KEHILA KEDOSHA JANINA
Kehila Kedosha Janina was first organized in 1906 by Greek-speaking Romaniote Jews from the city of Ioannina in northwestern Greece. In the early twentieth century there were hundreds of other synagogues on the Lower East Side that served Ashkenazi Yiddish-speaking Jews or Sephardic Spanish-speaking Jews. Needing a place of their own where they could preserve their unique traditions, customs, liturgy and language, property was purchased at 280 Broome Street, and the congregation opened its doors to worship at its current location in 1927. For the past 90 years KKJ has served the Romaniote community on the Lower East Side and, after the closing of nearby Sephardic synagogues, many of the remaining neighborhood Sephardim. In 1997, a Museum was created in the women’s gallery to tell the story of this distinct community to a world that knew so little about them. Today KKJ is proud to be one of only a handful of active synagogues that remain on the Lower East Side.
Romaniote Jews, the indigenous Jews of Greece, have lived on Greek soil for over 2,300 years and have the distinction of the longest, continuous Jewish presence in the European Diaspora. They established communities throughout the Eastern Mediterranean, settling along the shores of the Sea and along inland trade routes. By the 1st century C.E., communities were present in Thessaloniki, Verroia, Corinthos, Patras, Athens, and Rhodes, as attested to by the writings of St. Paul, a Hellenzied Jew who preached the new religion of Christianity from the bemas of existing synagogues throughout the Mediterranean, many of which were in what is now part of Greece. In 324 C.E. when Constantine the Great moved the capital of Rome from the city of Rome to a city on the Bosphorus (Constantinople) he inherited the Greek speaking Jews who had lived there for over five hundred years. Now part of the Roman Empire, they called themselves Romaniotes.