Jews have lived in the area of Magnisias, specifically in nearby Almiros, since the dawn of the first century, Common Era (C.E.), according to surfaced ancient documents. Moreover, in historic Dimitriadas, today's Volos, testimonies indicate that Jews have lived there since the second century, C.E. In nearby Fthiotides, Thebes of the Achaians and today's Nea Anchialos, Jewish gravestones have been unearthed from the time 325-641 C.E.
During the 12th century, sojourning Rabbi Benyamin Ben Yona of Toudela, Spain, wrote in his journal that "there exists in Almiros a successful Jewish community of 400 coreligionists, under the leadership of Chief Rabbi Shiloh Lombardo, along with Rabbis Iosif and Solomon."
The presence of Jews in Volos continued into the period of Ottoman Turkish rule, and diplomatic dispatches of the 16th century mention such a population. Upon the city's liberation from the Turks, November 2, 1881, there existed an organized Jewish community, as published newspaper stories of that period indicate. The community's thriving existence is attested in its intense preoccupation in commercial and intellectual pursuits in their consequential life in Volos.
The first synagogue was erected in 1870 in the center of the Jewish neighborhood, replacing the older, temporary wooden structure. This attractive spiritual home was blown up by the invading and occupying Germans in March of 1943. In its place a 1948 rebuilt synagogue was destroyed during the catastrophic earthquakes in 1955. A new, smaller, anti-seismic building, rose in the same location in 1960, and continues to operate today. It is located in the confluence of three streets: Xenophon, Plato, and Moisis.
The first Jewish cemetery was founded in the neighborhood of Neapolis, on Filikis Eterias Street. The newer version used today is adjacent its Christian counterpart, at the crossroads of Taxiarchon and Plato Streets, covering an area of 4,000 t.m., and encompasses 700 graves.
Within the community, and since 1865, there existed an extension of the French institution Alliance Israelite Universalle, and, later, a Jewish community school (1870-1926); in 1894, a rabbinic academy was also established.
Volos 1930: The Mourtzoukou Fabric Factory
From the first decade of the 20th century, there were founded several philanthropic and cultural associations: Avaath Reim, in 1901, to be succeeded, in 1921, by the Mutual Aid Society Agoudat Achim. In 1910 the Zionist Poale Sion, was introduced, and, later, the Sisterhood Ozer Dalim. Moreover, an athletic team of young men Hatikva, was succeeded by HaKoach, along with the Scouts Troop Maccabee, (1933). Parallelly, there existed the committees "Bikur Holim," Chevra Kedosha," to attend the comfort of the sick, and provide to the last rites for the dead.
Older Promotion of Mortzoukou Fabrics
The Volos Jews were known for their intense entrepreneurial spirit, and their professional and economic contributions to the city's development are legendary; demonstrated in their many shops, and industries employing numerous residents. The Mortzoukou fabric factory, the knitting factory of the Levy Brothers, the factory of Amon & Azouz, Isaac Saporta's tobacco business, the Barouch-Levy Bank, and other industries dominated the city's daily commerce. Impressive were also Jewish contributions to the Volos Evagon institutions, cultural, athletic, and professional associations, which involved them in the administration of such units, as well as being entwined in the city's civic affairs.
Extensive involvement in the city's life.
The municipality of Volos, seeking to honor the contributions of Jews, sought to imbue street names with Judaic content: Moiseos (1892), Palestine (1922), Avraam Benaroya (1984), and Chief Rabbi Mosis Pesach (1993). In 1920, the Jewish community was composed of 2,000 members. Gradually, inexorably, that number declined, through relocation in other cities, or immigration. In 1940 there were 872 Jews in Volos.
The Second World War
During the Greco-Italian War of 1940, 71 Jews were called for military duty, and fought in the front. Among the casualties were: one dead, five injured, and two who remained permanently handicapped. In the rear, the Jewish Community offered total support to the war effort.
In the ensuing resistance, 1943-1944, Volos Jews were singularly honored: Elias Kones, and Albertos Amon.
In 1941, Volos was conquered by Italian troops, but Jews were not immediately threatened. However, in 1943 and upon Italy's agreement with the Allies to cease warfare, Volos came under German occupation. During this period, many Jews, especially the youth, participated in the National Resistance, offering valuable service.
From the start, October 1943, the Germans' anti-Jewish intentions were starkly revealed, as they sought to round them up and have them deported. Then, most Jews, with the help of the Church, the National Resistance, the municipality and prefecture, and their compatriots, were able to seek refuge in the surrounding villages, in the main, saving themselves.
In the final, sweeping German operations of March 1944, 155 members of the Jewish community were arrested, sent to Hitler's concentration camps, where they were annihilated.
Liberation and Reorganization of the Community
With the city's liberation on October 1944, the Central Jewish Committee in tandem with the philanthropic organizations encompassed within the American Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC or Joint), undertook the task of reorganizing the Community. The 1955 earthquakes in Volos were devastating, causing major damages to houses, stores, and communal buildings. There was instant and effective intercession by Jewish organizations to re-establish the well-being of the effected population.
From 1948 onward, an intense effort at Aliyah, sent some Jews to the newly-proclaimed State of Israel, and, later to the United States of America. Currently, there remain 100 members of the Volos Jewish community, continuing a harmonious coexistence with their Christian compatriots.
The community is directed by an executive board, elected from a 14 communal assembly, for a three-year term. The assembly also attends to the needs of those without resources, the education of the young, and underwrites the cost of programs for teens and adolescents. Special care is given for ongoing worship services in the synagogue, forging communal solidarity, and contact with local authorities, with who relations are most satisfactory. There are Oneg Shabbat services each Friday eve (with communal dinners), and major Jewish holidays.
In 1988, the Volos municipality, appreciating the contribution of resident Jews, and in order permanently memorialize the victims of the Nazi expulsions, erected a Holocaust Monument in the central Rigas Fereos Square.
Today, the Community, despite a sparse human presence, continues its historic mission with enhanced commitment, and dynamism.