TRIKKALA (Trikala), city in W. Thessaly, Greece. In the third and fourth centuries, Trikkala was an important Hellenistic city that probably had a Jewish population, but little is known about it. From 1421 to 1451, there were an estimated 387 Jewish families in the area, most of whom were Judeo-Greek–speaking *Romaniote Jews. After the Ottomans conquered Constantinople, they began sending Jewish sorgunim (those forcibly exiled) from Trikkala to the capital. In Istanbul,
The Kahal Kadosh Yevanim ("Greek Community") synagogue in Trikkala confirmed the ancientness of the Jewish community, which grew during the 16th century with the arrival of refugees from Hungary, after the Ottoman conquest of Buda, Spain, Portugal, and Sicily. There were also Kahal Kadosh Sephardim and Kahal Kadosh Sicilyanim (Sicilians) synagogues in the town. While the Romaniot Jews absorbed the Iberian Sephardi exiles, eventually the Sephardim achieved communal hegemony. The refugees from Spain introduced the weaving of wool. In 1520–35, there were 1,000 Jews in the city and in the region. The Jews of the city worked in wool production, and in trading wool and hides. The Trikkala Jewish merchants had commercial relations with Larissa and Arta as well as with Venice and Ragusa (Dubrovnik).
Though *dhimmis, they enjoyed communal autonomy and toleration from the authorities. In 1497 the community requested from the authorities exemption from the Ispenja tax, claiming that the Jews did not work in agriculture, but commerce and the crafts. Thus, they also were exempt from serving in the Janissary military units.
The Jews of Trikala were in contact with the rabbinic authorities of Salonika and Arta. Among the rabbis active in Trikkala in the 16th century were Romaniot rabbi Benjamin b. Rav Shmariya (Papo) of Arta (R. Samuel *Kalai was his student), *Benjamin b. Shmariya (rabbi of the Romaniot kahal), Solomon ben Maior, Menachem b. Moses *Bavli; Menachem b. Shabbetai ha-Rofeh (av bet din), and Eleazar Belgid.
In the failed Greek rebellion of 1770, Jews in Trikkala were robbed of their money and property. In the 18th century, the community was served by Rabbi Abraham Amarilio, author of Sefer Berit Avraham (1802). In 1873, the community number 150 families or 600–700 people, with Jews working as tinsmiths, moneychangers, and mainly small fabric merchants.
In 1881, Trikkala became part of the Greek sovereign state. In October King George I visited the city, stayed in the home of a local Jewish family, and was well received in a ceremony in the synagogue.
In the 1880s, the community was led by Jacob Joseph Sidis, who came in the 1870s from Ioannina and made improvements, including a boys' choir, hiring of new teachers for the talmud torah, renovation of two of the cities' three synagogues, and the building of a mikveh. At the end of the 19th century the community rabbi was Simeon Pessah, later of Larissa.
Ḥevrat Yetomot was a philanthropic society that helped poor girls, assisted in education, contributed to the talmud torah, assisted the Bikkur Holim society, and aided, in the religious sphere, Tikkun Hatzot and Amirat Tehilim (recitation of psalms). There were *blood libel accusations in 1893, in 1898 (followed by anti-Jewish riots), and in 1911. At the end of the 19th century there were about 800 Jews in Trikkala. In 1906, 17-year-old Yomtov Yakoel, who became a prominent Jewish community leader and lawyer in Salonika, founded the Zionist Eretz-Zion movement. Caught in hiding in Athens in 1944, he was deported to Birkenau and died as a crematorium Sonderkommando worker. Thirty-five local Jews fought in the Greek army in the Balkan Wars, two dying and some wounded.
In 1912, the wealthy landowner Elias Cohen housed the royal family on a visit to Trikkala. During World War II, as a result of this connection, Princess Alice (Aliki), mother to English Prince Philip, provided shelter for the widow and four sons of Haimaki (Elias's son), and was recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in Israel in the early 1990s.
In 1917–19, Judah Matitiya, edited the Greek publication Israel, organ of the Zionist Federation of Trikkala, Larissa, and Volos. Asher *Moissis assisted in its publication. Two large department stores in Trikkala were owned by Jews, and Lazarus Muchtar and Meir Solomon were known as wealthy local Jewish bankers. The Ohavei Tzion Zionist organization's club had an important function for the youth of the community.
In 1925, the community numbered 120 families. The Jews worked in commerce and banking. In the mid-1920s, there was a Jewish theatrical group in Trikkal.
In the Assembly of Representatives of the Jewish Communities of Greece in Salonika in 1929, the Jewish community of Trikkala was represented by the young lawyers Asher Moissis and Yomtov Yakoel (both of whom moved to Salonika in the 1930s).
On the eve of World War II the number of Jews had decreased to 500. Many local Jews fought in the Greek army against the invading Italians in Albania from October 28, 1940, until April 1940. During Italian military rule from April 1941 to September 1943, the Jews fared relatively well. After the Germans replaced the Italian military occupation in September 1943, Rabbi Kastel led more than 300 community members to the mountains under the protection of the ELAS-EAM leftist-leaning resistance movement. The Greek Orthodox clergy also assisted Jews to hide. A few days after the Nazis arrived, the communal leaders, including Abraham Baruch, were invited to the mayor's office, where the commander said they would not be deported to Poland like Salonikan Jewry and requested that they persuade the Jews who had fled to return, promising matzot for Passover, sugar, and travel permits to other cities, but the Jews did not agree. During the Nazi persecutions the majority of the Jews escaped to the region controlled by the Greek partisans. On March 23, 1944, the Germans spread false rumors that the partisans had killed a German commander and called a general curfew for the city. A Greek-Orthodox townsman, Alexander Tchatjigakis, warned the Jewish community that they would be deported to Poland the next day, so many Jews fled. The next day, early in the morning, remaining Jews were arrested; mostly the elderly, women, children, and a few people who returned to the city from hiding. Some 50 Jews were deported to extermination camps. In October the city was liberated from the Nazis. The Sephardi and Sicilian
In 1946, the Jewish community numbered 73 families (267 people – of whom 65 were children (32 orphans) and 12 widows) as opposed to 492 people before the war. Twenty stores and 23 houses were returned to the Jews as well as the school and the damaged synagogue; which was in need of repair. The cemetery was in ruins and it took three years to refurbish it. Jews began to leave for Athens, Israel, and the United States. Trikkalan Jewish youth were among the founders of moshav Neveh Yemin in Israel in 1949. In 1954 the synagogue was damaged and repaired two years later with the financial help of Judah Perahia of Xanthi. In 1958 there were 123 Jews in the city and by 1967 they numbered 101.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Ovadiah Sabbas was community president and local WIZO leader Betty Haleva was community vice president. The Jews worked in the textile and clothing trade, and two prominent local Jewish families were Yesulas and Kabellis. The religious leader of the community was Moses Ganis and later Rabbi Eli Shabbetai. In the synagogue, there is a memorial tablet for the local Jewish Holocaust victims and the Jewish cemetery is situated on both sides of the interurban highway, which crosses the city. The cemetery was desecrated in neo-Nazi activities in the early 2000s. The city also has a Holocaust memorial statue.
Mosè, 7 (1884), 196; M. Molho and J. Nehama, In Memoriam, Hommage aux victimes juives des Nazis en Grèce, 2 (1949), 61, 156, 164; B. Rivlin, and L. Bornstein-Makovetski, "Trikkala," in: Pinkas ha-Kehillot Yavan (1999), 125–31; Y. Kerem, The History of the Jews in Greece, 1821 – 1940, Pt. 1 (1985), 197–214; D. Benveniste, Jewish Communities of Greece, Notes and Impressions (Heb., 1979), 66–69.