15.03.2011 09.Adar ll, 5771
Chef Dennis Wasko explores the history of the Jews of Greece, how they integrated into the society and how they adapted their cuisine.
Jews have lived in Greece and the surrounding areas for over 2,000 years. The descendants of this ancient population are known as Romaniotes, which denotes their existence since the time of the Roman (Byzantine) Empire. They are a smaller Jewish subgroup, distinct from the Sephardic Greek community which did not arrive in Greece until their expulsion from Spain in 1492. The Romaniote community was once a strong segment of Greek society and large concentrations could be found in most major cities. Today, after their near annihilation during the Holocaust, most Romaniote Jews live in New York and Israel.
The Romaniote population is thought to represent the oldest permanent Jewish settlement in Europe. After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE many Jews were taken into slavery and shipped to Rome. According to Romaniote tradition, some of those ships ran aground in the Ionian Sea near the Albanian coast. The survivors managed to get ashore and eventually came to settle amongst the Greeks in the area that would become Ioannina. They adopted Greek customs and culture, but remained Jews. They adopted the Greek language, but continued to use Hebrew symbols. Eventually their language became known as Yevanic, a form of Judeo-Greek….