The Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki was founded to honour the rich and creative Sephardic heritage as it evolved in the city after the 15th century. Consequent to the horrible expulsion from Spain by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492, Jews began to arrive in the safe haven of the city in big numbers bringing with them an awareness of Renaissance culture and languages of the Western Mediterranean. Skills such as printing, cartography, medicinal sciences and knowledge of contemporary weaponry made the Iberian Jews an asset to the Ottomans. Very rapidly, Sephardic creativity in Thessaloniki reached high point in the 16th century. The city provided a climate of tolerance and economic stability.
The Museum is housed in one of the rare Jewish structures that survived the fire of 1917. Located in the very heart of Thessaloniki, this imposing building has at times housed the Bank of Athens and the offices of the Jewish newspaper L Independent and is a silent witness to the great Jewish presence that once filled its streets with the language of Cervantes, redolent with the odours of the kitchens of Seville and Toledo, silent from Friday to Saturday during Shabbat. The library houses important texts that were printed in Thessaloniki from the 16th to the 20th century, covering almost every aspect of Jewish life, religious and secular. The library acts also as a repository for books on the history, customs and language of the Sephardi Jews. Adjacent to it is an audio-visual centre, in which visitors will be able to watch and research tapes and films documenting Jewish history and culture.
The Museum provides special educational programs for schools and is involved in a number of other activities. It is one of the most important places devoted to the many ethnic communities that shaped the city’s modern identity. It attracts visitors from all over the world while it is in a walkable distance to many other worth seeing places in the center of Thessaloniki. The Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki is one of the favorite destinations for most visitors of Jewish origin. Many people from all over the world visit it every year. A different, extremely interesting view to the rich, multicultural past of Thessaloniki.
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