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RHODES (Rhodos), Greek island in the Aegean Sea, with city of the same name. It is the largest of the Dodecanese Islands in the Aegean Sea and also known as the Island of Roses.

Ancient Period

The biblical reference to Rhodes is in Genesis 10:4–5. Dodanim, the son of Yavan (Greece) and the biblical figure after whom the Island of Rhodes is named and to whom it belonged, was Noah's great-grandson on the side of his son Yefet. It is written, "By these were the isles of the nations divided in their lands; everyone after his tongue, after their families, in their nations" (Gen. 10:5). Although it is uncertain when the first Jews settled in Rhodes, it appears that a Jewish community existed on the island at least toward the end of the Hellenistic period. Rhodes is listed in a Roman decree among those areas notified of the renewal of the pact of friendship between the Roman senate and the Jewish nation under the high priest Simeon (142 B.C.E.), and numerous scholars have concluded from this document that a Jewish community existed on Rhodes at the time (cf. Suetonius, Tiberius 32, where a "Diogenes Grammaticus" is mentioned who used to dispute on the Sabbath; cf. also IG, XII, fasciculus 1, n. 11, line 5, where one should probably read "Menippus of Jerusalem"; cf. corrigenda, p. 206).

Herod the Great had occasion to visit the island a number of times. His first visit was in 40 B.C.E. when, having set sail for Pamphylia on his way to Rome, he was nearly shipwrecked and with difficulty made his way to Rhodes. There, according to Josephus' account (Ant., 14:377–8, see also Wars, 1:280), he found the city devastated by the war against Cassius and "did not hesitate to help it even though he was in need of funds, but actually exceeded his means in restoring it." It is probable that he thereby intended also to benefit the local Jewish population. Following the battle of Actium (31 B.C.E.) Rhodes was the scene of a meeting between Herod and the victorious Octavian. On this occasion Herod proclaimed his loyalty and friendship to the new Roman emperor and as a result was reconfirmed king of Judea (Wars, 1:387–8, Ant., 15:187–8). Josephus states that Herod continued to offer economic aid to Rhodes: "again and again he made contributions for shipbuilding, and when their Pythian temple burnt down he rebuilt it on a grander scale at his own expense" (Wars, 1:424; Ant., 16:147).


A. Galanté, Histoire des Juifs de Rhodes, Chio, Cos etc. (1935; appendix 1948); R. Pacifici, in: RMI, 8 (1938), 60–77; S. Marcus, Toledot ha-Rabbanim le-Mishpaḥat Yisrael me-Rodos (1935); idem, in: Sefunot, 1 (1956), 279–302; idem, in: Oẓar Yehudei Sefarad, 2 (1959), 55–68; Schuerer, Gesch, 3 (19114), 456, 534; Juster, Juifs (1914), 189; B.E.A. Rottiers, Inscriptions et Monuments de Rhodes (1830); Baron, Social, 3 (1957), 16, 235; J. Starr, Romania (1949), 85–93; M. Ishon, in: Gesher, 11 (1965), 51–57; M.D. Angel, The Jews of Rhodes, The History of a Sephardic Community (1978). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: B. Rivlin, "Rhodes," in Pinkas ha-Kehillot Yavan (1999), 392–407; Y. Kerem, "The Migration of Rhodian Jews to Africa and the Americas from 1900–1914: The Beginning of New Sephardic Diasporic Communities," in: Patterns of Migration, 18501914 (1996), 321–34; idem, "The Settlement of Rhodian and Other Sephardic Jews in Montgomery and Atlanta in the Twentieth Century," in: American Jewish History 85, 4 (Dec. 1997), 373–91.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.