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Chalcis, Greece

CHALCIS (Euboea, Negropont), port on the Greek island of Euboea. Josephus mentions the Jewish settlement at Euboea in his Antiquities (14:2). The 12th-century traveler *Benjamin of Tudela found 200 Jews there, who were silk manufacturers and dyers. The inferior status of the Jews under Latin rule (1204–1470) was exemplified by confinement to a ghetto, discriminatory taxation, and refusal to grant them citizenship. In 1402 they were forbidden to acquire land and houses outside the ghetto walls. The ghetto dwellers were considered as serfs. In the early 15th century their taxes were doubled in order to lighten the burden on their gentile neighbors. In 1414 a general annual tax was imposed upon them, and special taxes were added for guarding the clock bell tower, the yearly renewal of St. Mark's flag, and a galley tax. They were not allowed to acquire Venetian citizenship, although there were a few individual exceptions, such as the Kalomiti family who held hereditary citizenship (in the 15th century David Kalomiti owned estates and even had Jewish serfs). As elsewhere in the Byzantine world, Jews were compelled to act as executioners, an abuse which was abolished in 1452. Despite their inferior status, Jews held an important position in the economy. They traded with Ottoman and Venetian ports in the Aegean Sea. Under Turkish rule (1470–1833) the importance of the Jewish community waned and only a few Spanish exiles were attracted to the town. The community thus retained its *Romaniot character, and Greek mixed with Hebrew words was the lingua franca of Chalcis Jews. Many Jews traded in fruit and vegetables, and many were tailors and tinsmiths. At the outbreak of World War II there were 325 Jews on the island. When the Germans invaded Chalcis many hid in the hills, later escaping to Turkey, and from there to Palestine. Ninety who were caught by the Germans were sent to Auschwitz on April 2, 1944. In 1948 there were approximately 180 Jews on the island, and in 1959, 122.


J. Starr, Romania: Jewries of the Levant… (1949), 37–61, includes bibliography; Schwarzfuchs, in: REJ, 119 (1961), 152–8; Y. Nehama, In Memoriam, 2 (1949), 57–8; Bi-Tefuẓot ha-Golah, 1 no. 6 (1959), 36.

[Simon Marcus]

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