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The Romaniote Jews of Ioannina

The Romaniote Jews of Ioannina

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Published by rpmrg
For two thousand years, Ioannina, a small city in northwest
Greece, has been home to a very special Jewish
community; a community of Jews who are neither
Sephardim nor Ashkenazim, but rather “Romaniote” Jews.
This branch of Judaism traces its roots back to the Roman
Empire and these Jews are considered “Hellenized,” or
Greek Jews.
For two thousand years, Ioannina, a small city in northwest
Greece, has been home to a very special Jewish
community; a community of Jews who are neither
Sephardim nor Ashkenazim, but rather “Romaniote” Jews.
This branch of Judaism traces its roots back to the Roman
Empire and these Jews are considered “Hellenized,” or
Greek Jews.

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Published by: rpmrg on Mar 05, 2013
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The RomanioteJews of Ioannina
Courtesy of Congregation Kehila Kedosha Janina, New York
 
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
Romaniote
Jews.This branch of Judaism traces its roots back to the RomanEmpire and these Jews are considered
Hellenized,
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.
 
“To my knowledge, the Romaniotecustoms differ in theincorporation of 
piyyutim
(liturgical poems) in a mixtureof Greek and Hebrew and, in our synagogue, the order of the service is different from that of Sephardic Jews.Of course, our style of chanting is quite different.Thedifferences in the celebration of holidays is best shownwith the use of different foods. [Sephardic Jews] eatrice at Pesach where Jews from Ioanninado not. As far as name giving is concerned, both groups (Romanioteand Sephardim in Greece) honor our mothers andfathers and name our children after them.In a traditional Sephardic synagogue, the
tevah
(podiumor bimah) is in the center and in a traditional Romaniotesynagogue it is on the far western wall facing the arkwith the Torah scrolls. In both communities the womendo not say blessings over the Torah nor read from theTorah.We encase our Torah in
tikkim
(heavy metal andwooden cases) and do not remove them from the tikkimwhen carrying them up to the podium for reading.
Marcia Haddad Ikonompoulos, museum director of the KehilaKedosha Janinain New York.
Torah T 
ikkim
 All objects here courtesyKehila Kedosha Janina, New York
Megillat Esther,the scroll read onthe holiday Purim
How RomanioteCustoms Differ fromSephardic Customs

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