Greece’s small Jewish community, whose origins predate the Parthenon, is facing hard challenges as a result of the country’s ongoing economic crisis. With employment opportunities sinking and anti-Semitism on the rise, a community that endured over two millennia and survived the Holocaust is resilient and, despite the crisis, committed to remain.
This video provides a brief overview of Greece’s Jewish heritage and contemporary life. We visit Athens, with its cherished Jewish school, modern campus housing the main synagogue and home to about 2500 Jews, the largest in the country. Nearby, in the city’s historic center, is the Jewish Museum of Greece, a cultural and compact gem showcasing the history, contribution and tragedy of Greece’s Jews. Among its attractions – permanent and temporary exhibits – is a section about the Romaniote Jews, whose origins date back over 2000 years and continue until now.
Salonica, once the hub of Sephardic Jewry and a city with so many Jews that the port was closed on Shabbat, has only a fledgling Jewish community today. Over 90 percent of the Jews of Salonica, now known as Thessaloniki, were deported and killed in the Holocaust. About 800 remain today, with two synagogues, a Jewish primary school, and a small museum.
Crucially maintaining support for the community is the JDC, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. Without it’s intervention, the survival of the Athens Jewish school was in doubt. And through its Gesher program, connecting with other Jewish communities of the Balkans energizes young Jews from Salonica.