Romaniote Memories

A Jewish Journey from Ioannina, Greece to Manhattan: Photographs by Vincent Giordano.

Beginning in 2019 ISJM organized exhibitions of photos by the late Vincent Giordano. The first shows were held at the Consulate of Greece in New York and the Embassy of Greece in Washington, DC in the fall of 2019. Earlier in 2019 ISJM helped arrange the donation of the entire multi-media Vincent Giordano archive to Queens College, where the collection of photos, video and audio will be housed at the library Special Collections and the Hellenic-American archive Project.

A large exhibition was planned at Queens College for 2021, but because of the coronavirus pandemic it is now unlikely the exhibit will be mounted anytime soon, and ISJM is preparing a large online exhibition instead.

ISJM volunteers are also working on a photo book with substantive essays for publication – dependent on funding – in conjunction with the Queens College exhibit, whenever that happens. ISJM is seeking sponsorship to help with all aspects of the Romaniote Memories project.

The photographs are part of a multi-media archive, created by Giordano, who died in 2010, which was sponsored by International Survey of Jewish Monuments. The Vincent Giordano multi-media archive is comprised of an assortment of written material, photographic negatives, prints and slides, audio cassettes and other tapes, video mini-cassettes and other recordings, and miscellaneous material related to Giordano’s more than decade-long documentation of the Greek-Jewish community of Kehila Kedosha Janina in New York and the synagogue and community in Ioannina, Greece.

In 1999, photographer Vincent Giordano made an unplanned visit to the small Kehila Kedosha Janina (KKJ) synagogue on New York’s Lower East Side. He knew little about Judaism or synagogues, and even less about the Romaniote Jewish tradition of which KKJ, built in 1927, is the lone North American representative. In this he was not alone. Romaniotes –are among the least known of Jewish communities. Since the Holocaust, when 85% of all Jews in Greece perished and the historic Romaniote communities in Greece largely destroyed, KKJ has struggled to maintain its’ millennia-old traditions.