Kos

Kos is a modern town on an island of the same name in the Dodecanese islands. There is no current Jewish population there, but there is a former synagogue, now in use as a municipal cultural center, and a cemetery.

Historical background

A Jewish community existed in Kos in antiquity and is mentioned in 1 Mac. 15:16-23 as well as later by Josephus in the first century of the Common Era. After the seizure of the island by the Knights of Rhodes in 1306, some 1,300 Jews from Kos were exiled to Nice and never returned. These would undoubtedly have been Romaniotes, and descendants of the medieval community of Byzantine Jews. Not long after the Ottoman conquest of Kos in 1522, large numbers of Spanish Jews settled here and maintained close relations with Rhodian Jews, as well as with communities in Izmir and Bodrum.
Little is known from the fortunes of the community until the 19th century when it figured prominently in a blood libel that would indicate that relations with the Christian community on the island were not especially cordial. By 1850, there were only 40 families, a number that fell to 20 by 1880 and 3 by 1910. After the Greco-Turkish war of 1918-22, there was an influx of Jews into Kos from Asia Minor, especially from Izmir. As the Dodecanese islands had been acquired by the Italians after the First World War, these islands enjoyed a somewhat isolated and almost neutral position and Jews quickly took advantage of the improved conditions. By 1933, there were 160 Jews actively involved in small crafts and in commerce with Alexandria, Izmir and Italy. In that year, the old synagogue was destroyed and immediately afterwards, the community built a new one on a site not far from the harbor (still standing).

After the Italian capitulation to the Allies in 1943, Kos along with all of the other Dodecanese islands, fell under German control. Many Jews from Kos fled to Turkey. Those who remained – some 120- were finally arrested in the spring of 1944 and transported to Auschwitz - Birkenau where, as far as we know, they all perished. Today, there are no Jews on Kos.

Sites:

The former synagogue: Kal Shalom, which dates from 1934 was given to the municipality and functions today as a cultural center. Its exterior remains much as it was, but the interior has been completely secularized. It can be visited during public office hours.
Location: 4, Alexandros Diakou St.

The cemetery has some quite interesting stones dating from the 17th century. It is located on the outskirts of town to the west, and can be reached by following Meg. Alexandros St. and then Zaraflou St.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Based on Jewish Sites and Synagogues of Greece -

Nicholas P. Stavroulakis and Timothy J. DeVinney - Talos press