The jewish quarter
Synagogue & other buildings
Synagogues - Etz Hayyim Synagogue
The Jewish Community of Larissa preserved for the religious needs of its members 7 synagogues, which had been founded in various periods and existed until a few years before the last war. Today only one Synagogue exists, called “Etz Hayyim” (Tree of Life) located on Kentavron street. It was built on 1860 and has been destroyed and reconstructed many times. During the nazi occupation, the Germans used it as a stable. However, it was reconstructed and continues preserving the original, traditional and imposing form.
The synagogue is the main pillar of community life, serving as a place of worship, but also as a place of assembly. That is why it has always been a primary goal of the leadership and members of the community to maintain it in an excellent condition. Many and great Rabbis and religious officials served the Community throughout its long history. Today the Synagogue of Larissa Synagogue operates with Rabbi Mr.Elias Sabetai.
Services are held every Friday evening (Kabbalat Shabbat), with the active participation of the school’s pupils, every Saturday morning and naturally in all Jewish Holidays. The big events of the Community are organized there, such as the Holocaust Remembrance National Day. The Synagogue also hosts the ceremonies of the Community members, such as marriages, circumcisions, Bar/Bat Mitzvas and memorial services.
In recent years, the Synagogue of Larissa has been a popular destination for pupils, students and groups of Jewish tourists from all over the world as well as a familiar subject for the writing of theses and research works.
After 160 years of uninterrupted operation, having experienced earthquakes, disasters and the pervasive humidity of Larissa, the “Etz Hayim” Synagogue now needs a radical reconstruction, since it was found to be statically inadequate increasing the risk of collapse. The works began in October 2019 and are still in progress in order to make the building safe and operational while maintaining its historical value and original traditional form. It is a project of huge costs that should be of serious concern not only to the Jewish Community of Larissa but also to the Greek and global Jewish world as a whole. Any donation for the purpose of completion of works of the “Etz Hayim” Synagogue is considered a benefaction.
With the opportunity of the reconstruction of the Synagogue on 1947, a large hall was added next to it, which is the Community Cultural Centre. The Community Centre hosts all the community events and activities, school celebrations and youth parties, the festive meals for Kabbalat Shabbat and other jewish holidays, the meetings of the women’s department, the sessions of the General Assembly etc.
|Members club December 2012||Hanukkah December 2014|
A jewish school existed in the Community of Larissa, already since the years of the Turkish occupation, where the pupils were taught the hebrew language and religion by teachers-rabbis. A famous university level Rabbinical Academy was also functioning (“Talmud Torah”), from which important rabbis, teachers and cantors graduated.
On 1931, with a special state law, the jewish school of Larissa was renamed to “8th Elementary School of Larissa – Jewish” and became the only public jewish school in Greece. Its pupils follow the regular Greek elementary schools’ curriculum and additionally they are taught Hebrew language, history and religion by a special Hebrew teacher.
During the nazi-occupation it was seized by the treacherous organisation “Roman Legion”, and then the Germans turned it to a prison for those condemned to death, while after the civil war it was requisitioned for housing refugees’ families. Because of the serious damage it had suffered, the Community could not use it anymore; therefore lessons took place in other community and private buildings. The building of the school was abandoned and finally demolished. In 1965 the new school was built, with the help of the international jewish organizations Joint and Claims Conference and the Central Board of Jewish Communities of Greece.
This building has been the cradle of knowledge and exceptional Jewish education for more than 50 years. Hundreds of jewish children have graduated from this shcool, and, in their majority, distinguish themselves in all the educational levels and their subsequent professional evolution.At the same time, with the contribution of distinguished Hebrew teachers, they became active and proud members of the jewish community and dedicated carriers of the jewish traditions.
In recent years, there has been a remarkable decline in the number of pupils and, for this reason, in June 2017, the Board of Directors decided to close the Jewish School. However, it ensured the provision of Jewish education to children in one of the best private schools of the city where children receive high-level general education and are taught the Jewish language by their Hebrew teacher. The building of the Jewish school is revived once a week when all children gather and learn the Jewish traditions and customs while they continue to go to the Synagogue and participate in the services.
At the same time, with the contribution of distinguished Hebrew teachers, they became active and proud members of the jewish community and dedicated carriers of the jewish traditions.
Institutes and buildings not existing any more
Similarly, the old community office was burned to the ground by the Germans, thus all the old registries and archives of the Community, valuable records of its historical course, were lost.