THE JEWISH COMMUNITY OF VERIA
The Jewish presence in Veria dates back to Roman times. At that time (50 or 51 and 57 AD), the Apostle Paul visited the city and preached in its synagogue. Although we do not have concrete evidence, it is possible that there was a small Jewish community in Berea in Roman and Byzantine times. This community expanded towards the end of the 15th century with the arrival of numerous Jews from Spain and Portugal.
The Jewish community of Veria always maintained close ties with the neighboring large Jewish communities of Thessaloniki and Monastirius. It is mentioned by the Turkish traveler Evliya Celebi, who visited the city in 1668. Also the German historian A. Stuck, who passed through Veria at the beginning of the 20th century, mentions the existence of 600 Spanish Jews. In 1943, 680 Jews lived in Veria, of which 460 were deported and exterminated by the German Nazi occupiers in the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. Today two Jewish families live in Veria.
The Jewish quarter of Veria
Barbuta, as the Jewish quarter of Veria is called, is located near the Tripotamos river to the west of the city. Perhaps the Jews had been living there since the time of the Apostle Paul. It is enclosed and isolated with a purely defensive urban structure. On the river side, the district had as a natural fortification the steep slope of the ground and its tall houses. On the other sides, the exteriors of the "in-line" building system completed its isolation. The houses placed next to each other, form a closed triangle with unique openings, a portico under the houses of Merarchias Street, which leads to the synagogue, and another opening located antidiametrically opposite the first. About fifty old houses of Macedonian architecture are preserved to this day. In some, inscriptions in Hebrew are also preserved. The traditional houses of the Jewish quarter and the synagogue were restored and highlighted in 1997, within the framework of a special program of the Municipality of Veria which was also supported by Jewish Organizations.
The Jewish cemetery was located on the west bank of Tripotamos, opposite Barbuta, at a distance of 500 meters. It is interesting that in this case we encounter the traditional phenomenon of the separation of the district from the cemetery by a stream of water.
The Synagogue is located on the northwest side of the interior of the Jewish quarter next to the bank of Tripotamos. It was built or repaired from plinths with a sultanic firman of 1850. It brings together architectural elements from earlier small synagogues of Thessaloniki. Four columns in the center of the space define the Vima (Teva), while the Sanctuary (Ehal) is located on the eastern wall. The floor is made of wooden boards and in the center it is decorated with mosaic decorative tiles. Behind the synagogue, the mikveh (religious bathhouse) is still preserved.
In September 2019, it was placed on the site of the old Jewish cemetery, in the Prometheus settlement, the Holocaust Memorial. The Memorial is placed on the back side of the small house where the tombstones of the Jewish cemetery were laid out, after the land was given to the Municipality to be used as a sports field. The Monument, donated by I.K. Thessaloniki, dominates the elevated space above the perimeter array of the few tombstones that have remained to this day and have given the place name "Jewish graves" to the area.