Arta Jewish Cemetery
Benjamin of Tudela, the 12th century Jewish traveler, recorded the presence of a Jewish community in Arta and a community existed in the 14th and 15th centuries. It reached its spiritual and financial peak in the 16th century, when it was the leading community in the region and numbered around 1,800 Jews (mostly Romaniots, as well as immigrants and refugees). The community, based on countries of origin, was divided into four congregations, each with its own synagogue and preserving its customs and traditions. Relations with the non-Jews during this period were confined to financial dealings and the Jews maintained neutral and often positive relations with the Turkish government. The numerous rabbis of the time were deeply involved in settling the congregational disputes, although a significant number of financial and personal controversies reached the Muslim courts. Among the prominent religious figures of Arta (and of Greece at large) during the 16th and 17th centuries was the Sephardi Rabbi Shemuel Kalai (author of Mishpetei Shemuel), regarded as an outstanding halakhic authority. In the 18th century, Jews emigrated to the Land of Israel. In 1881, when Arta was annexed to Greece, there was only one synagogue and in the following years many emigrated, mostly to North America. At the outset of the 20th century, the Jews numbered around 800 and maintained a Jewish school and a new synagogue. The Jewish population in 1940 came to 384. In the 1940s, 90% of the Jewish community perished in the camps. After the war, the community attempted to reestablish itself, but was finally dissolved by government order in 1959. Nothing remains of the Jewish community in Arta.
The exact period of the cemetery’s establishment is unknown, but it can be speculated that it may have emerged between the 14th and 15th centuries. However, the cemetery most likely operated since the 16th century.