For two thousand years, Ioannina, a small city in northwestGreece, has been home to a very special Jewishcommunity; a community of Jews who are neitherSephardim nor Ashkenazim, but rather
Jews.This branch of Judaism traces its roots back to the RomanEmpire and these Jews are considered
orGreek Jews. The RomanioteJews adopted the languageand customs of Greek civilization as their own, while at thesame time maintaining their distinct Jewish identity,acculturating but not assimilating. In its conservatism andresilience to change, the Jewish community of Ioanninareflected the wider Christian community and northernregion of Greece in which it existed. It is this quality whichkept the community intact for so many centuries, for unlikethe majority of other Romaniotecommunities in Greece,Ioannina
sJews never became absorbed into the prevalentand much larger Sephardic community, adopting neither itsliturgy and traditions, nor its language, Ladino. Over thecourse of two millennia and under different rulers andregimes, in periods of austerity and prosperity, Ioannina
sJewish population existed, growing and shrinking intandem with the prevailing political situation of the times.Never a wealthy community, the IoanninaJews made theirlivings mostly as merchants, tradesmen, and craftsmen.Theirs was a patriarchal society of arranged marriages,large families, and strict Jewish orthodoxy, where menwere the community leaders and breadwinners, andwomen maintained the traditional roles of housekeepingand childrearing.