Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

Jewish Salonica: Between the Ottoman Empire and Modern Greece

Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

Jewish Salonica: Between the Ottoman Empire and Modern Greece

Article excerpt

Jewish Salónica: Between the Ottoman Empire and Modern Greece. By Devin E. Naar. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2016. 400 pp. $24.95.

Naar, professor of Sephardic Jewish studies at the University of Washington with a family background in Salonica, has achieved something of signal importance with this volume. He has assembled a uniquely detailed profile of a leading Sephardic community under the Ottoman Empire and the succeeding Greek national state out of archives in Russia, Greece, Israel, the United States, and Spain.

For centuries, the port of Salonica on the Aegean hosted the most influential Sephardic city in the world. Many of its Jewish residents spoke a form of JudeoSpanish that had been brought to Ottoman territory after the expulsion of Spanish Jews in 1492. Because its waterfront-one of the great maritime assets of the Ottomans-shut down completely on Saturdays, it was known as "Shabatopolis," a "Jewish republic" within the Ottoman Empire. Loyalty to its Muslim rulers extended so far that a prayer for Sultan Abdul Hamid II (r. 1876-1909), delivered in 1900, praised the ruling power as a "kosher kingdom."

In the aftermath of the city's conquest by Greece in 1912, Salonica's population included as many as 90,000 Jews, who arguably comprised a majority. The community boasted an extensive network of synagogues, schools, welfare institutions, and political groups as well as, in 1929, seven daily newspapers in JudeoSpanish. …

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