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40 years of active presence

Sunday, February 5, 2023

    EVERYDAY LIFE life at work

    From the time they first settled in Ioannina, the Jews had all sorts of occupations, but the most common were occupations that fulfilled the needs of an urban society so people occupied in them prospered. In Byzantine times there were money-changers and pawnbrokers as well as merchants.

    During the subsequent Turkish occupation they still had a large part of the city’s trade in their hands. Many were pedlars or hawkers in the city of Ioannina and the area around it. There were many small Jewish-owned shops in the market; mostly family businesses with father in charge. There were also a number of butchers who supplied kosher meat products, but even without shop-keepers, the people were able to make their own kosher cheese, such as kaskavali cheese, and wine, which was mainly for religious purposes. There was also someone who was very adept at making the renowned Ioannina bougatsa. Larger companies were in the import-export business and supplied the whole of Epirus with consumer goods.

    For no apparent reason, the number of Jewish people in Ioannina who worked in traditional skills and manual labour was low, even though they were, in theory, not excluded from craftsmen’s trades. There is, for example, no information regarding Jewish carpenters or smiths, and there were very few Jewish tinsmiths, cobblers and quilt makers. There were Jewish members of the guilds of gold and silversmiths and gold embroiderers, indeed, some of them achieved a certain amount of fame.

    There was, of course, no dearth of well-educated people among the Romaniote community. The most prominent among them were doctors, dispensing chemists and lawyers, as well as researchers, historians and teachers of foreign languages. Under the Ottoman Empire many well-educated Jews occupied important public positions such as that of community president, interpreter, treasurer and such like. It should also be borne in mind that quite a few Jewish families lived in neighbouring villages and towns, usually for reasons of work, but they still maintained close links with the Jewish Community of Ioannina.

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