The Macedonian Sephardic Jews From Thessaloniki

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Transcript of The Macedonian Sephardic Jews From Thessaloniki

  • 8/12/2019 The Macedonian Sephardic Jews From Thessaloniki





    How these two ancient biblical civilisations did came to contact?

    How did the Jews establish a thriving diaspora in Macedonia, and when?

    Alexander the Great, during his campaign of expansion in the Middle East, had one big priority to

    begin with, and that was to continue the legacy of his father and carry out the planned confrontation

    with Ancient Persia, the dominant Asian superpower of the day.

    There were many conspiracies surrounding the murder of Phillip the II, and one of them suggested

    involvement of Persian gold to bribe the murderer into execution of the king.

    Persian client states were literally bought to pay tribute to their absolute monarch by the vast

    quantities of gold accumulated into their reserves

    Their influence spread far and wide, and as there was no limit to their gold reserves, they could

    intimidate almost anyone with it, that includes the smaller and more vulnerable independent city

    states scattered around the Aegean Sea

    Alexander was to that resentful and naturally hostile to Darius, however, it was both their dream to

    eliminate competition and reduce the threat of Persia expanding further into Europe thru Asia

    Minor, and that gave both an uneasy sleep, as parts of their kingdom were indeed overrun by Darius

    in the region as close to home as Trace!

    It is said that Alexander consulted the Oracle in Delphi, and the local Temple Priests blessed his

    campaign of expansion in the East.

    When the young king arrived in Israel, one story says that Alexander sacrificed a Lamb on Mount

    Moriah, dedicating the victim to YHWH, the Lord of the Jews, however, this story is contradicted by

    another which refers to dedicating the Holy Temple to Zeus, which confirms the spiritual superiority

    of the Hellenic Gods...

    The proposed story of Alexanders sacrifice to YHWH is nothing but wishful thinking, given the fact

    that it would confirm that he had become sympathetic to the Lord of the Children of Israel.

    The version that Alexander demanded that the Jews surrender in submission to Zeus is much more

    likely, given his status of a conqueror.

    Anyway, this has been documented as officially the first contact ever between Hellenism and

    Judaism in history, and has been confirmed by archaeology just as well.

    In essence, it was Macedonian expansionist foreign policy and determination to eliminate the

    military threat from Persia, which brought Hellenism and the Greeks into Judea.

  • 8/12/2019 The Macedonian Sephardic Jews From Thessaloniki



    Here, the Pagan polytheism of the Greeks would clash with the obsessive and fanatic observance

    and warship of Jewish monotheism.

    At that time, Judea had already become a theocracy, with its entire authority and sovereignty passed

    in the hands of the High Priest and the Sanhedrin.

    Observance of the Sabbath, the practice of circumcision, the study of the Prophets, Torah and

    Tanakh studies, as well as pilgrimage to Jerusalem to warship in the Temple on Mount Moriah, had

    become the paramount objectives in Jewish society.

    The Greeks could not believe the obsession and fanaticism of Jewish religious observance and


    Some of the more pious orthodox Jews among the older generations had been so dedicated to

    honour the Shabbat, they observed even during times of conflict, encouraging the Greeks to fight

    most of their battles on Saturday.

    Subsequently, Hellenism became an addictive culture and the young Jews were easily submerged

    and assimilated into the New Greek culture export provided by the Macedonians.

    Theres as well record of a generational dividebetween the Older Jews who were naturally hostile

    and xenophobic to the cultural domination of the Greeks, who were not in favour of Hellenism

    becoming the new Lingua Franca

    The cultural gap between old and new created a power vacuum in the vulnerable Jewish society.

    It is hard to speak of anti-Semitism as far as then, when hostility among distant cultures was almost

    normal, and it would be extremely hard to determine any other reasons for war beyond trade and

    territorial disputes

    Anyway, it would be logical to expect Jewish arrival in the region of Macedonia thru the Levant and

    Syria and from there into Anatolia to cross Bosporus and finally approach Macedonia at some point.

    Yes, a small but established Jewish diaspora is well known to have arrived in Macedonia as far as in

    Antiquity, and again in Byzantine times, after all, the first Hebrew Bible was finally compiled by

    Hellenized Jews during their scattering along the eastern Mediterranean coast centuries ago

    Ptolemy, the Macedonian general who inherited Egypt at the death of Alexander, was tremendouslyfriendly with the Alexandrian Jews, and had requested the Tanakh translated into Greek himself,

    making thus phenomenal contribution to introducing the Bible world-wide, not just as Jewish, but

    also as a global literary marvel, and a source of divine inspiration, religious warship and prophetic


    The first recorded and established community of Jewish diaspora in Macedonia dates back to Roman

    Greece, during the time of the Emperor Titus, and St. Paul the Apostle, in the first century of our


  • 8/12/2019 The Macedonian Sephardic Jews From Thessaloniki



    This is why the most recent excavations in Thessaloniki carried out to facilitate the development of a

    modern underground railway, provide a picturesque evidence of a thriving Christian warship,

    however, as the Romans were still Pagans, the Emperor was a strong opponent of Christianity.

    There has been a strong evidence of a time when even do it had been well established, it was a

    religion in hiding, as Christianity had still been prosecuted back in the day

    This makes a reasonable explanation why the Christians, the followers of St. Paul, or the Nazarenes

    as they were called were determined to preserve their new religion, and to that they had to build

    their houses of warship underground, to be able to avoid prosecution

    It just as well marks the beginning of Christianity as a separate religion, and it provides strong

    evidence of the two religions, getting apart and going their own separate way

    It was here that the Orthodox Jews rejected Christ, for they could not accept the prophetic challenge

    and Jesus claim to messianic revelation

    For them, it had been a heresy beyond belief, to accept that God had been killed and buried, a

    mortal man of flesh and blood

    Having said all this, both religions in the beginning, it is believed, at least, had a strong sense of

    solidarity, for they both had a common enemy, in the eyes of the Romans, who were strong

    opponents of monotheism, for it undermined and marginalized their Pagan belief system

    But these Jews would not be Sephardic; they would be the same stock as the twelve tribes of

    Samarra and Judea

    They wouldnt speakLadino, and the rich heritage from the Hebrew Siglo de Oro in Spain and

    Portugal wouldve taken no part in the development of this prominent mainstream in Judaism.

  • 8/12/2019 The Macedonian Sephardic Jews From Thessaloniki





    The already established diaspora of Jews along the entire Old world, from the Fertile Oasis of

    Mesopotamia, thru Arabia and the valley of the river Nile, all the way along the Mediterranean

    coast, it seems, would have no particular tribute to pay to the medieval Iberian renaissance and the

    Andalusia Muslim Golden Age.

    However, it was indeed the Jews of Alhambra who directly encouraged, financed and propelled the

    Moorish Emirate of Grenada to become the cultural, intellectual and artistic hub of western Europe,

    when the reminder was going thru the most decadent spiritual and social decline in known history.

    It was due to this incredible creative alliance that the Moors became a force to be reckoned with.

    When, after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, the entire region was going thru the Dark

    Ages, the Sunni Umayyad Emirate with its centre in Cordoba elevated European civilisation and

    humanity hopes for cultural, artistic and social progress.

    Of course, this was not the first contact between the two religions, and Judaism and Islam have met

    before, having initially been introduced to each other in Arabia, during the life and career of

    Muhammad, the Ishmaelite, as he is popularly known among the Jews.

    It was this man, indeed, who claimed prophetic heritage and family relationship in ancestry from

    Hegira, the Egyptian maiden in the Household of Abraham and his wife Sarah, who would once

    again, since the time of Jesus Christ, find an extraordinary charisma and appeal in the stories from

    the Old Testament about Monotheism and belief in a single universal God.

    As Sarah, the Bible tells us, had trouble conceiving, she encouraged her husband Abraham to lay

    with his maiden in order to produce a family heir

    It is difficult for a known man to just go by and not notice that Mohammed literally built and

    modelled his entire claim to prophet hood to the life and work of the Hebrew Patriarch who

    introduced monotheism by rejecting idol warship and crushing the workshop of his father,