The Monastirioton Synagogue is the most important of the three existent synagogues in Thessaloniki and it is the only one that survived from the time before World War II. Its historical value makes it one of the monuments that everyone visits on, following the Jewish path, and it functions in parallel as a cult’s place for the Jewish community. It was established by Inda Aroesti, who devoted it in the memory of her husband Isaak Aroesti, it was founded in 1925 and its construction lasted till 1927. The synagogue was called Monastirioton because the majority of the families that contributed economically to its build came from Monastery in Yugoslavia, which is named today Bitola, from where they left in Balkan Wars and World War I.
The synagogue was built in the center of the city, being a testament for the Jewish presence’s history there in the last century. During World War II it was the center of Jews’ ghetto and after the departure of Jews for the concentration camps in central Europe, its building was used as a cupboard by the Red Cross. Αs a result, it survived from the absolute disaster by the German occupation army. After the deregulation, Monastirioton Synagogue became the main city’s synagogue and the center of the reconstitution of Jewish community, because the Jews, who survived hidden in Christian’s families and integrated in national resistant organizations or arrived from concentration camps, gathered there. Also, assemblies for organizing community’s life and electing its representatives took place. The grant earthquake in the summer of 1978 caused huge disasters in the whole city and as such in the synagogue, which forced it to suspend its function till its reconstruction.
Today, the synagogue functions properly, after its last renovation in the period 2014-2016. Its restoration took on the Community’s Council with the economic support of the Federal State of Germany and the Herbert Simon Family Foundation from the USA, aiming to appoint its historical and religious value. The project focused on restoring it in its past status, in order to be an important spot in Thessaloniki and serving the religious needs of Jews. The synagogue is an integral part of the city’s life due to its availability to Jews and its participation in cultural events, such as the Open House program, which aims to show the architectural meaning of the building.
To conclude, the restoration and function of the Monastirioton Synagogue is an important event for the city of Thessaloniki. It encourages an inter-religious dialogue and enhances the values of freedom of religion, respect and the coexistence of the Christians and the Jews. This means that the synagogue illustrates the Jews’ cultural contribution in the city’s identity. In this way, the synagogue shows the history of Thessaloniki, hosting significant relics while connecting the Greek culture with the Jewish or Israelis’ one, heading to the development of cultural relations among their people.
Israelis’ Society of Thessaloniki, «Συναγωγή «Μοναστηριωτών»», Available at: https://www.jct.gr/synag_monastir.php (30/12/2021)
Parallaximag.gr, «Η ιστορική συναγωγή λάμπει ξανά», 13th of May 2016, Available at: https://parallaximag.gr/thessaloniki/istoriki-sinagogi (30/12/2021)