General Population: 400,000
Jewish Population: 60
Almost all the Jews of Malta live in or around Valletta, the capital. The generally recognized authority concerning the history of the Jewish presence in Malta was the eminent scholar Cecil Roth, and the most comprehensive work is his paper “The Jews of Malta,” which he presented to the Jewish Historical Society of England in March 1928. Dr. Roth suggested that the Jews almost certainly came to Malta with the ancient Phoenicians, the ruins of whose settlements are found throughout the Maltese Islands. The first Jew known by name to have set foot on Malta in the Common Era was the apostle Paul of Tarsus, whose ship foundered there in 62 C.E. Greek inscriptions and menorah-decorated tombs indicate that Jews lived in Malta in the Roman era. From the 8th to the 11th centuries, the Arab rulers allowed the presence of a few dozen Jewish families who engaged in commerce, farming and medicine. In the following centuries, when the island was under Sicilian rule, Jews lived on Malta until their expulsion in 1492.
During the rule of the Knights of St. John (16th to 18th centuries), Jewish prisoners captured in raids on Turkey were held on Malta until ransomed. Due to the island’s proximity to North Africa, it is from this area that most of today’s Jewish community is descended. All told, there are some 20–25 Jewish families permanently living in the country. Most came from Libya, but others settled in Malta from the UK, Portugal and Austria. Most Jews make their living in businesses such as importing jewelry, textiles and clothing; others earn their livelihood in the free professions. Nearly all have close family ties to Israel.
Israel has full relations with Malta and is represented by its ambassador in Rome.
Jewish Community of Malta (JCM)
Tel: +356 386266
Although there are no Kosher restaurants or shops in Malta, a schochet from Jerusalem comes to the island regularly to provide meat.
For up to date information on Kosher restaurants and locations please see the Shamash Kosher Database
During its nearly two hundred years of existence, the modern community was never large enough or sufficiently economically secure to build a synagogue, and made due with a succession of rented premises.
In part thanks to generous donations from overseas, a permanent synagogue and community center was opened in Valletta in 2000. This was the first property owned by a Jewish community in 500 years. Though most community members are Sephardic, they use the Ashkenazi prayer book. Services are held on Shabbat and on the first day of all Jewish festivals.
A bronze sculpture of Moses holding the tablets of the law, created in 1567, stands to the right of the altar of St. John’s Co-Cathedral in Valetta. Among the other sites of Jewish interest are several small cemeteries. The oldest surviving one, the Kalkara Slave Cemetery, contains a Latin-inscribed plaque on the exterior wall, which states that the burial ground “was established in 1784 by the Leghorn Fund for Ransoming Hebrew Slaves.”
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