The Kos Island Jewish Synagogue is one of the precious cultural gems you must-see when you vacation at Astir Odysseus Kos Resort & Spa.
Officially The Holy Synagogue of the Jewish Community of Kos, this religious landmark dates from 1944. However, it occupies the site of a former Jewish synagogue erected here as early as the 16th century. The temple is on Alexandrou Diakou Street, in the same neighborhood where you will find other landmarks, like the Archaeological Museum of Kos and the Ancient Agora. It can be reached in about 15 minutes by car when you drive to Kos town from Astir Odysseus Kos Resort & Spa.
The original Jewish Synagogue of Kos was erected by Eliezer Tarica to serve a small Koan community of Jewish families. After his death, two shops were bequeathed for its support.
The Koan Jewes were traders, exporting produce like grapes and raising. They thrived on the island for years, until the rule of the Knights Hospitaller of Rhodes, when, at the order of Pierre d’Aubusson, grand master of the Hospitalers of St. John, they were banned and transported to Nice. The Jewish people eventually returned to their Koan homes. According to documents, in the early 1900, there were 160 Jews actively involved in small crafts and commerce on Kos.
In 1933, the old synagogue was destroyed by an earthquake. What stands and can be visited today dates from 1944. The Rabbi’s residence is next to the temple.
The Kos Island Jewish Synagogue stands as a symbol of respect for the former Jewish community of the island, which, sadly, was annihilated in 1944 when all its members were transferred to the Auschwitz concentration camp, and most of them were killed hours after their arrival. Only four Jewish members of the community back then were released because they held Turkish citizenship and twelve survived the Holocaust.
The last surviving member of the Koan Jewish community, Michael Manasseh, passed away in 1995, and the temple closed down. Today, the Kos Island Jewish Synagogue is mainly used as a municipal cultural center, hosting a variety of events, like concerts, meetings, exhibitions, and so on. In 2010, volunteers from Israel arrived on the island restore the Jewish Cemetery too.