Cover of Jewish Salonica by Devin E. Naar
Jewish Salonica
Between the Ottoman Empire and Modern Greece
Devin E. Naar


September 2016
400 pages.
from $24.95

Cloth ISBN: 9780804798877
Paper ISBN: 9781503600089
Digital ISBN: 9781503600096

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Winner of the 2016 National Jewish Book Awards in the category of Writing Based on Archival Material, sponsored by the Jewish Book Council.

Winner of the 2017 Edmund Keeley Book Prize, sponsored by the Modern Greek Studies Association (MGSA).

Finalist for the 2016 National Jewish Book Awards in the category of Sephardic Culture, sponsored by the Jewish Book Council.

Touted as the "Jerusalem of the Balkans," the Mediterranean port city of Salonica (Thessaloniki) was once home to the largest Sephardic Jewish community in the world. The collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the city's incorporation into Greece in 1912 provoked a major upheaval that compelled Salonica's Jews to reimagine their community and status as citizens of a nation-state. Jewish Salonica is the first book to tell the story of this tumultuous transition through the voices and perspectives of Salonican Jews as they forged a new place for themselves in Greek society.

Devin E. Naar traveled the globe, from New York to Salonica, Jerusalem, and Moscow, to excavate archives once confiscated by the Nazis. Written in Ladino, Greek, French, and Hebrew, these archives, combined with local newspapers, reveal how Salonica's Jews fashioned a new hybrid identity as Hellenic Jews during a period marked by rising nationalism and economic crisis as well as unprecedented Jewish cultural and political vibrancy. Salonica's Jews—Zionists, assimilationists, and socialists—reinvigorated their connection to the city and claimed it as their own until the Holocaust. Through the case of Salonica's Jews, Naar recovers the diverse experiences of a lost religious, linguistic, and national minority at the crossroads of Europe and the Middle East.

About the author

Devin E. Naar is the Isaac Alhadeff Professor of Sephardic Studies and Associate Professor of History and Jewish Studies at the University of Washington.

"A vital contribution to Sephardic history, Devin Naar's book lovingly but objectively fills in the Greek Jewish story of the interwar period. Jewish Salonica speaks through the words of its subjects, drawing on a dazzling array of local Jewish sources and casting this understudied period in a wholly new and dynamic light."

—Katherine Fleming, New York University, author of Greece: A Jewish History

"Richly documented and a pleasure to read, this study offers a compelling account of how the Sephardic Jews of Salonica experienced the transition from being subjects of the multi-ethnic, multi-religious Ottoman empire to living as a minority in the Greek nation-state. A must-read for anyone interested in the history of this unique community."

—Matthias Lehmann, University of California, Irvine, and author of Emissaries from the Holy Land

"[Devin Naar] has achieved something of signal importance with this volume. He has assembled a uniquely detailed profile of a leading Sephardic community under the Ottoman Empire and the succeeding Greek national state out of archives in Russia, Greece, Israel, the United States, and Spain."

—Stephen Schwartz, Middle East Quarterly

"But Naar has not written a standard chronological history; rather, his study is a deep analysis of the Jewish community and its various components that proudly faced the challenges of the shift from a favored Ottoman millet to a beleaguered—both internally and externally—community in serious decline."

—Steven Bowman, Association for Jewish Studies Review

"[Jewish Salonica] clearly contributes to our store of knowledge on the relationship between the transition from a multicultural empire to a homogenous nation- state, as well as on the changing meanings of such concepts as Sephardic, Jewish, community, self-governance, autonomy, the modern state, Ottoman, Greek, and Turk in the age of competing nationalisms."

—Irfan Kokdas, New Perspectives on Turkey

"Naar by all means has successfully created more than a dignified memento to those [Salonican Jews] who perished [in the Holocaust], providing a significant and appealing scholarly contribution to Jewish studies, intellectual history, and identity formation, which will undoubtedly become a reference point for further research."

—Katerina Kralova, The Journal of Modern Greek Studies

"Naar's book successfully changes the way we remember the interwar period for Salonican Jewry, from a period of decline to one of creativity in the face of severe obstacles, from imagining them as passive victims, to active agents who sought to perpetuate their role and presence in the ever-changing city as they attempted to find a space for themselves as 'part of Greece without relinquishing their Jewishness,' as Hellenic Jews, a dual status preserved from the Ottoman era."

—Marc David Baer, International Journal of Middle East Studies