Monastir Synagogue
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The Second World War, which tore along Europe like a whirlwind, destroyed tight–knit Jewish communities in many cities: ancient museums and synagogues were bombed by missiles, and the population itself was sent to Nazi death camps. 

Up to the 1940ies about 50 000 Jews lived in Thessaloniki and attended one of the 60 synagogues and the central library. After the war, only the Monastir Synagogue survived in Thessaloniki. It was saved due to the fact that the headquarters of the Red Cross was situated in it. 

Since the synagogue is located on one of the central streets and accommodates a large number of worshippers, it is the main place for prayers in the city at present.

The synagogue was designed by the Czech architect of Jewish origin Eli Ernst Levy. For his ideas, the architect received funding from influential Jewish families who moved to Thessaloniki from Monastir. 

At the end of military activities, the building gradually began to collapse. A strong earthquake of 1978 took a heavy toll on it. It was dangerous to stay here after it: bare wires poked out everywhere, holes gaped in the destroyed staircases, and loadbearing constructions required strengthening.

This continued until the President of the Jewish community of Thessaloniki David Saltiel created his team, which was able to reconstruct the building due to the donations from the Federal Republic of Germany and the Herbert Simon Family Foundation. A large–scale work was carried out:

  • complete replacement of wires;
  • installation of new plumbing equipment in the lavatories;
  • reconstruction of the stairs;
  • installation of an elevator for handicapped people;
  • wall and floor restoration;
  • creation of modern systems of heating, conditioning and illumination from scratch. 

Now the Jewish synagogue in Thessaloniki is a cozy, authentic and beautiful place. The building is painted in cream colour and has white window frames; it is decorated with marble columns and a large window in the shape of a menorah that makes the building look very laconic. It harmoniously fits into the architectural ensemble of the city.

Inside, the synagogue is no less beautiful. The colour combination of gold, red and white creates a festive and solemn atmosphere. At the same time, there is a lot of air here — there is no feeling that the setting "weights down" with its grandeur. This is achieved through the competent use of space and semi-dome ceiling, painted in a soft–blue savor. 

As in any other synagogue, in Monastirioton synagogue there is a division of space into male and female parts. During prayers, men sit in comfortable chairs on the first floor. They are situated on both sides of the Rabbi's place fenced with a low marble "balcony" (it is called “bimah” or “almemar”). At this time, women should stay in the galleries on the second floor. 

It is worth to tell about bimah particularly. This is the central and main place of the synagogue. The marble dais is covered with a velvet dark-red wrap. The Torah is lying on it. Behind it there is a large closet (the ark of the Synagogue), covered with maroon cloth with golden embroidery. On both sides in the bottom and on the top there are large menorahs of gold. On both sides of the wall the niches are carved on which the commandments from the Torah are written.

You can reach the Monastir synagogue of Thessaloniki by any city bus that goes to the Antigonidon bus stop (Αντιγονιδών). The synagogue is a five-minute walk away from it.


  1. Try not to touch other people (even accidentally!). This will be regarded as disrespect and invasion to personal boundaries.
  2. During the prayer, stay in the male or female part of the building correspondingly.
  3. Women should cover their heads and wear modest clothes covering shoulders. Long skirt or dress are welcome.
  4. It is desirable for men to have a headdress — a yarmulke. However, no one will say a bad word to you if it is absent.