Greek-Speaking Jews of Greece - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religion. The Greek-speaking Jews of Greece are traditional Jews. Originally, the community had two synagogues with attached chapels or minyans for smaller numbers of worshipers. The one located outside of the kastro was destroyed in the bombing during World War II. Holidays and life-cycle rituals were practiced in a manner peculiar to the community. These celebrations included Irtaman, a carnival-like celebration on the first day of the Jewish month of Adar, and the Purim Katan (small Purim), called the Siciliano, which was brought to the city by immigrants from Sicily. Homes were scrupulously kosher and several wealthier homes had built-in mikvahs (ritual baths). Religious practice is minimal now Because of the reduced numbers of the community. The synagogue is cleaned and opened for major holidays, when a rabbi from Athens or Salonika is brought in to lead services. The laws of kosher practice are rarely followed, neither the eating of kosher meats nor the separation of milk and meat. The young people are sent to summer camp and annual seminars sponsored by KIS to learn about the Jewish traditions and to meet other Jewish youths.

Arts. The most evident characteristic of the traditional expressive culture of the Greek-speaking Jews is the use of the Greek language in songs in popular settings and for festival and life-cycle celebrations. Songs at weddings are sung in demotic Greek. Two traditional songs sung in the home after the Passover seder, "One Goat" (Had Gadya) and "Who Knows One?" (Echod Mi Yodea), are also sung in Greek.

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