Ancient historians and writers mention, in their texts, that Jews have een established in the Almyros rergion
since the first century A.D., due to the importance of the harbor there. This is comfirmed many centurles later by
the "travelogue" of the Spanish Rabbi Benjamln of Judela, who states that in his travels around Greece in the
12th century A.D., he met 400 Jews in the Almyros region, and that their religious leaders were Chief Rabbi
Shiloh Lombardo and Rabbis Joseph and Solomon.
Moreover, in the nearby city of Volos, in the ancient "Fthiotides Thives" (modern Nea Anchlalos) excavations
which took place in 1930 Anchialos, near the city of Volos (of revealed ancient funerary inscriptions from
jewish graves on the period between 325 and 641 A.D. The contemporary historians, N. Yiannopoulos,
concludes that there was also a synagogue on the site.
Historlans have also established that there were Jews, Egyptians and others in the ancient city of "Dimitrias",
present day Volos, from the time of King Philip the Fifth (second century B.C.) The presence of Jews in the city
continued during the period of the Turkish occupation, in the 16th century, and is referred to in diplomatic and
other documents. Later historians describe the life of the Jewish people in the area of the Turkish fortress, which
was located in the western district of the city "Palea".
After 1881, when Volos was freed from Turkish domination, there was a strong Jewish presence in the city, and
the Jews played an active role in the social and commercial life of the city. They comprised an organized
community under the leadership of their president, Gullielmo Fortis.
In the center of the Jewish neighborhood, where there had been a building which served to house religious
gatherings, the construction of an imposing new synagogue began in 1865, and the building was completed in
1870. Its site was at the junction of Molseos and Platonos - Xenofontos Streets. This synagogue was destroyed
by the Germans in March 1944, after they had looted all the religious objects.
When the second world war ended, a new synagogue was erected on the site of the previous one. However, it
was destroyed in the earthquakes of 1955, which inflicted great damage on the city. In 1960, a new earthquake
resistant synagogue was built on the site, and it has been in operation ever since. Significant contributions to the
building fund were made by the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece, the American Joint
Distribution Commitee, and the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki, as well as by the members and friends of
our own Community. From 1892, Chief Rabbi Moses S.Pessah officiated as rabbi of the congregation, assisted
by Isaac Sakkis and Aaron Bourlas.
After the death of the Chief Rabbi on November 11, 1955 Joseph Vital, from Corfu, Succeeded him as Rabbi of
the congregation, serving until his death on October 13, 1985. Today religious services are conducted by Mr.
Morris Frances. while a rabbi from abroad is called in to officiate on high holidays. Services are held every
Friday night, as well as on religious holidays.
Until the end oft he nineteenth century, the cemetery was located on Filikis Eterias Street, in the district of
"Neapolis". Later on, an area of four thousand square meters, adjoining the Christian cemetery in the
municipality of Nea Ionia, was set aside for the purpose, and this cemetery is the one still in use today. It is
situated at the intersection of Taxiarchon and Paraskevopoulou streets and contains 700 graves and the
monument to the victims of the Holocaust.
Upon completion of the synagogue, a Jewish Primary School was established on the first floor of the building. In
1878, the Alliance Israelite Universelle School, which was attended by the majority of the Jewish young people
of the time, was opened. From 1894 until 1900, a Yeshiva for the training of clergymen and cantors was in
operation. The schools mentioned above functioned under the supervision of Chief Rabbi Pessah. A large
number of Jewish young people attended Greek State Schools. After 1920, many Jews from Volos distinguished
themselves as professionals both in Greece and abroad. Many young people studied at the conservatories in
Volos and participated in musical and other cultural activities.
The Jews have participated actively in the financial and commercial life of the city. They have played a leading
role in activities which have become landmarks in the contemporary history of the area, such as founding of the
Labor Center and the industrialization of the region. They have established factories and a large number of shops
and small industries. A note worthy example is the "Mourtzoukos" factory, which was founded in 1908 and
employed over 600 workers. The textiles produced by the factory soon became well known for their excellent
Samuel Amon and Joseph Azouz founded a factory which produced beds, and the Levy brothers, a spinning -
mill and dye - works. The tobacco merchants Zak Saportas, Herman Spirer and Ilias Koen established large
tobacco warehouses employing an extensive labor force. The Varouch Bank ( 1904 - 1930) and a large number
of Jewish - owned shops played a significant part in the commercial life of the city. In addition, there were many
manual and white - collar workers, several of whom played a pioneering role in the labor movement, such as
Sawas Rafael and Joseph Kostis. After 1920, the Jews served on the Boards of Directors of charitable institutions
as well as on those of other associations which they were instrumental in founding.
Some people who distinguished themselves in this field were Sarina Mizrachi and David Levy.
It is also important to mention the participation of Jews in the local goverment. as city councilors. A noteworthy
example is Dr Morris Kofinas, an outstanding personality who was elected city councilor and later became a
Mernber of the Greek Parliament. Many members of the Jewish Community had positions on the governing
boards of the Chambers of Commerce and Industry, and in other professional associations.
Since the liberation of Volos from Turkish domination on November 2, 1881, the Jewish Community has
functioned according to the laws of the Greek State, and it's governed under Articles of Association approved by
the Ministry of Education and Religion. It is a non - profit organization, comprising a Legal Entity under Public
Law. Its goals are religious and charitable, and it strives to raise the moral and social standard of its members. It
is governed by a five - rnember board elected by a Community Assembly, whose fourteen members serve three
year terms. The present council, which has been re - elected continuously since 1975, is made up of the
following members: Rafael Frezis; President; Ilias Kones; Vice President; Marcel Solomon, Secretary; Chaim
Maisis; Treasurer, and Menachern Moisis, Member.
Within the framework of the community, charitable and other associations have been formed. In 1900, the first
Jewish Youth Society, "The Future", was founded. In 1907, the charitable association "AAVATH REIM" was
established, followed in 1920, by the "AGOUDATH AHIM" association. In 1910 the women's benevolent
society "OZER DALIM" was founded, as well as the Zionist Society "POALE ZION", which was very active
until 1948. "POALE ZION" maintained a club and a well - equiped library. hosting dances, lectures. social
gatherings and many other events on its premises. All of the societies operated under Articles of Association
approved by the Greek State.
In 1927 the athletics team "HATIKVA" was formed, followed by the "HAKOAH" team, and in 1933 the first
boy scout group, "MACCABEE" was established.
Various committees such as "BIKOUR CHOLIM" and "HEVRA KADDISHAH" assisted the work of the
Community. After 1948 the new athletics team "HATIKVA" and the women's singing group were created.
In Volos, the synagogue in located on Moiseos street. The street was named by the municipal government in
honor of the great leader of the Jewish people. Another street near the synagogue was named Palestine street in
1922, after the Balfour Declaration, concerning the creation a Jewish state in Palestine, which was accepted by
the Greek Government. A street in the
"Chryssoholdl" neighborhood of Volos bears the name of Avraam Benaroya, one of the leaders of the labor
movement and founder of the Labor League " Federation". Recently a street in Volos located near the railway
station was named Chief Rabbi Moses Pessah Street. In this way the municipality honored the contribution of the
Jewish religious leader.
1940: During the Greek - Italian war, the Jews of Volos took an active part in the military efforts for the defence
of the country. 71 Jews served in the armed forces, while older men and women served in auxiliary units, in Air
Defence and fire-fighting units, in hospitals and other services. The Community was united in its efforts to assist
in the financial support of the war effort, as well as in its moral support of the wounded, the disabled, and the
During this period, our fellow Kambellis was killed during the bombing of Volos by enemy aircraft, the soldier
Anselmos X. Mourtzoukos was killed in infantry warfare, while five soldiers were injured and two were
permanently disabled. It should be mentioned that the names of the Jewish soldiers Rafael Amar and S. Koen,
who died fighting
for Greece in the previous war, are inscribed on the War Memorial of Volos.
In 1941 Greece was occupied by the Axis forces, that is, by German and Italian troops.
At that time. the Jewish comunity numbered 900 menbers, including a small nunber of refugees from the Jewish
communities of Macedonia and Thrace who had succeeded in escaping. During the dark years of the German
occupation, the Community tried to meet the great needs of its poor members with respect to food, heating and
When the national resistance movement began, many of our young people joined in, fighting for the deliverance
of our country. Two of these people, Leon Sakis and Savvas Iakov, who served in the armed resistance units,
were killed in skirmishes with the Germans.
In September, 1943, Italy surrendered to the Allies. The Italians withdrew from the city and the German forces
took over the administration. Among the German priorities was the rounding up of the Jews and their
transportation to the death camps. However, it was necessary for the Germans, to acquire a list of their names
and addresses. Therefore, the German commander Rikert summoned Chief Rabbi M. Pessah and demanded that,
within three days, he should submit a list of the names, addresses and property of the Jews of Volos. The Chief
Rabbi stated to the German commander that he was unable to submit such a list as the details required were not
available. Commander Rikert then threatened the Chief Rabbi with death if he did not produce the information
that had been demanded.
The chief Rabbi then turned to Ioakim. the Bishop of Dimitrias, with whom he had long maintained a friendship
and related to him what was going on, asking for his advice and assistance. Bishop Ioakim asked Helmut
Scheffel, the German Consul in Volos, who was well - known for his love of Greece, to advise him in confidence
as to what the Intentions of the German Commander were Mr. Scheffel recommended that all the Jews of Volos
should leave the city as soon as possible, as they were in danger of being arrested. Bishop Ioakim gave the Chief
Rabbi an Introductory letter addressed to the priests of the villages, in which he urged them to help the Chief
Rabbi and his congregation. He recommended Chief Rabbl Pessah that he and his family should leave at once for
the nearby villages, as he would find a safe refuge there. The Chief Rabbi then lnformed the Governing Board of
the Jewish Community, and the following day, with the assistance of members of the Resistance, he managed to
escape from Volos. The leaders of the Jewish Community took quick and effective action, and as a result most of
the Community members were able to escape to the villages of the surrounding area.
It is important to mention the significant part played in the salvation of the Jews by the Mayor of Volos,
Nicholas Saratsis; the Municipal Official, Zissis Mantidis, the police Chief, Ilias Agdiniotis; as well as by many
other lesser - known residents of Volos. We would also like to emphasize that the work of the Greek Resistance
Movement was crucial both to the salvation of the Jews and to their uneventful stayin the villages of Pelion and
In October,1944, when Volos was liberated, the Jews returned to the city to find their homes looted and
destroyed. The Community had lost 155 of its members, who had been arrested and killed in the Nazi death
camps. Immediately, the Governing Board of the Jewish Community reformed, and addressed itself to the task of
looking after those in need. In cooperation with the Central Jewish Council of Athens, and with the assisance of
the American Joint (A.J.D.C.), quantities of food, clothing medicine and other supplies were received, and
distributed to people in need. Simultaneously, in Athens, various organizations such as "The Esther Orphanage"
and "The Shelter for Girls" were set up to provide shelter and any other possible form of aid to those who needed
it. Thanks to this substancial support, the Jewish Community of Volos soon returned to normal.
In April, 1955, powerful earthquakes struck Volos and destroyed most of the buildings. Many residents of the
city, among them menbers of the Jewish Community, were left homeless. As a result of coordinated efforts on
the part of the Governing Board of the local Jewish Community, in cooperation with the Central Jewish Board in
Athens, it was possible to secure substancial aid for, and rehabilitaUon of the earthquake victims. Jewish
organizations abroad, especially those in America, such as the American Joint (A.J.D.C.).
The Claims Conference and The Jewish Colonisation Association (J.C.A.) made particularly generous
contributions. At the same time, the Hias Service ensured immigration to the United States for those who desired
The membership of the Jewish Community is much smaller today. After a long and active presence in the city,
and with the contribution of the Jews to its social, cultural and economic development, the harmonius
coexistence of the Jews with the rest of the populaUon of Volos continues, despite whatever professional rivalry
may exist, which, in any case, has never been a source of conflict, prejudice or bad feeling.
The population of the Jewish Community has fluctuated in numbers from time due to various circumstances. For
example, in 1865 there were 100 members, in 1907, the population increased to 885, and in the period between
1920 and 1930, there were approximately 2.000 members. In 1945 the figures were reduced to 850 people, and
in 1985, the number reached 145, while today it is 104. This significant reduction in the Jewish population is due
to emigration (to the U.S. and Israel), to the fact that families have moved to large cities such as Athens and
Thessaloniki, and to the deaths of old people.
The Governing Board of the Jewish Community 1s particularly committed to the cultural and religious education
of children and young people, and to this end. finances various cultural programs. The development of closer
relations among the members of the Jewish Community, as well as between the Community and our fellow
citizens in Volos, is one of our main priorities, as in maintaining and reinforcing the long - standing bonds with
the authorities and other municipal organizations, Charitable works, both within the Jewish Community and
through Municipal organizations, are among our community activities.
Despite the fact that we have few members, the Governing Board concentrates its efforts on maintaining
religious life and Jewish traditions, thus continuing the historical role oft he old but active Jewish Community of
Edited by RAFAIL FREZIS
Translated by ANITA COOPER-TSAMAKIS
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