Kehila Kedosha Janina (the Holy Community of Janina) is the only Romaniote synagogue in the Western Hemisphere. Romaniote Jews are a unique community of Jewish people whose history in Greece dates back over two thousand three hundred years to the time of Alexander the Great. The Romaniotes are historically distinct from the Sephardim, who settled in Greece after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492.
Our congregation was first organized in New York in 1906 by Greek-speaking Romaniote Jews from the city of Ioannina in Northwestern Greece. In the early twentieth century there were hundreds of other synagogues on the Lower East Side that served Ashkenazi Yiddish-speaking Jews or Sephardic Spanish-speaking Jews. Needing a place of their own where they could preserve their unique traditions, customs, liturgy, and language, property was purchased at 280 Broome Street and the congregation opened its doors to worship at its current location in 1927.
For the past 89 years, KKJ has served the Romaniote community on the Lower East Side and after the closing of nearby Sephardic synagogues, many of the remaining neighborhood Sephardim. In 1997, a Museum was created in the women’s gallery to tell the story of this distinct community to a world that knew so little about them. Today, KKJ is proud to be one of only a handful of active synagogues that remain on the Lower East Side.
The synagogue is a designated New York City landmark and continues to hold services every Shabbat as well as all Jewish holidays. In addition, it houses a museum about Greek Jewry that is open to the public every Sunday, as well as by appointment. The museum serves as a repository for Romaniote and Sephardic Greek Jewish history, both in Greece and on the Lower East Side, and hosts many educational events including lectures, book signings, movie screenings, and concerts.