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. Beginning in 2001 and guided by members of the KKJ community, Giordano documented the synagogue and its religious art of the congregation using film, video, and audio. This included trips to Greece to document KKJ’s mother city of Ioannina, and its small Jewish community.
In 2019 the Giordano family donated the archive of Vincent’s work to Queens College, where it is a major part of the Hellenic American Project and is preserved as part of the Benjamin S. Rosenthal Library’s Special Collections and Archives. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Special Collections and Archives has not yet processed the physical materials in the Vincent Giordano collection. Fortunately, we were able to use scans of Giordano’s prints and negatives to create a new online exhibit “Romaniote Memories, a Jewish Journey from Ioannina, Greece to Manhattan: Photographs by Vincent Giordano.” Many of these images have never been presented in public before.
The exhibition is curated by Samuel Gruber, President of the International Survey of Jewish Monuments and designed by Annie Tummino, Head of Special Collections and Archives, Benjamin S. Rosenthal Library. The opening reception, featuring a conversation with curators, distinguished guests, and friends, will take place via Zoom on Thursday, February 11, 2021 at 5 pm (register here).
The exhibition is sponsored by the Benjamin S. Rosenthal Library, Hellenic American Project, and Center for Jewish Studies at Queens College, as well as the International Center for Jewish Monuments, an independent non-profit organization. The Library and Center for Jewish Studies will be teaming up to offer a paid internship for a student to help process and catalog the Giordano collection during the next academic year.