Jewish history on Crete comprises two main traditions: Romaniote and Sephardi. These traditions developed in specific diaspora contexts and thus reflect the influence of those specific environments. For about 1,700 years, Jewish culture on Crete was exclusively Greek, as the Cretan Jewish community consisted of the descendants of Hellenized Jews who had resided on the island since the 3rd century BCE. This community is referred to as Romaniote.

From the late 14th century, there was an influx of Jews from Italy and Spain who had fled persecution or impending forced conversion. The tradition of these Jews, called Sephardi, was culturally Spanish. The numbers of those who eventually settled in Crete, however, were quite limited and Jewish life on Crete remained predominately Romaniote until World War II.

Photo 1: © Etz Hayyim Synagogue

Photo 2: © Nikos Stavroulakis

Facsimile of Cretan Book of Jonah on reading stand at Etz Hayyim Synagogue

Etz Hayyim Synagogue Hania, drawing Nikos Stavroulakis

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