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Marcia Haddad Ikonomopoulos, Museum Director, Kehila Kedosha Janina, “Meet Me on the Corner of Broome and Allen: A Visit to Kehila Kedosha Janina”
Marcia Haddad Ikonomopoulos gives us a virtual tour of Kehila Kedosha Janina, the only Romaniote synagogue in the Western Hemisphere. The congregation was founded in 1906 by Greek Jewish immigrants from Ioannina, but the synagogue itself was not erected until 1927. The years from then until the Second World War were a time of prosperity for the Romaniote community in the Lower East Side: there were three rabbis in the synagogue, and on the High Holidays, there was often only standing room for synagogue services. After the Second World War, many congregants moved to other boroughs and parts of Manhattan, including Harlem, the Bronx, and Brooklyn, though these communities are no longer active. Although the community has steadily dwindled since its pre-war heyday, services are still held on Shabbat and Jewish holidays. A documentary film about the synagogue and community, “the Last Greeks on Broome Street” was produced in the early 2000s. It is directed, written and narrated by Ed Askinazi, whose great-grandparents were among the congregation’s founders.
Kehila Kedosha Janina is somewhat unusual for a Romaniote synagogue in that it runs north-south with the Ehal on the north side (Romaniote synagogues typically run east to west), the bimah is in the center of the main sanctuary (most Romaniote synagogues place the bimah on the west wall), and the internal stairway for the women’s balcony. It is typical in the fact that men and women sit separately (a feature of all Orthodox synagogues). The second-floor women’s gallery contains a museum with artifacts, exhibits, and Judaica on Jewish life in Greece and the history of Greek Jews as well as a gift shop. Exhibited items are housed in cases along the walls on either side behind the seats, as well as in the area immediately in front of the staircase.
Marcia Haddad Ikonomopoulos is Museum Director of Kehila Kedosha Janina Synagogue and Museum in New York City. She is also President of the Association of Friends of Greek Jewry, Former Director of Special Projects for Sephardic House, a teacher of Judaic Studies from 1990-2010, and a translator of Greek Jewish Holocaust memoirs.
This event is co-sponsored by the Panepirotic Federation of America.
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