Who We Are
In 1987, a newsletter was mailed to our immediate family. The purpose of the newsletter was to inform our relatives about family happenings. It seems that some of the family sent copies to relatives I did not know. The response was both rewarding and astounding. The one thing that I was always able to say, is that anyone with the name Colchamiro, is a relative.
Unfortunately, time and events prevented me from continuing the printed newsletter. In a more technological time, starting in 1998 to be exact, and now updated in 2020, we continue with news and history about the Colchamiro Family - this time posted on the World Wide Web.
As background, Romaniote Jews are a unique community of Jewish people whose history in Greece dates back over 2300 years to the time of Alexander the Great. With trade in that region, it is likely Jews in Greece migrated there earlier 1 (by clicking on this number you will be directed to a detailed YouTube video). The Romaniotes are historically and culturally distinct from the Sephardim who settled in Greece after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492. The Romaniotes first language is Greek while the Sephardim spoke Ladino (an old Spanish spoken from the 1400’s) with Greek as their second language. The Colchamiro Family are Romaniote Greek Jews. For more information about Romaniote Jews, see the website link here.
In the late 1890s and until 1924, many Greek Jews migrated to the United States: some for better economic opportunity, some to avoid being drafted into the Turkish Army as the Ottoman Empire then ruled Northern Greece. The Colchamiro Family was part of that migration from Greece. The Colchamiro name in Ioannina was Matathias (link to Elias’ ships papers but everyone had a nickname. The origin of the name Colchamiro, as spoken by Oscar Colchamiro in a recording click.
Our family history is centered around the rich culture of Greece and Ioannina. Upon immigrating from Greece, they first settled in New York City on the Lower East Side. Elias Colchamiro (the youngest son) was the first Colchamiro to arrive in New York with his sister Hanoula, her husband Isaac Cohen and their daughter. Elias’s ship’s manifesto link shows that from Ioannina they traveled to Cherbourg, France where they boarded the SS Moltke. The transatlantic crossing from Cherbourg to New York City took 12 days, departing November 23, 1903 arriving December 5, 1903.
Speranza Matza of Ioannina, daughter of Sam Matza and Bakula Matza sailed with her brothers Joe and Dave, and her 2 sisters Sarina and Chryssie (and husband and 2 children) from Le Havre, France on the ship SS La Touraine departing June 2, 1906 arriving NYC June 10, 1906 link. At Ellis Island, Chryssie was sent back to Greece because she had trachoma, an eye disease erroneously thought then to be contagious which was described in a paper by Jonny Hirsch.
Currently displayed on the Ellis Island American Immigrant Wall of Honor are Elias Colchamiro and Nancy Matza link. Although the families knew of each other in Ioannina, Elias Colchamiro and Speranza Matza were introduced in New York and married in New York City on October 23, 1908 link to wedding certificate.
The 11 Colchamiro siblings of Jessula Colchamiro and Rachel Galanos, all born in Ioannina, stayed close, moving from the Lower East Side to Harlem. Then, the family separated as some moved to the Bronx, others to Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, while our branch of the Colchamiro Family Tree link moved to Coney Island and other parts of nearby Brooklyn, finally settling in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, NY.
Each of the family members had apartments less than a block from the beach or a nearby bungalow within the neighborhood. This close proximity to one another contributed to the family dynamic: a special closeness, with a spirited joie de vivre conveyed to the 21 grandchildren of Elias and Speranza). The whole family group centered about our Nona living on Brighton 4th Street. Uncle Oscar, Aunt Terry, Aunt Diane lived there until they were married. Grandpa Elias passed away on July 27,1947. The Greek tradition is that the oldest son moves in with the Mother after the Father passes on. Jesse & Dotty, with Rhoda (3 yrs.) and Nancy (an infant) moved in with Nona. Nona passed away August 15, 1956. Nona’s children (my Aunts and Uncles) and the grandchildren continue on in this unique family closeness and heritage.
Our Nona’s family (the Matzas) also lived in Brighton Beach. Theo Joe Matza, the oldest brother of Nona lived on Brighton 5th Street with his wife Thea Ida Menachem and their children. Theo Dave and his wife Esther Menachem had a children’s clothing store on Brighton Beach Avenue. Thea Sarina lived across Brighton Beach Avenue on Brighton 1st Street. All of the cousins enjoyed the close proximity of one another and we were always just a block or two or so to visit Nona and Pop, my parents Uncle Jesse & Aunt Dotty or Uncle Morris & Aunt Esther, or Aunt Jean & Uncle Murray, or Aunt Rae & Uncle Jack or Aunt Terry & Uncle Sid. Uncle Oscar & Aunt Muriel moved to Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, NY and Aunt Diane & Uncle Nat moved to Yonkers, NY.
These pages are of Elias & Speranza Colchamiro family members, their published or oral history, their special memories, and photos shared here. On the page link to Family, you can access a more detailed look at each family member. It starts with the Elias and Speranza (Nancy) Colchamiro and their 9 children (my Aunts and Uncles) with links to my first cousins. The grandchildren, the great-grandchildren and now great-great grandchildren of Elias & Speranza Colchamiro continue to have a strong Greek family identity with amazing close ties to each other.
1 M. Ikonomopoulos* September 30, 2020, Jewish Study Center lecture, YouTube video
* Marcia Haddad Ikonomopoulos, with expertise in the history and culture, will provide a very special introduction to this venerable, but little known, world. Romaniote Jews, native to the Eastern Mediterranean, are still active in communities in Greece, Israel, New York and beyond. With a rich heritage of their own, neither Sephardi or Ashkenazi, Romaniote Jews have their own traditions, including their own Judaeo-Greek dialect, a distinct order of service, special holiday observances and cuisine.
Marcia Haddad Ikonomopoulos is the Director of the Kehila Kedosha Janina Museum in New York City, associated with the Kehila Kedosha Janina Synagogue, an active Romaniote congregation.