The Unique Jewish Monuments in Athens Greece

Discover in this article all about the Jewish Monuments in Athens, historical facts, the nearby archaeological sites, and where best to stay in the center of Athens.

Unique Jewish Monuments to Visit in Athens.A group of Greek Jewish at Athens Acropolis
Greek Jewish family in Acropolis before 1940 – Credit US Holocaust Memorial Museum

Greece is a profoundly religious country with the Greek Orthodox religion representing the overwhelming majority of the country’s population. At the same time, a small number of Greeks are of Jewish heritage and religion. Today, the Athens Jewish population is only a handful of around 2,500 people forming the largest Jewish community in Greece.

Unique Jewish Monuments to Visit in Athens.Gathering of Jewish in Thessaloniki
Compulsory Registration of Jewish Population in Thessaloniki – Credit Bundesarchiv

Before the war, the Thessaloniki Jewish population was counting 55,000 people. The Thessaloniki Jewish represented the largest Jewish community in Greece and one of the most important in Europe due to their share of the city population.

In a 1951 census, there were listed 1950 Thessaloniki Jewish survivors from the German extermination camps (source). The population today is reduced by 50%.

Commemorating Plaque of the 50,000 perished Greek Jews of Thessaloniki

Smaller groups are scattered around a handful of other Greek cities. In total, almost 85% of Greek Jews, around 65,000 men, women, and children were dispatched to their deaths in Auschwitz between 1943 and 1944.

Related Articles: The Jewish Monuments in Thessaloniki Center & Eastern Thessaloniki Jewish Monuments

Up next I am going to tell you about the top Jewish Monuments in Athens Greece!

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  • The Jewish Monuments in Athens

    Eastern Thessaloniki Jewish Monuments, amarillo
    Jewish Family pre-war
    • 2 Athens Synagogues
    • Athens Holocaust Memorial
    • Ancient Synagogue in Athens Agora
    • Athens Jewish Museum
    • Giousouroum Flea Market
    • Jewish Graves in First and Third Athens Cemeteries

    1. Jewish Synagogues in Athens

    Unique Jewish Monuments to Visit in Athens.Synagogue Ets Hayim Entrance in Athens Greece
    Etz Hayyim Athens Synagogue

    Two of the most important Athens Jewish Monuments, the Athens Synagogues, can be found in the Thission area. Both are operating synagogues, located across from each other in Melidoni St. and only 10 minutes far from Ancient Agora. The older Synagogue in Athens, Etz Hayyim (Tree of Life) is a Romaniote one and was built in 1904. However, it only works during the great holidays.

    Unique Jewish Monuments to Visit in Athens. Greek Jewish Synagogue in Athens
    Beth Shalom Synagogue

    In 1935, Beth Shalom Synagogue in Athens was built and it is a Sephardic Synagogue.

    2. The Athens Greece Holocaust Memorial

    Unique Jewish Monuments to Visit in Athens. The Athens Greece Jewish Holocaust Monument
    The Holocaust Memorial in Athens

    This is one of the most unique Jewish Monuments in Athens. At the end of the pedestrian crossing, at the point where Melidoni str. meets Ermou str., the Athens Jewish Community donated the Holocaust Monument to Athens Municipality in 2010. The specific spot was chosen because, under a ruse of food hand-outs, the Jews of Athens were trapped and captured by the Germans in their adjacent temple in April 1944.

    Unique Jewish Monuments to Visit in Athens
    Greek Officials at the Holocaust Memorial in Athens

    The terror for the Jewish people of Athens started when the Germans took control of Athens from the Italians in September 1943. There was active resistance by the Greek local authorities and in particular, by the Orthodox Archbishop Monsignor Damaskinos of Athens who was openly advocating in favor of Jews, and the chief of police at the time Angelos Evert who delivered thousands of forged identity cards for Athenian Jews showing them as Christian Orthodox and saving that way many lives.

    One of the many similar stories is Isaac and Ida Angel and their two young sons’ story when they came to Athens in 1940.

    Unique Jewish Monuments to Visit in AthensAthens Jewish Museum exhibition

    In addition, the resistance fighters saved many Jews who fled to the mountains where guerrilla groups were based.

    A memorial is held every 27th of January to honor the memory of the Greek Jewish that died during the Nazism occupation.

    The Memorial is a broken star of David, with each of the broken pieces representing the lost Greek Jewish communities. It is the work of Greek-American Dianna Magkania.

    Unique Jewish Monuments to Visit in Athens. Details of Athens Jewish Holocaust Monument
    Holocaust Memorial in Athens (Preveza, Patra, Zakynthos, Agrinio)
    Unique Jewish Monuments to Visit in Athens. Detail of Athens Jewish Holocaust Monument
    Holocaust Memorial in Athens (Thessaloniki, Kavala, Drama, Serres, Xanthi, Larisa, Veria, Volos, Chalkida)

    The names of the communities-cities are engraved in the marble pieces pointing in the direction where they once existed.

    3. Jewish Synagogue in the Ancient Agora of Athens

    Temple of Hephestos, Ancient Agora

    Ancient Agora of Athens is a must-visit as it is one of the most important ancient sites in Greece.

    Apostle Paul (or Paul of Tarsus) preached in important landmarks all over Greece including synagogues. There is strong evidence that there was a synagogue inside the Ancient Agora of Athens and Apostle Paul had, by all means, visited it for his preaching.

     marble surface  with menorah found in Athens Ancient Agora

    The foundations of this ancient synagogue, near the statue of Hadrian at the Old Bouleyterion and Metroon ruins in Ancient Agora, have been excavated. The excavations revealed a marble surface on which a menorah and a palm branch are engraved, dated around the 3rd century CE.

    4. The Athens Jewish Museum

    The Jewish Museum in Athens, Nikis 39 st., in Plaka (open 9.00-2.30 am) is another very important Greek Jewish Monument. It was built in 1977 to collect, preserve, research, and exhibit material remnants of 2,300 years of Jewish life in Greece.

    Its collection consists of tens of thousands of original objects, photographs, documents, and archives. It also includes a variety of interesting material from the daily and religious life and historical course of Greek Jews.

    The Jewish Museum is quite close to Acropolis Hill and Parthenon.

    5. Giousouroum Flea Market in Monastiraki

    Unique Jewish Monuments to Visit in Athens. Greek Jewish family Giousouroum
    Giousouroum Family – Kathimerini

    Bohor Giousouroum, a tailor in trade, moved with his family from Kyhtnos island to Athens in 1863. Soon after, he opened an attire shop in Ermou and Karaiskaki Street. He would remake used clothes or antiques and sell them at Avissinias Square (Monastiraki Flea Market) and that way he made himself famous in the specific trade.

    As a result, the whole area was named after him, a name that still exists even today. A walk around the Giousouroum market is much worth it as all kinds of antiques and second-hand items (some in total disrepair) are sold together.

    Flea Market

    The vibrant market attracts all kinds of different people, from diverse religious symbols and temples. Most importantly, you can find small traditional taverns where mostly Greeks go.

    6. Jewish Graves in First Cemetery of Athens

    The oldest Jewish cemetery of the Athens Jewish Community occupies a total area of 2,500 sq.m. within the First Cemetery of Athens.

    The graves date back to the early 20th century; after World War II, the cemetery reached full capacity. It is enclosed by a wall and is protected by security personnel.

    7. Athens Jewish Cemetery in Nikaia

    Jewish-Cemetery-Athens-Greece
    Third Cemetery of Athens – Jewish Graves

    The second cemetery and much more interesting for the Jewish Community of Athens occupies 20,000 sq.m. within the Third Cemetery of Athens at 7 Pireos St. in Nikaia (a western suburb of Athens).

    It became active after World War II and is still in use today, although the remaining space is very limited. It is enclosed by a wall and is protected by security personnel like most Greek Jewish Monuments.

    The Jewish Community of Athens (JCA)

    Taly Mair, director of the Jewish Community of Athens (JCA), in an interview, said:

    “After the Second World War, the Athenian Jewish population was mixed. We had Romaniotes, Sephardim, and a few Ashkenazim.

    Unique Jewish Monuments to Visit in Athens. Jewish Priest barzilai
    Bartizlai Rabbi – Greek Jewish Museum

    We operate on all religious holidays. The Community and the Synagogue have maintained their consistency and have vigorously avoided any schism.

    The Synagogue is open to all Jews of any community or perception. We all pray together in the same unique Synagogue of Athens. We also welcome non-Jews and present to them a religion that is close to Christianity, but sometimes unknown to them. We are a Greek community“.

    Kerameikos Site

    The Synagogues are built in a small street where the Kerameikos archaeological site ends, a few minutes walk from the Thission and Ancient Agora peripheral fence.

    Jewish and Athens Highlights – Private tour from Athens

    Parthenon Temple north side in Acropolis of Athens a sunny day
    Northern Side of Parthenon Temple

    The Jewish & Athens Highlights full-day private tour will take you not only to every single Jewish monument but also all to of the best landmarks in Athens.

    Kosher Restaurant in Athens

    There aren’t many Jewish food places in Athens but Gostijo “is the one and only Kosher restaurant in Athens, offering a journey through the Mediterranean flavors of the Sefardi Jews”, according to his Facebook page quotes. More information about Shabbat meals and their cost is here.

    Unique Jewish Monuments to Visit in Athens

    • 2 Athens Synagogues
    • Athens Holocaust Memorial
    • Ancient Synagogue in Athens Agora
    • Athens Jewish Museum
    • Giousouroum Flea Market
    • Jewish Graves in First and Third Athens Cemeteries

    Athens Jewish Monuments Map

    Get your interactive Google Map here to get to the Jewish Monuments in Athens, Greece.

    Unique Jewish Monuments to Visit in Athens, Google Map
    Google Map of Athens Jewish Monuments

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    About the author
    Evgenia Mataragka
    Hi! I am an Athens-based Greek obsessed with exploring Greece and bringing you the best travel experience ever!

    2 thoughts on “The Unique Jewish Monuments in Athens Greece”

    1. Eygenia thank you so much for this complete article! Even I learned a few things. I am always thrilled to see the Holocaust Memorial. It is the best of its kind, especially since it was so sensitively researched and designed by my best friend DeAnna Maganias. The restaurant Gostija is run by the Chabad of Greece with the charming Rabbi Mendel Hendel and his wife Nechama. There is a small shop inside the restaurant with Israeli packaged food and they supply and deliver all Jewish holiday foods and candles.
      Thanks again!

      Reply
    2. Thank you very much, Andrea, for your kind input and I am very glad you enjoyed the post. I also learned quite a few things about Greek Jewish while researching for the post and I am happy I did. Great tip about the Gostija restaurant and the shop!

      Reply

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