The Jewish community of Arta (in Epirus) was well established by the time of the Ottoman conquest in 1449. Benjamin de Tudela (12th Century), in his recount of his travels though Europe, writes that he found 100 Jewish families in Arta. The original Romaniote community of Arta (Jews whose origin in Greece goes back to the 3rd century B.C.E) appears to have felt their identity threatened by the arrival of large numbers of Sephardi, Sicilian, Corfiote, Apuleian and Calabrian Jews. Until well into the 16th century, there were frequent disputes regarding customs, language and traditions between the congregations and it often became necessary to appeal to the rabbis of Thessaloniki for mediation.
Throughout the 18th century, and especially towards its end, Epirus was quite unsettled. Fought over by Venetians, Ottomans and then marauding Albanians, Arta did not fare well. There was considerable emigration to Ioanina, Patras and elsewhere.
The Jewish community of Arta continued to exist, but we dont know much about the period after 1821 until the end of the 19th century. For reasons that are unclear, the Artan Jewish community was not recognized under Greek law until 1918-20. By that time, it numbered only 150 families. There were two synagogues, one of which was quite ancient, and a school. The community was mainly involved in commerce and had some interests in village produce in the region.
At the time of the Axis partition of Greece, Arta had 384 Jews. In 1944, they were arrested en masse and deported to Auschwitz, where almost all of them perished.
Today, there is no Jewish community in Arta. The visitor can see the Puziela Synagogue in Koumoudourou St., and the remains of the Jewish quarter, near the fortress, as well as a Memorial for the Holocaust.
Based on Jewish Sites and Synagogues of Greece –
Nicholas P. Stavroulakis and Timothy J. DeVinney – Talos press