“At the Crossroads: The Jewish Community of Corfu”

Τhe temporary historical exhibition under the title: “At the Crossroads: The Jewish Community of Corfu”, was created by the Jewish Museum of Greece to frame the memorial events organised by the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Athens, on the occasion of the Presidency of the Federal Republic of Germany of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

The exhibition constitutes a brief historical and cultural flashback in the life and traditions of the Jewish Community of Corfu. The unique geographical position of the island, at the point where the Western world meets the East, endowed the community with special characteristics of multiculturalism, rarely found elsewhere. These found expression in the language, traditions and customs of the community, as well as the liturgy, architecture and decoration of its Synagogues. All eras of the community’s centuries-old history have left their tangible marks in all these aspects of its life.

After the community’s near destruction in the Second World War, very few elements that remind us of its erstwhile multicoloured past remain. This exhibition by the JMG hopes to constitute a small reminder of a world now lost…

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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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

RELIGIOUS LIFE – Traditions and customs

Some of the Jewish customs of Corfu comprised specific characteristics, owing to the multicultural environment of the island and the close cohabitation of various...

EVERYDAY LIFE – The Jewish Quarter

The Jews of Corfu initially resided on Erisvouni (“Jewish Hill”), which is now known as Campiello Hill. In 1425, with the erection of the...

EVERYDAY LIFE – Language

Corfu, being a bridge between the Balkans and Italy, was bound to become a place of mixed cultures and, therefore, languages. Romaniote Jews in Greece...

EVERYDAY LIFE – Education

Until the 19th century many of the Corfiot Jewish families did not have the means to provide proper education for their children. At most,...

EVERYDAY LIFE – Community organisation and institutions

Admittedly, relations between the two Jewish communities of Corfu, the Greci and the Pugliesi, were never harmonious. When, at the time of the settlement...

EVERYDAY LIFE – Professions and trades

The Jews of Corfu were distinguished by their urban character as well as their professional occupations, which were mainly focused on trade, manufacturing and...

INTELLECTUAL LIFE – Publishing

The Jews of Corfu made an important contribution to intellectual life. A characteristic expression of their progressive thought and contribution to the letters is...

INTELLECTUAL LIFE – Giulio Caimi

Giulio Caimi was born in 1897 in a mansion near the Greca Synagogue, son of Mosé Caimi, publisher of local newspaper The Jewish Chronicler. The...

INTELLECTUAL LIFE – Albert Cohen

Born in Corfu in 1895, Albert Cohen immigrated with his family to Marseilles in 1900. He would not return to Corfu but once, for...

INTELLECTUAL LIFE – Lazarus Menahem Belleli

Lazarus Menahem Belleli, the polyglot writer and classical scholar, was born in Corfu in 1862. In 1877 he edited Aṭṭeret Baḥurim (The Crown of...

INTELLECTUAL LIFE – Lazzaro de Mordo: the “Ionian Hippocrates”

The doctor-philosopher Lazzaro de Mordo was born in Corfu in 1774, the scion of an old medical family, his grandfather, Lazarus, and father, Sabbetai,...

Exhibition Contributors

EXHIBITION CURATOR Zanet Battinou RESEARCH - TEXTS Christina Meri Alexios Menexiadis TEXT TRANSLATION Alexios Menexiadis TEXT EDITING Alexandra Patrikiou Damian Mac Con Uladh GRAPHIC DESIGN Hayia Cohen FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT Victoria Kosti COMMUNICATIONS Elisa Solomon PHOTOGRAPHIC ARCHIVE Leonidas Papadopoulos PRINTING Stavros Belessakos, Photosynthesis The Jewish...