Thessaloniki has long been considered Greece`s foremost multi-cultural city because for many centuries its history was marked by the peaceful co-existence of Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Between 1492 and 1912 the Jewish community was actually the largest of all ethnic communities here. This thriving community set the tone of Ottoman Thessaloniki, making it known as the most famous Jewish city in the world, widely referred to as the Jerusalem of the Balkans.
Nowadays visitors coming for the first time to Thessaloniki encounter a basically Byzantine city because historical events, such as the devastating fire that destroyed most of the Jewish monuments in 1917 and the annihilation of the Jewish community during the German occupation, erased the city`s Jewish character. Reconstruction after the end of World War II, which reached its peak in the 1960s, made the few remaining traces of the two thousand year Jewish presence in the Macedonian capital even less evident.
A major step remedying this situation was taken when the National Research Foundation of Spain published an attractive volume in Spanish, with photographs on the history of the most important Sephardic communities in the Ottoman Empire. When I was asked to write the chapter about the Jewish community of Thessaloniki, I sought help from my friend and colleague Vilma Hastaoglou-Martinidis. The material we wrote for that chapter we are now presenting here in expanded form as a separate publication in the belief that the historical overview, the 35 illustrations and descriptions of the sites, and the maps will both fill a void in the bibliography and enable foreign and local visitors to discover, even if only in part, the surviving traces of Jewish and multi-cultural Thessaloniki.
[Απόσπασμα από κείμενο του εκδότη]