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40 years of active presence

Wednesday, February 8, 2023
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    Views of Cosmopolitan Thessaloniki: The Postcards of the Beza family

    ISAAC M. BEZA COLLECTION OF POSTCARDS

    This collection is a family inheritance of the family of Mr. Joseph Florentin, discovered in the home of his grandmother when she passed away in 2002. Recently, he kindly donated it to the JMG. It consists of 318 postcards, sent mainly by Isaac M. Beza, (the father of his step-grandfather) who was a commercial agent in Thessaloniki, from various commercial centres and cities, where he travelled on business. They were addressed to his wife, Fortuné (or Fortunata) and his children Lucie, Alfred, Sarina, Irma and Alberto. Also included are many postcards sent by business associates and friends from various parts of the world to the Beza family, who maintained residences in Thessaloniki, Constantinople and, after World War II, Athens.

    The photographs on these rare postcards, of public buildings, grand hotels, synagogues, Zeppelin airships and city panoramas, show the admiration and pride of the people of that time in architecture, urban planning and the advancement of technology.

    The commercial, friendly and family correspondence on the postcards describes not only a part of the life of a typical Sephardic merchant from Thessaloniki, with his daily difficulties in long journeys (by ship and train), his concerns for his health and family, but also exemplifies the multilingualism, secularism and extensive network of Sephardic merchants, with Jewish and non-Jewish businesses, in the Ottoman Empire, Europe and the Balkans, in the early 20th century. In addition, the correspondence vividly reflects the historical events and general living conditions of half a century from 1899 to 1949.

    Their relatively short delivery time, which usually does not exceed 20 days, is also impressive. Today, a postcard or letter within Europe takes between one and three months to be delivered to its recipient. So much for progress…

    Many of the stamps of the postcards have been carefully removed by cutting out, apparently by a collector, often obliterating the postmark as well, making accurate dating difficult.

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    Views of Cosmopolitan Thessaloniki: The Postcards of the Beza family

    JEWISH LIFE

    Some of the cards depict themes from Jewish life in various countries. They were sent mainly on the occasion of Jewish holidays, or, in...

    HISTORICAL EVENTS

    An extremely strange subject for postcards is the massacre of the Armenians in Adana, Türkiye in 1909. It seems they were printed by Levantines,...

    LANGUAGES

    The languages used by the Beza family and their associates in their correspondence are mainly French, often mixed with Italian, Judeo-Spanish (both in Latin...

    TECHNOLOGY

    Many postcards, mainly sent by Isaac Beza's colleagues, proudly depict both the existing technology in effective use, e.g. textile factories, as well as the...

    BUSINESS PARTNERS

    Cards sent by associates of Isaac Beza, demonstrating the extent of the family's trade relations not only in the Near East, the Balkans and...

    COUNTRIES AND NAMES OF CITIES

    The names of the many cities and countries on the postcards represent Europe and the Near East on the eve of the First World...

    TOURISTIC AND FAMOUS PLACES

    Images from places that even today attract tourist interest could as a matter of course not be missing. Some remain famous and eternally popular;...

    EXHIBITION CONTRIBUTORS

    EXHIBITION CURATOR Zanet Battinou RESEARCH – TEXTS Christina Meri Alexios Menexiadis TEXT EDITING Alexios Menexiadis GRAPHIC DESIGN Hayia Cohen Eliza Solomon COMMUNICATIONS Elisa Solomon PHOTOGRAPHIC ARCHIVE Leonidas Papadopoulos The Jewish...