Island in the Ægean Sea; Turkish possession, 344 miles west of Smyrna. It is not known with any certainty when the Jews first established themselves at Chios. According to the local legends reported by the traveler Joseph Benjamin II., the Jewish cemetery of the island contains the tomb of Jacob Ben Asher, author of the "Ṭurim," who is said to have put in at the island in order to avoid shipwreck, and lived there for a number of years, until his death in 1340. The supposed tombstone of this learned rabbi is situated at the foot of a terebinth, but the inscription has become illegible. The tomb is regarded by the Jews as holy ground. Formerly troops of pilgrims from Smyrna met there, especially on the thirty-third, day of 'Omer. The synagogue of the island of Chios is named after Jacob ben Asher.
Chios was an object of dispute in the Middle Ages among the Byzantine emperors, the Genoese and the Venetians; and it fell into the hands of the Ottoman Turks in 1595. Probably under the Turkish dominion the Jewish community of the island gradually grew. Toward 1700 Isaacal-Ghazzi, a rabbi belonging to a Smyrnese family of Talmudists, was chief rabbi of the island; he is the author of a Hebrew work, "Doresh Ṭob," a collection of discourses. Nothing further is heard of this community, although it continued to exist, for the magnificent marble tomb of Fernandez Diaz, a Jew of Salonica, dating somewhat prior to 1800, still attracts the attention of visitors to the cemetery.
The spiritual leaders of the community during the nineteenth century were R. Mordecai Aboab, R. Matathia Alluf, and R. Abraham Franco, who officiated for twelve years (1846-58). The chief event in the history of the Jews of Chios during that century was the earthquake of April 4, 1881. Twenty-one of them were killed, eight disappeared, and twenty-four were crippled. The Alliance Israélite Universelle sent aid to the island through its representatives at Smyrna. The catastrophe had some good results, however, for the ghetto, situated within the walls of the castle, was completely destroyed, and the Jews, determining to live outside the city, settled in the Frankish quarter, among the Greek Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant inhabitants.
The Jews of Chios number only 200 in a total of 62,000 inhabitants, including Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholics, and Mohammedans. In 1885 they built, through public subscription, a fine synagogue in the Frankish quarter. As the community is too small to be elaborately organized, it has a lay president who guards the interests of his coreligionists before the government, and raises a tax (the "gabelle") on meat, which is the only revenue for paying the expenses of the synagogue and for contributing to the support of the two Jewish schools. The schools, which are both in the same building, are subsidized by the Alliance Israélite Universelle; together they count seventy pupils, fifteen of whom are Gentiles. Since 1890 Moses Issachar has been president of the community, succeeding his brother Judah, who died in that year.