Turkish island in the Ægean Sea, and the largest in the Sporades group. This island has successively borne different names, finally preserving that of 'Πόδον. The Bible knew it under the name . In Gen. x. 4 the word occurs, in I Chron. i. 7 (see "Encyc. Bibl." and Hastings, "Dict. Bible," s.v. "Dodanim"). To-day Rhodes, its capital city, is the chief place in the vilayet of the islands of the Ottoman Archipelago. The island has a total population of 30,000, and of these there are about 4,000 Jews in the town and some in the neighboring villages.
Gedaliah ibn Yaḥya states that Rhodes was built by a king of Argolis in the time of the patriarch Jacob ("Shalshelet ha-Ḳabbalah," p. 77a). In 656 a Jew of Emesa, a Syrian city (modern Ḳoms), bought the débris of the famous Colossus of Rhodes, which had been destroyed by an earthquake in 282
The Jews were established in Rhodes in remotest times. They are mentioned in I Macc. x. 15, 23 as dwelling there in 140
At Malona, a village seven miles from the capital, there exists to-day a street named "Evriaki," which is so called from a Jewish settlement there. This settlement was established before the Knights of St. John arrived at Rhodes (1309), when the Jews occupied the same district in which they live to-day.Under the Knights Hospitalers.
When the walls of the city were repaired by the Knights of St. John, they gave the name "Jews' Wall" to that part which encircled the Jewish quarter. Under the knights' rule the Jews were not always fortunate. According to Lacroix, D'Aubusson, the grand master of the island, ordered the Jews' houses to be razed that the material of which they had been built might be used for the reconstruction of the Jews' Wall, which later was bombarded by Messih Pasha, the Ottoman commander. Elijah Capsali, in his chronicle (ed. Lattes, Padua, 1869), says that after defeating the Turks D'Aubusson ordered the Jews to embrace Christianity. Some accepted baptism, others preferred death, while still others consented to be sold into slavery and were released only after the conquest of the island by Sulaiman. On Jan. 9, 1502, D'Aubusson decreed the expulsion of the Jews from Rhodes, under the pretext that they were corrupting the morals of the young, but owing to the death of the grand master the decree was not completely enforced; nevertheless the Jews of Cos were exiled to Nice. Under the grand master Frederic Caretto, Salim I. sent to Rhodes a Jewish physician, Libertus Cominto, to obtain a map of the island. The physician is said to have succeeded in his task, but he was caught and executed. Some historians claim that he was a convert to Christianity. Under the last grand master, Williers, of the island of Adam, the Jews were allowed to live in peace. On several occasions he visited the Jewish houses and synagogues.
According to Rottiers, some Jews who were exiled under D'Aubusson accompanied as sutlers the Turkish army which besieged the city and captured the island. According to a tradition related as fact by certain historians, especially Baudin, the Jews took part in the war against the Turks. Under the leadership of Simeon Granada, a battalion of 250 Jews was formed, and became known as the "Jewish phalanx." Bilioti, referring to the part taken by the Jews in the struggle against the Turks, says that the Jews were those that had been converted in the time of D'Aubusson and had displayed great valor in the Italian bastion. Florentin Bernard Carli, who witnessed the siege, says that under Turkish order from two to three thousand Jews filled up with sandbags the ditch before the Italian position. When the Turks occupied Rhodes the converted Jews abjured the Christian religion and returned to their ancient belief. Probably Florentin here refers to the Jewish sutlers who accompanied the Turkish army, for the Jews who were within the castle could not have held any communication with the enemy.
While some historians claim that the fall of Rhodes was due to the treachery of Libertus Cominto, others affirm that the real traitor was Knight d'Amaral, whose treason had been discovered by the Jewess Rachel, wife of Simeon Granada.
Some historians claim also that the Jews, afraid of Turkish rule, left the island and went to Italy. Others assert that they preferred to remain on the island and enjoy the bounty of the sultan. This statement may be true in so far as it concerns the Jews who had fought on the side of the Christians,whereas the former statement may refer to the Jews who accompanied the Turkish army. Benjamin Pontremoli relates that Sulaiman knew the utility of the Jews and brought a dozen families from Salonica. He granted them a firman guaranteeing freedom from taxation for twenty years, and decreeing that each family be provided with a house free of expense. Under this firman they were also permitted to mine sulfur, to traverse Mohammedan territory with their dead, to wail as they traveled along the road, and to purchase at ordinary prices food killed according to the ritual law.
From this date until 1675 there are no data of the political history of the Jews of Rhodes, but from 1675 they are repeatedly mentioned in government ordinances.In the Nineteenth Century.
In 1837 a fearful pestilence spread over the island, and, acting on the advice of the grand rabbi, part of the inhabitants fled to the village Candilli, which thenceforward became a Jewish settlement. Among the victims of the scourge there were only ten Jews. In 1840 an accusation of ritual murder was made against the Jews of Rhodes. On the eve of Purim the governor, Yusuf Pasha, at the instigation of the Greek clergy and the European consuls, blockaded the Jewish quarter, arrested the chief rabbi, Jacob Israel, and the chief men, and imprisoned them. But on Nov. 6, owing to the efforts of Count Camondo, Crémieux, and Montefiore, a firman was obtained from the sultan which declared all accusations of ritual murder null and void. It should be mentioned that three Jews and three Christians were taken from Rhodes to Constantinople for trial, and that there the innocence of the Jews was established.
In 1851 much suffering was caused by an earthquake. The community sent Rabbi Raḥamim Franco to Egypt and to Europe to receive funds for relief, and he collected more than 40,000 francs (about $8,000). In 1855 a part of the Jewish quarter suffered damage through the explosion of gunpowder, and in 1863 a fire which destroyed the market paralyzed the trade of the Jews. In 1880, while some Jewish merchants who traded in the island of Cassos were returning to Rhodes to celebrate Passover, the vessel by which they were being conveyed was captured by pirates, and the Jews were despoiled and held as guides; but subsequently, at the instance of the governor of Rhodes, they were rescued and the pirates were seized.
The Jews of Rhodes support two large synagogues, the Great Synagogue, which was destroyed by artillery in 1440, rebuilt by permission of Pope Sixtus IV. in recognition of Jewish services during the siege of the city, destroyed again during a later siege, and rebuilt by Rabbi Samuel Amato; and Shalom Synagogue, built in 1593 by Raphael Margola. There are also two smaller synagogues—the Synagogue Camondo, so called in honor of Count Abraham de Camondo, who built it; and the Tiḳḳun Ḥaẓot—and two batte midrashot. The commerce of the island is controlled by the Jews, among whom there are also many boatmen and porters. The Jews are on good terms with their neighbors.
There are two schools, one for boys and one for girls; also several Talmud Torahs. There is a steady migration to Asia.
Among the rabbis of Rhodes may be mentioned: Ḥayyim ben Menahem Algazi, in the seventeenth century; Moses Israel, author of "Mas'at Mosheh" (Constantinople, 1734); Ezra Malki; Moses ben Elijah Israel, author of "Mosheh Yedabber" (Constantinople, 1827); and Jedidiah ben Samuel Turski, in the eighteenth century. In the nineteenth century three rabbis of the Israel family distinguished themselves as authors: Judah b. Moses b. Elijah, and Jacob and Raḥamim Judah (1824-91). The present rabbi (1905) is Moses Judah Franco. Prominent in public life is especially the Menasché family, one of whose members, Boaz Menasché Effendi, is a judge of the court of appeals.
- Shalshelet ha-Ḳabbalah, pp. 77, 78;
- Harkavy, Neuaufgefundene Hebräische Bibelhandschriften, St. Petersburg, pp. 24, 25-27;
- Rottiers, Inscriptions et Monuments de Rhodes, Brussels, 1830;
- Lacroix, Les Iles de la Grèce, pp. 172, 207;
- Bonhours, L'Histoire de Pierre d'Aubusson, pp. 200 et seq.;
- Itinéraire d'un Chevalier de St. Jean de Jérusalem à Rhodes, pp. 106-107.