THE KIPPAW. AN OLD HANADJI (or priest)
Reading prayers in a loud voice near the tomb of a venerated
Rabbi, awaiting visitors.
in the cemetery were functionaries who were usually not rabbis, much less
priests, as our photographer assumed them to be. They were
known more accurately as honacis. Many of the honacis were rabbinical
drop-outs though some were simply very poor members of the rabbinate who
added to their livlihood by serving the needs of visitors to the cemetery.
The word honaci is the Ottoman adaptation of the Persian root hon, which
means to shout or call out. A honaci is thus a
person who, in this context, shouts or calls out prayers. Most of the
visitors to the cemetery were women and most Salonica Jewesses were illiterate.
The task of the honaci was thus to read prayers proper for an occasion:
a memorial, visitation to a holy rabbis tomb, or even the commemoration
of a holiday. The honacis also served as guides through the maze of the
cemetery. They were called upon to locate the tombs of relatives, or on
occasion those of obscure rabbis or noted persons whose intercession was
being sought. Salonica had over 32 congregations, each quite distinct
in some ways and many of them could boast of long dead rabbis or kabbalists
whose proximity to God ensured the efficacy of supplication to them in
time of need. Some were apparently quite specialized in dealing with specific
problems: run-away husbands, maledictions such as the evil eye, and even
financial crises. Members of one congregation would often seek the intercession
of a defunct rabbi from another congregation and the honacis were an invaluable
assistance in finding such tombs.
The honaci shown here is wearing a somewhat typical, though work-worn
antari (kaftan) and on top of it a short jacket. On his head he is wearing
a black kavuk of a type worn by most of the members of his occupation.