Exhibit by Marcia Haddad Ikonomopoulos, Museum Director
The Jews of Greece have lived on what is now Greek soil for over 2,300 years, the longest continuous Jewish presence in the European Diaspora. Archeological finds of early synagogues and Jewish artifacts have been discovered on the island of Delos, in the Ancient Agora of Athens, in Thessaloniki, Crete, Rhodes and Thessaly.
During their long history Greek Jews developed distinctive traditions, customs & liturgy passed down from generation to generation and carried with them when they immigrated to other countries. This special text has been prepared in conjunction with the exhibit "Memories."
Before the Flame Goes Out
Exhibit by Vincent Giordano
In 2001, while walking on the Lower East Side and photographing synagogues that were in jeopardy of closing, Vincent Giordano found Kehila Kedosha Janina. Thus was the beginning of his project, " Before the Flame Goes Out." In 2002, Vincent presented an exhibit at Kehila Kedosha Janina called "Portraits of Our Own," Greek-Jews who were members of our own congregation. Over the course of the years, he visited Ionnina, photographing and videotaping the community, their synagogue, cemetery and artifacts. A talented photographer and dear friend, we were saddened by Vincent's untimely passing in 2011.
We are honored that the first exhibit in our new gallery space is a collection of photographs taken in Ionnina by Vincent Giordano. This exhibit has been timed to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the deportations from Ionnina (March 1944). Vincent Giordano, through his work, has assured us that the flame will never go out.
Janina Project: Celestial Structures
Exhibit by Judy Moonelis
Judy Moonelis, a New York City artist, has exhibited widely, in numerous solo and group exhibitions nationally and internationally. Recent solo exhibitions include Temple Gallery, Rome, Groot Foundation Exhibition Space, Chicago, Morris Museum, Morristown, NJ, and group exhibitions include the 9th International Frankfurt Triennial. Her work has been represented by John Elder Gallery, NYC and Rena Bransten, San Francisco, where she has had several solo exhibitions.
Moonelis’s artist grants include two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, two New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowships and the Virginia A. Groot Grant. Her work is represented in major public collections, including the Smithsonian Institutions’ Renwick Gallery, Washington, DC; Museum of Arts and Design, NYC; Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA; Everson Museum, Syracuse, NY; Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation, LA, CA. Important private collections include Frances Lewis, VA and Agnes Gund, NY.
Her art has been a subject in numerous publications. She has lectured extensively at museums and universities, taught at Rhode Island School of Design, NYU and Hunter College. Her artist residencies include the Art Institute of Chicago, RISD and Cranbrook. She received her BFA from Tyler School of Art, Temple University and MFA from New York State College of Ceramics, Alfred University.
Rabbi Bechoraki Matsil
Exhibit by Kehila Kedosha Janina
Matsliach Yitzchak Matsil was born in 1877. The oldest of seven children [4 girls and 3 boys] and the first male, he was called Bechor. His parents died when he was very young and, as the oldest in the family, it became his responsibility to raise his siblings. He married off his three single sisters and sent his two brothers [Harry and Morris] to the United States. He would wait until the passing of the father of his wife [Amelia Levy] to make his own immigration, WWI further postponing his plans. It would not be until 1919 that Bechoraki would come to the USA. He already had five children [Isaac, Renee, Matty, Jeanette and Manny and five more would be born to him in the USA [Morris, Julie, Selma, Sol and Israel, who would die in infancy].
In the early part of the 20th century, Ioannina found itself in need of a rabbi and the community sent Bechoraki to Salonika to study for the rabbinate. He would also be certified to become the shohet and the mohel. He circumcised close to 600 male infants, both in Ioannina before he left, and in the United States, after he arrived, meticulously listing their names in a prayer book. Included among the circumcisions were five of his six sons and nine of his grandsons. Most were performed with no charge, especially those performed during the depression when money was so scarce.
Initially, on his arrival in New York, in 1919, he went to work with his younger brothers at the bathrobe factory they had established [Matsil Brothers] at 628 Broadway. Even though he had helped finance this venture, his role in the firm would be short-lived. The younger brothers thought that Bechoraki’s ways were too European.
Shaddayoth and Siddurim: A Window into Romaniote Religious Traditions
Exhibit by Kehila Kedosha Janina
Curated by Isaac Choua, KKJ Associate Museum Curator, and Rabbi Nissim Elnecavé, Executive Director of the Sephardic Jewish Brotherhood of America, this exhibit features items that were brought from Greece over the past 100 years by the immigrants to our Romaniote Jewish community in New York.
The first component of this exhibit features Shaddayoth, which are silver dedicatory plaques traditionally hung on the Torah Ark Curtain (Parohet). Hidden from public view for decades, our recently rediscovered collection includes plaques from Ioannina as well as ones created in New York. Shaddayoth are a unique Romaniote tradition.
The second component of this exhibit includes rare prayer books that were cherished by KKJ community members, including Sephardic Jews who joined our synagogue. These religious books date back centuries and range from antique printed Siddurim to hand-written Hebrew and Judeo-Greek liturgical poetry (piyyutim) unique to the Romaniote tradition.
Click "Read More" to view a digital version of this exhibit. A video presentation of this exhibit from the opening reception is available online here.