In the second half of the 19th century, the majority of Cretan Jews, by now numbering fewer than 700, lived in Hania. The Haniote Jewish community still lived mainly in the old Jewish Quarter (Ovraiki). A few affluent families moved to larger houses in neighbourhoods such as Halepa and near the Court House. For example, the family of Leon Ischakis owned a beautiful neoclassical villa there. (During the German occupation their house was confiscated and the family was made to move back to the Jewish Quarter. Today their villa houses the Historical Archives of Crete.)
During the 1860s and 1870s, a series of atrocious blood libels were directed against the Jewish communities throughout the Ottoman Empire. In 1873, such a case happened in Hania when, after the apparent disappearance of a Christian boy, a mob attacked the Jewish quarter and could be pushed back only by police intervention. The boy was discovered the following day in a village near Hania. Attacks like this were not infrequent and in fact occurred again in Hania in 1882 and in Heraklion in 1884. Similarly, the various dates for the burials of four rabbis in the southern courtyard of Etz Hayyim Synagogue suggest that during those periods the community was prevented from reaching the cemetery outside the city due to unrest in the city itself.
In 1875, a momentous development took place regarding the civil rights of the Jewish community. The community appealed to the Ottoman imperial government, asking that also a Jew be elected to the (albeit short-lived) General Assembly, which had been established as part of the mid-century administrative reforms. After considerable opposition from within the Assembly, Abadaki Delmedigo was eventually admitted to the Assembly in May 1875. One of the propositions he presented there concerned the traditional burning of an effigy of Judas Iscariot during the Orthodox Holy Week. This practice was henceforth prohibited by law.
Photos 1, 4, 5, 6, 7: © The Jewish Museum of Greece
Source: public domain
Photo 3: © Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece: Etz Hayyim Synagogue Commemorative Album, 2nd ed., Athens 2008.