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Chios, Greece

CHIOS (Turkish, Sakis Adassi), Greek Aegean island off Asiatic Turkey. Jewish settlement dates back to the Hellenistic period. According to Josephus, Jews lived in Chios in ancient times (Ant., 14:112–3). During the reign of the Byzantine emperor Constantine IX Monomachus (1042–55), 15 Jewish families lived there; they were considered serfs of the Nea Mone monastery at the western end of the island. Benjamin of Tudela stated (c. 1160) that there were 400 Jews in Chios, led by Rabbi Elia and Rabbi Shabbetai. Jews lived in a separate quarter during the Middle Ages. In 1457 they had only one synagogue, but by 1549 there were several. The small synagogue within the fortress was named for *Jacob b. Asher (1270–1343), the author of the Turim, who, according to tradition, was shipwrecked on the island with his pupils; Jews from Chios and the Anatolian mainland made pilgrimages to his reputed grave. During the period of Genoese rule (1346–1566), the Jews engaged mostly in trade; some were artisans and wine-producers. They lived within the fortress and within a concentrated neighborhood, the Judaica. On Christmas Eve they had to donate a flag embroidered with a red cross to the Church of St. George, and they recited prayers for the pope at Christmas and Easter. By 1395, in addition to the Romaniot Jews, there were Jews from Ashkenaz, Italy, Provence, and Spain. After 1492, Spanish exiles ultimately became a majority in Chios. In the 16th century, a Romaniot synagogue stood beside a Sephardi kahal. In 1549, there were several synagogues, each based on region of origin. The 1540 plague killed most of the communal leaders. Under the Genoese, the Jews had to wear a yellow hat. During the first half of the 17th century Isaac b. Abraham Algazi was rabbi of the community. In 1717 a fatal plague erupted on the island. In 1822, a Jewish woman uncovered the Greek insurgents' plan to blow up the fortress and the Ottomans rewarded the Jews with ownership of the cemetery. In 1892 there was a blood libel. Jews also suffered from Greek hostility during the Greco-Turkish war (1897). The ghetto was destroyed in 1881 by an earthquake. At that period Jews traded in iron implements, copper, cloth, oil, and figs.

In 1764 there were about 200 Jews on the island, and in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, between 250 and 350. After the Balkan Wars of 1912–13, the island was annexed to Greece, and in 1913 there were 47 Jewish families there. Before 1940 the island contained a small number of Jewish families. In spring 1943, the Menashe family was deported to Salonika, but released as Italian subjects. Another group of Jewish refugees, who had arrived in Chios on a small boat in 1944, survived in the local prison and were liberated at the end of the war. There was no Jewish community in Chios by the 1960s.


J. Starr, The Jews in the Byzantine Empire 641–1204 (1939), index; idem, Romania, Jewries of the Levant… (1949), 95–100; A. Galanté, Histoire des juifs de Rhodes, Chio… (1935), 145–61, and Appendice à l'histoire des Juifs de Rhodes, Chio… (1948), 75; Jacoby, in: Zion, 26 (1961), 180–97 (inc. bibl.); M. Molcho and J. Nehama, Sho'at Yehudei Yavan (1965), 146. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Y. Kerem and B. Rivlin, "Chios," in: Pinkas Kehlilot Yavan (1999), 144–50.

[Simon Marcus / Yitzchak Kerem (2nd ed.)]

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