ladino). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: B. Rivlin, "Kavalla," in Pinkas Kehillot Yavan (1999), 327–39; Y. Kerem, "New Finds on Greek Jews in the Sobibor and Treblinka Death Camps in the Holocaust," in: I. Hassiotis (ed.), The Jewish Communities of Southeastern Europe from the Fifteenth Century to the End of World War Two (1997), 249–62; Central Zionist Archives, Jerusalem, S25/10746 and Karageorge photo file; Yad Vashem Archives, Jerusalem, TR10/641, Beckerle Trial.

[Simon Marcus /

Yitzchak Kerem (2nd ed.)]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.