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Culture

AHEPA Hosts History Tournament, Anna Rezan and Her Film ‘My People’

February 21, 2024

CHERRY HILL, NJ – The root of the saying “twice as nice” hails from Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher of the Classical period. On February 19, 2024, AHEPA Chapter 69 and the Daughters of Penelope (DOP) Nike #230 of Cherry Hill, NJ opened their doors to the community for their own version of Plato’s Academy of Hellenism for the Delaware Valley and beyond.

AHEPA globally has for years hosted this tournament in various districts around the world. The tournament tests high school teams sponsored by AHEPA chapters in Hellenic History in three distinct categories: Ancient, Byzantine, and Modern Hellenic History. The ‘Jeopardy’-style tournament encourages young adults to learn our history. Scholarship funds are provided to the winning team as well as a smaller amount to the runner up team. Thereafter the winners of each of these AHEPA tournaments globally participate in a championship, usually at the Supreme Convention, for even more scholarship funds and for the right to be crowned champion.

High school students from all over New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Delaware came to see and participate in the annual AHEPA Hellenic History Tournament at the Danielle Kousoulis Center at St. Thomas Greek Orthodox Church, hosted by the local chapters and also by the AHEPA and Daughters of Penelope District 5 lodges. The lodges came out in full swing to support the ten teams. AHEPA District 5 Governor John Koninis and DOP District 5 Governor Kelly Papachristos welcomed the various high school teams to the tournament over an introductory breakfast opening session.

The Jewish delegation at the screening of ‘My People’ with Holocaust survivor Moshe Matsa, General Consul of PanamaGeorgia Athanasopulos, V. Rev Avgoustinos Psomas, Anna Rezan, and AHEPA Board of Trustees Vice Chair George G. Horiates. Photo: Steve Lambrou

Hellenic History tournament chair Steve Marmarou and AHEPA Director of Education Cosmas Diamantis set forth the tournament rules and revealed the first round draws.

AHEPA Supreme Governor Demetrios Rozanitis welcomed the crowd which included the families of participants and observers. On behalf of AHEPA Supreme President Savas Tsivicos, he noted that that last year’s winning team participated in the AHEPA Global finals at the Supreme Convention in Las Vegas and came in second and that the previous year’s AHEPA Global champion team came from this tournament as well. He thanked the major sponsors of the event for providing assistance with the sponsorship monies, particularly the Rentschler Foundation through a grant made possible by Ahepan and St. Thomas Parish Council President Anastasios Efstratiades as well as the AHEPA District 5 lodge.

The championship was played on the large theater screen that was set up for the upcoming film screening. The winning team, like all teams, had selected a Hellenic based name, the all-female team was ‘The Aphrodites’ sponsored by AHEPA’s Garden State chapter in Holmdel, NJ. They will go on to compete in AHEPA’s global final this upcoming summer.

The students and their families were treated to a special guest appearance by filmmaker Anna Rezan. The Delaware Valley premiere of her film ‘My People’ followed the conclusion of the tournament. Rezan had just arrived from Greece, stopping in before the evening program to address the students.

She gave an impassioned speech, congratulating them for competing and for not forgetting their roots. Rezan encouraged the participants to dream big and wished them success and happiness.

The multi-talented Rezan is widely known as an actress, musician, and high fashion model. ‘My People’ is her feature documentary debut which she produced along with Zafeiris Haitidis and Academy Award winners Mitchel Block and Kim Magnusson. Executive Producer Victor Restis, Grand Sponsor Bella Restis and the Macias Restis Foundation were thanked for making the production of the film possible.

About 700 people attended the film screening.

‘My People’ is the story of the Greek Jews during the Holocaust, the Axis occupation, the Greek resistance, and the role of the Greek Orthodox clergy; a hymn to love and courage as it is discovered by a young woman in her quest to uncover her Greek Jewish family’s history.

Rezan received a standing ovation as the film ended and was congratulated by George Horiates who noted that AHEPA’s leadership delegation along with leaders from major Jewish American organizations visit Israel’s World Holocaust Remembrance Center, Yad Vashem, annually. He thanked Rezan for the screening and suggested that attendees reach out to her for additional screenings.

A Q&A session followed.

St. Thomas presiding priest V. Rev. Archimandrite Avgustinos Psomas welcomed Rezan to the community and thanked AHEPA for promoting this important and outstanding program.

Among those present was General Consul of Panama in Philadelphia Georgia Athanasopulos who congratulated Rezan on her work and introduced the large contingent of Philadelphia’s Jewish attendees, including Moshe Matsa of Philadelphia, a Greek Jewish Holocaust survivor. He thanked AHEPA and Rezan and shared heartfelt parts of his own story in English and in Greek, bring tears to the eyes of the audience members.

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