Previous Exhibits

“Dikoi Mas, Los Muestros" - An Exhibit on Greek Jewish Families 

Presented by Kehila Kedosha Janina Synagogue and Museum

 

Family is the foundation of society. Throughout the ages, in different cultures, the concept of family has taken many forms. For Greek Jews, living in the traditional, conservative world of pre-WWII Jewish Greece, families were close knit with marriages often arranged from within the community. As the Jews began to emigrate, the traditional values of family were carried with them as they packed their baggage to journey to the New World.

 

Certainly, for those who settled in the New York Metropolitan area, whether they be Sephardim or Romaniote, “family” would give them the basics, enabling them to plant their roots, preserve their culture and traditions, establish their synagogues and make their way in this strange New World. Pioneers, early arrivals from Greece, welcomed their extended family as the migrations continued, offering them a warm bed, familiar foods and a safe harbor from which they could venture forth and seek their fortune.

Hametz Family Exhibit

Presented by Kehila Kedosha Janina

 

On November 11, 2007, in honor of the marriage of Sharon Hametz and Jeffrey Rodnick in Kehila Kedosha Janina, a special family exhibit was created for the Hametz family. Sharon’s great-grandfather, Rabbi Israel Hametz, came to serve the growing Yanniote community on the Lower East Side in 1928. The immigration quotas for that year had already been filled and the synagogue sent formal letters to the American Consulate in Greece requesting that Rabbi Hametz and his family, his wife Pernoula and 7 children [his oldest daughter had already arrived in New York in 1920 and had married Joe Leon Josephs in 1924] be allowed to come to New York.

 

Israel worked in import/export to supplement his salary as a rabbi. The family would live on the Lower East Side, close to the Kehila where Israel’s son, Ovadiah, would also serve as a spiritual leader, helping to conduct the traditional Romaniote prayer services.

The Jewish Community of Preveza 

Presented by the Museum at Kehila Kedosha Janina

 

The Jewish Community of Preveza was officially established in 1883 when a delegation of Jews from Corfu went to the city to make plans for the building of a synagogue. There were certainly Jews living there before but, previously, the small Jewish presence in the city was not sufficient to warrant the building of a synagogue. When nearby Arta became part of Modern Greece in 1881, trade became difficult for those communities in the northwest of Greece [Epirus] that were still part of the Ottoman Turkish Empire and a new center of trade was established in Preveza. Jews, prominent in mercantile trade, moved to the city from nearby Arta, Ioannina and Corfu.

 

The Jewish Community was small in size, never numbering more than 400. Most had familial connections in Ioannina, Corfu and Arta. Some of the most common family names were: Albala, Asser, Askinazi, Barouch, Battinos, Ganis, Hanen, Koen, Kofinas, Levi, Matsas, Matsil, Saba, Solomon, Yomtov and Zakar.  

The Colchamiro Family

Presented by the Museum at Kehila Kedosha Janina

 

It all began with the marriage of Jesoula Colchamiro and Rachel Galanos in 1865 in a small city in northwestern Greece called Ioannina. Jesoula, like many other Jews in the city, was engaged in the textile business. He would buy and sell fabrics and, as legend has it, was so picky in selecting his merchandise that his family and friends said that it was as if he was meticulously clearing the house of hametz before Pessah and reciting the kalchamira prayer.

 

This, “kalchamira”, would become his nickname and, as so often happened in Ioannina, this nickname would become the surname of his descendants. Jesoula and Rachel would sire eleven children, over 80 grandchildren, and great-grandchildren too numerous to count. His descendants would have made him proud. The present generation of Colchamiro [as the name was transcribed in America] is composed of teachers, professors, doctors, lawyers, businessmen, writers, philanthropists, filmmakers, writers, engineers and architects. But, Jesoula and Rachel would have been most proud that over a century and a half later, their descendants have not forgotten their roots.

The David Family Exhibit 

Presented by Kehila Kedosha Janina Synagogue and Museum

 

In 1848, in Ioannina, David ben Elia married Simchu. They had 9 children, producing many illustrious Yanniotes, among them the poet Joseph Eliyia and the author, Eftihia Nachmias Nachman. Many of David and Simchu’s children and grandchildren perished in the Holocaust. Others, fortunately, had found their way to New York in the early part of the 20th century, marrying (for the most part) into other Yanniote families.

 

The family tree of David Elia and Simchu branches out to include many of the Yanniote families. Too many of the leaves were torn and shredded in the Holocaust. It is our hope to give faces to many who were lost and, hopefully, reconnect distant branches to this important tree.

Our Gang in World War II

Presented by Kehila Kedosha Janina Synagogue and Museum

 

The United States officially entered WWII on December 7, 1941. It would be a war that would affect everyone. Among the many who served was “Our Gang,” Greek Jews from the NYC area, most of whom were sons of recent immigrants.There were those who were wounded in battle. Both Ralph Battino and Joseph Lafazan would receive the Purple Heart.

 

There were those who were taken as prisoners of war, including Isaac (Pat) Nachmias of 279 Broome Street, captured during the Battle of the Bulge and imprisoned in Stalag IVB until May of 1945. Finally, there were those who did not return. Hyman Barash died on Omaha Beach on D-Day during the landing at Normandy. Both Nissim Attas and Abraham Matza died during the Battle of the Bulge. Herbert Nachman, son of past Sisterhood President Rae Nachman, was shot down over Germany. Both Arthur Rubenstein and Hymie Atun were lost in the Pacific.This exhibit is dedicated to “Our Gang,” Greek-Jews, most sons of immigrants from Ioannina, many from the Lower East Side, who proudly fought to defend their country. Jews by faith, Americans by nationality, Greeks by ethnicity, they would make us all proud.

Something Old, Something New

Presented by Kehila Kedosha Janina Synagogue and Museum

 

Weddings are a time to rejoice. They are simchas celebrating a community’s continuance. In the traditional Jewish communities of Greece, in the 19th and early 20th century, marriages were arranged, dowries prepared and elaborate ketubahs created. Parents of the bride could breathe a sigh of relief. A daughter had been married off. Parents of the groom would hope for an heir apparent, a son, a pasha.

 

In the United States, in New York, in the Greek Jewish communities of the Lower East Side, the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens, initially, for at least the first generation, the old world traditions would continue and spouses chosen from within the community.

 

These customs, however, were short-lived. The Holocaust would decimate most of Greek Jewry and, in the aftermath, weddings took on even more significance. They were a sign that the Jewish community of Greece, though fragmented, would continue, and that the flame had not been extinguished.

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Kehila Kedosha Janina | Synagogue and Museum

 

280 Broome St  New York, NY 10002 

Office: (212)-431-1619 | Museum Director: (516)-456-9336 | Email: info@kkjsm.org

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