Yom HaShoah….A Time to Remember. May We Never Forget. Watch Now.

As Yom HaShoah is upon us, we want to share a few opportunities to understand the Sephardic experience during the Holocaust.  May we always remember….May we never forget. IMG_3929

‘The Longest Journey: The Last Days of the Jewish Community of Rhodes’ can be rented online from Vimeo and viewed.
It is a ‘must-see’ for those wanting to know the story of the tragic end of the hundreds years old community that existed in Rhodes.
‘The CDEC and the Shoah Museum of Rome present: THE LONGEST JOURNEY. RHODES-AUSCHWITZ (2013) a film by Ruggero Gabbai, historical research by Liliana Picciotto and Marcello Pezzetti.IMG_3930IMG_3931
On July 23, 1944, the Nazis deported almost the entire Jewish population of the island of Rhodes, while the Italian authorities that had been in charge of the Island from 1912 until the Armistice of September 8, 1943, stood by. It was late in the war, and German capitulation seemed imminent, yet the Nazi commanders did not hesitate to inflict the longest journey their criminal machine had ever planned, on this small, vibrant community nestled in this faraway island. The journey took 24 days under harrowing conditions, an atrocious transition from the Mediterranean sun to the grey hell of Auschwitz.
The Longest Journey weaves together testimonies of some of the few Jews to have survived Auschwitz, focusing on Stella Levi, Sami Modiano and Albert Israel.IMG_3932

The survivors, along with the film crew, returned to Rhodes from their respective lives in New York, Rome and Brussels. Each one with a powerful cinematic presence, the three recount memories of family and communal life, interactions with the local Greeks, Turks and Italians, cultural transitions, as well as the tragic last days of their community. The film provides a kaleidoscopic view of Jewish life in Rhodes under Italian dominion before the War.

Through the lens of these narrators, their early lives in Rhodes unfold as a sort of ‘paradise lost.’
See it now, on Demand

IMG_3933‘Trezoros: The Lost Jews of Kastoria’ is airing on PBS stations across the United States THIS WEEK- check your local listings. ( These are a few we saw listed. Check local listings.
South Florida, Thursday 8:30 pm
San Francisco, KQED, Friday 9:30 pm
Los Angeles, Wednesday KCET 6:30 pm
And 9pm)
“The documentary chronicles life in the picturesque town of Kastoria, where Jews and Christians lived in harmony and friendship for over two thousand years. The title Trezoros is the Ladino/Judeo/Spanish term of endearment meaning “treasures.” The film takes the audience on a journey from the joyful innocence of the pre-war years through the heartbreaking struggles of the Holocaust, to a unique place in time and history highlighting a Greek Jewish culture lost forever.

In October 1940, the peaceful life of the community changed forever with the invasion of Greece by Axis forces. Initially occupied by Italy, the Jewish community remained, but after Mussolini fell from power, the Nazis took control of the town, eventually gathering all the residents in a single day, and sent them to concentration camps.

Using never-before-seen archival footage, Trezoros vividly brings to life just one of many Jewish communities that had existed in Greece for centuries and even millennia before the end of World War II. The film is a story told by its survivors, with interviews filmed on location in Kastoria, Thessaloniki, Athens, Tsur Moshe, Tel Aviv, Miami, and New York.

Directed by Lawrence Russo, and co-directed and produced by Larry Confino, the film was widely praised on the film festival circuit with screenings in London, Cannes, Melbourne, Sydney, New York, and Los Angeles. Russo co-founded the independent studio The Shooting Gallery (Laws of Gravity, Sling Blade) and directed the Emmy-nominated PBS short film series ShortCuts. Producer/Co-Director, Confino is the Founder of Synapse Productions and Executive Director of ImageRescue, Inc. Based in New York City, Confino has produced documentaries and commercial projects on a multitude of subjects around the world.

Trezoros is an inspiring story of survival that resonates universally and is of particular interest to Jewish and Greek communities worldwide. The poignant story of one family’s experience helps honor the memory of the once vibrant community and reminds us of man’s inhumanity to man and also of the enduring spirit of the people who survived the horrors of the war. As George Santayana wrote in The Life of Reason, 1905, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Check your local listings for the PBS schedule.”




TIME UPDATE! The Last Days of the Jews of Rhodes Yom HaShoah 2016

So few people realize that the vile evils of the Nazi death machine reached into the Mediterranean region, decimating and destroying the centuries old communities of the Sephardic World in Greece, Turkey, Macedonia and parts of Italy.   JLTV (Jewish Life Television) is spotlighting some of these stories during Yom HaShoah this year.  I hope you will watch and share them with your friends.

JLTV is available in the US on DirecTV nationwide, on Time-Warner in the greater LA area, and other cable carriers ( click here to find carrier in your region).   JLTV is available in 127 countries around the world via http://www.JLTV.tv.   Click on the ‘Watch Live’ box in upper right of screen to watch programs LIVE.  (Watch from anywhere on your computer, tablet or smart phone).

“The Longest Journey: The Last Days of the Jews of Rhodes”

The Longest Journey

U.S. Premiere on JLTV, May 4, 2016   9 pm ET/PT 

On July 23, 1944, the Nazis deported almost the entire Jewish population of the island of Rhodes. The journey took 24 days under harrowing conditions, an atrocious transition from the Mediterranean sun to the gray hell of Auschwitz.

Of the nearly 1,800 Jewish men, women and children taken to Auschwitz from Rhodes, fewer than 150 individuals survived. In The Longest Journey, talented filmmaker and director Ruggero Gabbai weaves together the testimonies of three of the few Jews who survived, Stella Levi, Sami Modiano and Albert Israel.   It is a movie at once chilling and heartbreaking, told about an ancient community in one the most beautiful settings in the world. It is a film you want to see; it is a story that needs to be told and retold; it is a film to share with your children and grandchildren.

This broadcast is sponsored by Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel, Los Angeles and the Sephardic Hebrew Center/SBS Fund

Visit: http://sephardictemple.org

The film will have it’s U.S. television premiere JLTV on Yom HaShoah, May 4, 2016 at 9 pm, ET/PT and again on May 5, 2016 at 4 pm ET/1 PM PT.













I have been devouring the new book I just received, Stella’s Sephardic Table, Jewish family recipes from the Mediterranean Island of Rhodes. This is a beautiful coffee table book compiled by Stella Cohen, an artist, cookbook author and proud Sephardic Jew, born and raised in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia ( today known as Harare, Zimbabwe). The book is filled with treasured Rhodesli recipes, wonderful photographs, a history of Rhodes, special holiday recipes, traditions, folk remedies, beliefs and blessings and so much more! A treasure trove for anyone who traces their family background to the glorious Juderia of Rhodes as well as those who love traditional Sephardic cuisine.

Reading the recipes, the stories, the Ladino sayings……Stella’s tale of visiting her grandchildren who, after kisses and hugs ask, “Nonna, where are the reshikas?”…things we, as Rhodeslis, can relate to! Imagine! Stella grew up in Africa, a world away from me….and her family table, recollection of family holidays and stories passed down from grandparents of the glorious Island of Rhodes….almost identical! What a joy to see these recipes, stories and reflections in print! It validates our experiences, gives voice to our traditions and helps keep our traditions alive and thriving, for our children and generations to come!

This is a ‘must have’ addition for your library! You can order it today by visiting Amazon. (order several copies…you’ll want to share them with your family and friends!! A wonderful gift!!!)


Our son David, sent us an article that was printed in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz entitled, “Racing to save the Ladino legacy of Sephardi Jews”. The article told of an effort by a U.S. academic, Dr. Devin Naar, an assistant professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Washington in Seattle who is attempting to collect, preserve and digitize the rich Ladino heritage of Sephardic Jews. David has had the opportunity to study with Professor Naar at UW.

The Professor notes that while Yiddish books have been collected and digitized for sometime, Ladino literature has had no such effort, and no organized depository. He is working to do just that as part of the Sephardic Studies initiative of the University of Washington’s Stroum Jewish Studies program. Our friends at eSefarad.com have reprinted his article, as well. Take a look. If you have books, leaflets or any Ladino writing you might wish to share, message us. We will be happy to pass your information along to Dr. Naar. Perhaps YOU can help to keep the beautiful Ladino language alive !


We wish to share a bold and valuable commentary from Rabbi Daniel Bouskila speaking to the classic Sephardic worldview of modernity, inclusion and tolerance. If you have not yet had a chance to read it, please do by clicking here. And for a weekly spark of inspiration and learning, sign up to receive his weekly Torah Thoughts from the Sephardic Educational Center by clicking here.

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Finally, July 23 is a dark day in the Rhodesli world, recalling the day when the deportation of the Jews from Rhodes took place. There were about 1600 souls taken from Rhodes and the nearby Island of Kos and shipped, in the worst of conditions to the hell that was Auschwitz. Many died en route. About 1200 were gassed almost immediately upon arrival. Countless others died from starvation, exposure, torture and unspeakable inhumanity at the hands of the Nazis. Only 151 survived.

On July 23, take a moment to recall those of Rhodes whose lives were cut short by the brutality of the horrific Nazi regime.
Consider adding a book on the subject to your family or community library so the martyred souls of Rhodes will forever be remembered.
Consider one of the following:
The Juderia: A Holocaust Survivor’s Tribute to the Jewish Community of Rhodes by Laura Varon
Rhodes and the Holocaust: The Story of the Jewish Community from the Mediterranean Island of Rhodes by Isaac Benatar

Ah, Rhodes!!!

~Bendichas Manos

Rhodes and the Holocaust

Tonight we commemorate Yom HaShoah, the day we recall the unspeakable horror of the calculated and diabolical program by Hitler and his regime to destroy, through the most inhumane means, European Jewry.

When we hear of the Holocaust we hear primarily about the deaths of Eastern Europe’s Jews in areas such as Germany, Poland, Hungary and Austria. However, the Sephardic world, particularly the communities of the Mediterranean basin, Turkey and Greece, were decimated, as well.

I want to mention here the community of Rhodes, one of the Dodecanese Islands off the coast of Turkey.

Rhodes, which had had a Jewish presence for at least 2,000 years, became home to a great influx of Jews in the years after 1492 when they were expelled from Spain by order of the Inquisition and welcomed into the lands of the Sultan, Sulieman the Magnificent, throughout the Ottoman Empire. Living cloistered behind the walls of the fortress city, their neighborhood, known as “La Juderia”, became a thriving community complete with schools, synagogues, businesses and even a Rabbinical school.

The early 1900’s saw the beginnings of an emigration from Rhodes by several young Jews to the “New World” in pursuit of new opportunities. By the year 1918, the Jewish community there numbered about 4,000 souls. Italy took possession of the Island in 1911. The mid-1930’s saw the Fascists take control of Rhodes. In 1943 the Italians surrendered to the Allies and in August of that year, the Germans occupied the Island. The end of Rhodesli Jewry was in sight.

In August of 1944, there were still 1,767 Jews living in “La Juderia”. After their deportation and brutality at the hands of the Nazis, only 151 survived.

Three events in February and March of this year brought the plight of Jewish community of Rhodes to the forefront. It is those events I want to share with you now.

In February 2012, we had the opportunity to visit Cape Town, South Africa. While there we visited the Sephardic synagogue in the beautiful Sea Point neighborhood. The synagogue follows the traditions of the Jews of the Island of Rhodes, most of her members and their families having originally come from the Island. Many had emigrated from Rhodes to the Congo, to Rhodesia, then Cape Town. The synagogue sports an incredibly interesting and informative pictorial mural in her foyer telling the story of the community. When in South Africa, do make an effort to visit.

As we talked with our hosts Mrs. Lucie Soriano and Rabbi Ruben Suiza, they told us to be sure and visit the Holocaust exhibit located in the South African Jewish Museum.

The Cape Town Holocaust Center has, as part of its permanent exhibit, an area solely devoted to the Jewish Community of Rhodes. I urge you to visit the site and to visit the Exhibit when you are in South Africa. The Sephardic community of Cape Town worked long and hard to ensure this story was told and will be there for generations to come.

A few weeks later, on March 1, 2012, the Los Angeles Jewish Journal featured an article about Sara Hanan Gilmore, a Los Angeles resident born on the Island of Rhodes who survived the horrors of Auschwitz. Her story is one that should be read.

Finally, the Sephardic Educational Center highlighted a newly released book by Isaac Benatar entitled “Rhodes and the Holocaust”. With thanks to Rae Cohen for giving me a copy, I just finished reading the 112 page book. It is compelling, tragic, horrific and hopeful. Benatar’s book and another by Laura Varon, “The Juderia: A Holocaust Survivor’s Tribute to the Jewish Community of Rhodes,” are well worth reading. Add them to your library and share them with your children, family and friends.

As always, I invite you to visit the website of the Rhodes Jewish Museum to know more about Rhodes then and now. Thanks to Aron Hasson for keeping the Museum and the website active and vital for us and for all the world to view and visit.

The Holocaust, stands as a testament to man’s inhumanity to man. It is a tale of the most barbaric depravity. We, as Jews, vow “Never Again”. Never again will we allow ourselves to be slaughtered. Never again will we allow ourselves to be people without a home, without power, without a haven and without a voice. May we always stand by Israel and keep her safe and strong.

As we recall tonight the souls of those who were savagely murdered, tortured and abused beyond belief, may our hearts and memory remind us always…..never again will the world stand silent as ANY MAN suffers the blows of hatred, cruelty and genocide. WE will not stand idly by.

May all their memories be recalled with love and may their memories be forever a blessing.