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Romaniotes

The Romaniotes are a Jewish population living in Greece. They are thought to have lived in the territory of today's Greece for more than 2000 years. Large communities were located in Thebes, Yannena, Chalkis, Corfu, Arta, Corinth and on the islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Rhodes, and Cyprus, among others.

After the waves of Sephardic Jews coming from Spain settled in Greece, most of the Romaniote communitites were assimilated. Remnants of the Romaniotes have survived in Yannena (Epirus) and the USA (Kehila-Kedosha-Janina Synagogue in New York, built in 1927, is a gathering spot for these Greek Jews). The Romaniotes had their distinct customs very different from those of the Sephardic Jews ; unlike the Sephardim, they did not speak Ladino, but used Greek.

During World War II, Romaniotes were protected from the Greek government until the Nazi occupation. Although the Germans deported a great number of Greek Jews, scores of them were hidden by their Greek neighbours. The creation of the state of Israel in 1948, combined with the Greek civil war, was the final episode in the history of the Romaniotes, the majority of whom migrated to Israel or the USA.

Today a small number of them (around 6000) live in Greece, mainly in Yannena (Ioannina), and U.S.A. (mainly New York).

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See also: Judaism



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