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    Home The Jewish Community of Corfu

    The Jewish Community of Corfu

    HISTORICAL BACKGROUND – The kingdoms of Sicily and Naples

    Despite Corfu’s proximity to mainland Greece, where Jewish communities have existed since ancient times, the Jewish presence on the island was first recorded by Benjamin of Tudela in 1148 and the reference involved just one person, a dyer, named Iossif. Corfu was at the time under the rule of...

    HISTORICAL BACKGROUND – Venetian rule

    In 1387 Corfu fell under Venetian domination. In 1492 expelled Jews from the Iberian Peninsula arrived to the island, while in 1494 more came from Naples. The population significantly decreased during the Ottoman siege of 1537, when thousands of prisoners were carried away. In 1540 Jews hailing from Italy...

    HISTORICAL BACKGROUND – French and British rule

    In June 1797, after 411 years of Venetian rule, Corfu came under rule of the Republican French of Napoleon Bonaparte. In the spirit of the French Revolution, the Jewish community was granted equality, which again led to the resentment of the Christian population. The rabbi of Corfu was even...

    HISTORICAL BACKGROUND- Union with Greece

    The Treaty of London (29 March 1864) recognised the Ionian Islands as a greek province. The High Commissioner officially proclaimed the Union of the Islands with Greece on 21 May 1864. Initially, the position of the Jewish community improved significantly. The island’s Jews were granted full political and civil...

    HISTORICAL BACKGROUND – The antisemitic events of 1891

    After the union of the Ionian Islands with Greece, the constantly improving of the standing of the Corfiot Jews, both financially and culturally, irritated the island’s Christians. The most pronounced expression of those tensions were the antisemitic disturbances of 1891, the “Jewish Events”, or “Ghezera de novant' un'” as...

    HISTORICAL BACKGROUND – War, German occupation and the Holocaust

    During the Second World War, the Ionian Islands were initially under Italian occupation. After the Italian surrender in 1943, the Germans, having destroyed many historical buildings, including two of the synagogues, the Pugliesa and the Nuova, in its bombing of Corfu town on 13 September, finally occupied the island...

    RELIGIOUS LIFE – The Apulian synagogues

    Information on the Corfiot synagogues is scarce, unclear and often contradictory. We know there were three synagogues on the island, as well as one midrash (oratory), which was probably situated on the top floor of one of them. As the two communities, Romaniotes (Greci) and Sephardim (Pugliesi, Spaniards and Marranos),...

    RELIGIOUS LIFE – The Romaniote synagogue

    The Romaniote community used the Scuola Greca or Tempio Greco Synagogue. It can be dated to the beginning of the 17th century and, the only one to have emerged unscathed from the 1943 bombardments, remains in use. It is built in the Venetian manner, with the ground floor reserved...

    RELIGIOUS LIFE – Synagogual ritual objects

    Only a small number of ritual objects and textiles from Corfu’s synagogues is still extant, but archival photos of the synagogues’ interior can give a clue regarding their syncretic style. They displayed a harmonic combination of Italian baroque and Ottoman visual art motifs, and show a close adherence to...

    RELIGIOUS LIFE – The Jewish cemeteries

    The lack of archival material leaves many questions unanswered on the history of Corfu’s Jewish cemeteries, especially concerning modern times. The old Pugliesi cemetery was located in the Sarokou area, near Platytera Monastery. The Venetians transferred the property to the Sephardi community in an exchange of land in 1502. The Greci cemetery...