In Person: Vow leads to Greek treasure

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In 2007, my husband and I hoped to fulfill a promise we had made to each other on our backpacking honeymoon: to return to Greece. But there was a sticking point: The only available dates were over the High Holy Days.

Finding out that a newly restored synagogue on the Greek island of Rhodes would be holding High Holy Day services, we decided to go forward with our plans.

After arriving in Rhodes, we navigated our way to the synagogue, Kahal Kadosh Shalom, where we learned there that “La Juderia,” the old Jewish quarter, had existed from the time of the Macabees (in the second century B.C.E.) until July 23, 1944. That was the day the Nazis brutally herded some 1,600 Jews down what is now the Street of Martyrs, loading them onto boats destined for Auschwitz and decimating La Juderia in one day’s time.

The antiquity of the community alone is its own story; its devastation another; the commitment and will of Rhodes’ expatriates to rebuild it yet another. And, of course, the universal Jewish spirit that enables disparate Jews to feel as one deserves to be told as well.

As the High Holy Days approached, some worried that with the lure of the ocean and the marketplace, the first services in half a century would be bereft of a minyan.

But with delicious irony, “day trippers” from cruise boats docked at the island and, heeding the call of the shofar, filled row after row of benches.

From Russia, England, France, Israel, South Africa and the United States, all came to the same place, at the same time and for the same purpose — to come together in prayer. Among those present, there was an almost palpable sense of triumph and recognition of a common bond, a kinship among strangers from far-flung locales.

These services, although far from home, were, for us, the most memorable of High Holy Days.

Hilary Osofsky lives in Orinda.

Hilary Osofsky

Hilary Osofsky lives in Oakland.