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28 December 2010

Jews of Kastoria, Greece

As the Knowles Collection continues to grow, I am constantly amazed at how many of the Jewish communities of the world have a lasting effect on distant areas, places that you might not think they would inpact. I have been looking into the histories of a couple of Sephardic Greek Jewish families that have been submitted to the collection. Both families, the Pardo's and Nahmias' were from the city of Kastoria in the northern part of Greece, and like most Jews of the area were involved as furriers.

The city itself is believed to have very ancient origins. Some believe it to be linked to the city of Celetrum, which was captured by the Romans in about 200 B.C. Kastoria, is also an old Jewish Community, dating back to at least the 10th Century, when it was inhabited by Greek Jews. In the 15th and 16th centuries the community was filled with Sephardic Jews, the descendants of those that had fled the Spanish Inquisition. They were drawn to Kastoria bye the expanding fur business.

Located between the cities of Thessaloniki and Ioannina, Kastoria was located on the ancient trade route which made it a very important commercial city. This location and the quality of the work made the city famous for its leather and fur (mink) products.

In the early 1900's, group's of Jewish Immigrants working in the fur business began making their way to North America, most settling in places such as New York and Montreal. When those that settled in Montreal discovered they couldn't get the skilled workers they needed, they simply contacted the most skilled they could find. They went to Kastoria, and recruited workers. Even to this day many of those involved in the fur trade in Montreal are of Greek origin, most from Kastoria.

Today, the Furriers of Kastoria, are known worldwide for their quality of work. In addition to the Montreal community, large populations exist in New York (about 30,000) and Frankfurt, Germany (10,000). The Jewish population of Kastoria, which stood at about 1500 Jews at the turn of the 20th century, today only numbers a handful.

In the near future, the records of the people of Kastoria will begin to be added to the Knowles Collection.

20 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. My wife is the granddaughter of Chaim Elias and Matilda Ovadia Elias from Kastoria. The other names in her family were Pardo, Russo, Confino and Pesserillo. The family settled in NYC on Allen Street then New Lots in Brooklyn.

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    2. My grandfather and great grandfather came from Castoria to the USA in 1910. My grandftaher was Moishe (AKA Mooshiko) Assael and my great grandfather was Aaron "Behor" Assael. His wife, my great grandmother, was Bella Galano Assael, who died shortly after coming to the USA. The story goes is that she went back to Kastoria and died shortly afterwards. My great grandfether quickly remarried a Sophia Elias, also from Kastoria, and they came back to the USA and had 7 more kids. They settle in the Lower east Side (81 Ludlow St) from 1910-1922-ish before moving to East harlem (10 East 113th St)in 1920s, then to bensonhurt (5801 20th Ave) by 1928 along with the kastoria society. Some of bella Galano's family settled in Rio DeJeniro, brzil, where many still reside. There was a relative named Fina eskanzi my grandfather used to talk about. Any relationship?

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    3. I cannot believe this! My grandmother was Matilda Russo. She was from Kastoria, and I will be visiting there for the first time in my life in a few weeks. My grandfather was Abraham Pesserillo, and they lived on New Lots avenue.

      Everyone posts here anonymously, but I'd love to hear from relatives from that area. I'm feinf@umich.edu. Perhaps they won't allow emails, so that is F E I N F "at" U M I C H "dot" E D U. I'd love to hear from you.

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    4. Hello, my Husband is Robert Confino, Confino was his maternal grandfathers name. My father in law was known as Caliph Confino, but is birth name was Caliph Elias. He was born in Kastoria, his grandparents were Anna? and Leon (Baruch) Confino. he was born we think in 1902 and came to America about 1904 or 5. Any information you might have would be wonderful. Sincerely, Barbara Confino

      My E-Mail address issd zejbre@optonline.net

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    5. My grandmother was Mozelto Alias (maiden name). My grandfather was Avram Assael. the were from Kastoria . They moved to, and lived in Bensonhurst Bklyn their entire lives. I would love to take a fam trip with my grown children - and to be able to look up some records- birth, marriage, etc in some archives there, if possible.

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  2. I am from a family of Mevorahs and Roussos. Relatives immigrated to the US in the early 20th century to Brooklyn, NY from Kastoria. Looking to trace family history as far back as possible. (Spain???) Any information would be greatly appreciated.

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  3. My mother is a Mevorah. some of the family names were Russo Mayo Elias. I am interested in doing some research on the family. Any ideas?

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    1. My family is from KASTORIALI. They arrived in 1910. The family names include Assael: Galvanometers: and Elias.

      I am very passionate about this family's history. I recently came across a book written in French circa 1920s. Its called "the history of the Jew of KASTORIA". An English updated version is currently in the works. BUT if you go to the American Sephardic Federation (West 16th Street; nyc) they have a reserve room with a copy of the 1920s French version. Maybe this can hell

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    2. In Brooklyn New York, located at 1926 63 Street there is an orthodox Sephardic Kehilah(synagogue). Shabbat services are held 9:15 AM j cohen

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  4. I cannot believe this! My grandmother was Matilda Russo. She was from Kastoria, and I will be visiting there for the first time in my life in a few weeks. My grandfather was Abraham Pesserillo, and they lived on New Lots avenue.

    Everyone posts here anonymously, but I'd love to hear from relatives from that area. I'm feinf@umich.edu. Perhaps they won't allow emails, so that is F E I N F "at" U M I C H "dot" E D U. I'd love to hear from you.

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    1. My grandmother's maiden name was Pitsrillo, could be just a variation of Pessirillo. Her father was Morris, her mother Goldie (don't know her maiden name). As far as I know they were from Ioannina. Morris died young, their 4 children were all girls. Only have the married name of my grandmother (of course) and one other sister, Mazalo Pitsrillo Ellias. Whereabouts and descendants of the other sisters, Esther and Sylvia, is unknown.

      My grandmother was born some time around 1884-1886. Maybe you have some Pesserillo relatives that connect with my Pitsrillo!

      my email: "matzanews@gmail.com" is because I am compiling information on the Matza family, my mother's father's family. His name was Joseph Matza.

      Would like to hear from you,
      Rhonda Saldias

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    2. Fred, Please keep us posted on your trip. My grandparents came from Kastoria to the lower east side in 1913 and later lived in Manhattan Beach, Bkln. My grandmother's maiden name was Russo. Susan riverofgold@comcast.net

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  5. My grandparents, Sason and Leah (Pesserillo) Mevorah lived at 601 Williams Ave, a block from New Lots Ave. My mother Flora was born there, as were her sisters Sarah (Billie), and Sophie. Meyer (MICKEY) and Isadore (Izzy)were born there also. Sister Rebecca (Becky) was born in Kastoria. Lewbell@gmail.com

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    1. my grandmother was Esther Pesserillo she and my grandfather Benjamin Yahya lived on the lower east side than moved to new lots Hinsdale and riverdale ave 475 riverdale ave I am interested in finding my roots anyone out their think you can help me they had 6 children all gone now I am the first granddaughter born please reply to daiseymay18 @Hotmail.com

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  6. I got back from my trip to Kastoria! I met a woman whose parents knew my grandmother, who left nearly 100 years ago. Unreal.

    Sadly, there is nothing left there of the Jewish community. ONE family, and a memorial (of which I have photos now). It's a gorgeous town, with very friendly people. I hope to go back again some day...

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    1. my grandmother was Esther Pesserillo does the name mean anything to you
      I sure hope so her sister in law was Sophie Pesserillo who lived on fountain ave in the project back in the 50's

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  7. In Brooklyn NY located AT 1926 63 STREET, THERE EXISTS AN ORTHODOX SEPHARDIC SYNAGOGUE STARTED IN 1911 BY JEWS OK KASTORIA. WE HAVE SHABBAT SERVICES EVERY SHABBAT AT 9:15 AM.

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  8. i have just read all your comment im of greek background leaving in melbourne australia but was born in kastoria please do visit kastoria it is the most beatiful place you hav came across and to walk the street your ancestor have please please go and visit you wont be disappointed. thothora

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  9. Dear friends from Kastoria,
    I am really happy that I have found a group of jewish Kastorians here.

    We have just founded an Institute for Research & Cultural Heritage Management in Kastoria, and we want to collect all the information we can find about the jewish heritage in Kastoria, the family histories, maybe artefacts of that time and whatever might help to reconstruct the jewish past of the city.
    In case you would like to help us, I wish you could, please contact me:
    info@culture8.gr

    Best wishes
    Sultana

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