Keeping the Faith: Meet the Romaniotes!

Every gift helps tell the story of the Romaniotes in my documentary, Keeping the Faith: Meet the Romaniotes! Help support a project that preserves Greek history and culture - and NYC history.

So - what's better? Babka or baklava?
Come along on a journey that preserves Greek history by supporting a film that answers this pressing question and takes a look into the little known world of the Romaniotes.
Keeping the Faith: Meet the Romaniotes! brings you into a community that includes my grandmother and her ancestors from Janina (modern day Ioannina) and how they managed to survive over the past 2,300 years.
Romaniotes are Greek Jews that have struggled to hang on since the time of Alexander the Great. They’re considered the oldest Jewish community in Europe and thrived in Greece until the Holocaust decimated the community and eradicated much of their legacy.
Like so many other immigrants, they sought refuge and a chance at a better life here in the US. Romaniotes established a synagogue, Kehila Kedosha Janina, which translates to Holy Community of Janina in 1927 on Broome Street. It was founded by working class Greek immigrants from Janina, a small town in northwest Greece.

But now, with so few Romaniotes remaining in the U.S. and in Janina, their traditions are at risk of disappearing. Keeping the Faith goes to the Lower East Side where the only Romaniote synagogue in the western hemisphere still manages to hang on, and to Greece where ancient traditions and a small community struggle for their survival.
This hearty band of Greek Jews has survived slavery in ancient Rome, a shipwreck, poverty, wars, anti-Semitism, the Holocaust, gentrification, and a dwindling congregation.
Today, only four synagogues on the Lower East Side are still active. Against all odds, Kehila Kedosha Janina is one of them, plopped down in Chinatown around the corner from Vanessa’s Dumpling House. The synagogue is the only one of its kind in the western hemisphere. Keeping the Faith is a portrait of a community that refuses to disappear.
My documentary tells the history of the Romaniotes through my grandmother’s story including an arranged marriage and working outside of the home which was unusual at the time, relatives who perished in the Holocaust, congregation leadership valiantly using social media to tug an ancient religion into the 21st century, and a museum director who is the keeper of Romaniote history, including its archival photography and artifacts that will be used to tell the Romaniote story.
With a mission of sparking powerful conversation among identity and preservation, Keeping the Faith explores such questions as, What does it mean to hold on to an identity for two thousand plus years? How is this community doing it today? What lessons might be valuable to other religious or cultural groups who are also struggling to survive? Is baklava better than babka?
This resilient group of Romaniotes has been documented over the past few years through interviews and footage filmed at Kehila Kedosha Janina, its sister synagogue, and in Greece, as well as the Lower East Side and the Bronx. Archival footage, photographs, and music are key components.
Now it's time to put it all together. Post production costs include editing, music rights, archival film and photographic rights, sound editing, and color correction.
The generous support of donors like you will enable me to complete this important documentary that answers the question that other religious and cultural institutions face: What happens when there's no one left?
Keeping the Faith was recently awarded with a $2,500 grant from Inwood Art Works. A very generous donor recently contributed $1,800 in memory of his late wife’s family who are Romaniotes from Janina.
Would you consider making a gift to support the legacy of this community?
Please reach out to me via email if you'd like to make your contribution via check.
Thank you so much for helping to document history!

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