LARISSA (Ottoman Turk. Yenishehir), city in Thessaly, N.W. of Athens, Greece. From the 16th century Larissa had a small Sephardi community. The local Jews were mainly engaged in commerce, notably the sale of clothes, and also in money changing. With the conquest of the Peleponnese by the Venetians in 1687 and the influx of refugees from Patras, the Larissa community increased. There were numerous ḥakhamim in the community. At the end of the 16th century, the most noted was the posek Joseph ben Ezra. In the 16th and 17th centuries there were two kehalim, the older Romaniot Kahal Eẓ Ḥayyim and a smaller, more recent Sephardi kahal. During the 18th century the Larissa philanthropist Isaac Shalom maintained a yeshivah in *Salonika. At its peak, in 1851–52, the community numbered 2,000 families. A short-lived *Alliance Israélite Universelle school operated between 1868 and 1874. In 1881, the Jewish community welcomed Greek sovereignty in a public ceremony. The community suffered a blood libel in 1893. When Larissa was temporarily occupied by the Turks in the 1897 Greek-Turkish War, local elements agitated against the Jews with accusations of collusion with the former Turkish sovereign. When the Turkish military commander gave the local Jews a chance to return to *Turkey, the local rabbi refused and affirmed Jewish loyalty to Greece.
The merchant Isaac Cohen moved to *Jerusalem at the end of the 19th century and established a large general store on Jaffa Road. His close contacts with the Greek-Orthodox Church enabled the Jewish National Fund to purchase land for the Israel Museum as well as in the Reḥaviah neighborhood of Jerusalem and for kibbutz Bet ha-Aravah on the Dead Sea. In 1900, two local Zionist movements were established: Mevaẓeret Zion and Ohavei Zion. In 1923 there were 200 Jewish families in the town, although formerly there had been more. In 1940 there were 1,175 Jews in the town; 950 fled from the Nazis to the mountains when encouraged by local rabbi Isaac Casuto to do so. Following a Nazi decree, the 150 Jews who remained in the town, and another 75 who returned, were registered with the municipality and deported. In 1948 the Jewish population numbered 626, and in 1958, 452. According to the 1967 census, there were 441 Jews living in the city. A Holocaust memorial was set up in the mid-1990s and was desecrated several times at the end of the 1990s and the beginning of the 21st century. Today there are only some 15 Jewish pupils in the Jewish school, and most students are gentile. The community was enriched when the native Rabbi Eli Shabetai moved back to the community.
Almanak Izraelit 5683 (1927), 65–66; Rosanes, Togarmah, 2 (1938), 44, 46; 4 (1935), 155–6, 277–80; 5 (1938), 54–55, 125. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Y. Kerem, "Ee Evrai Tis Larisas, I Skliri Pragmatikotita Tis Othomanikis Zois," in: Thessaliko Imerologio, 41 (2002), 191–200; B. Rivlin and Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky, "Larisa," in: Pinkas Kehillot Yavan (1999), 169–77.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.