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General News

Greek & Jewish Communities’ Effort to Recognize Greek Independence Day in NJ

March 20, 2024

CLOSTER, NJ – As March is Greek Heritage Month, the Greek and Jewish communities joined together to recognize Greek Independence Day in Closter, NJ. The effort began with the Borough of Closter Councilmember Anna Maroules, a proud Greek-American, who was sworn into office on January 2. When the effort to recognize Greek Independence Day stalled, Maroules and Greek community members appealed to their friends and neighbors for an official recognition of March 25th as Greek Independence Day.

Dr. John Kallis, a well-known oral and maxillofacial surgeon and active member of the Greek-American community, reached out to his friend Dr. Munr Kazmir, Vice President of the American Jewish Congress (AJC), and a letter was sent to Closter Mayor John Glidden urging the recognition “as a gesture of appreciation towards the Greek-American community.”

Dr. John Kallis of Premier Oral Surgery Group PC. Photo by PremierOralSurgeryGroup.com.

Dr. Kallis spoke to The National Herald about the effort, noting that “here in New Jersey there are really only a couple of communities that have Greek Independence Day, one of them is in Fort Lee, where there’s a large Greek community, Bergen County does it occasionally and for the past couple of years, but we just recently had a really dynamic woman who became a councilmember [in Closter], Anna Maroules, Greek-American mother of three, and we were discussing bringing up Greek Independence Day.”

“A very good friend of mine, Dr. Kazmir, who lives in Closter, is the Vice President of the AJC which is a very powerful organization that promotes Jewish rights in America and strengthens the bond between the United States and Israel,” Dr. Kallis said. “And over the past several years, I’ve been helpful in supporting them and in turn they have been great in supporting Greek and Cypriot efforts, as a matter of fact they have even invited mayors from Greece to Israel for the big mayors conference they put on there, they are very instrumental in helping out politically.”

“So my dear friend was appalled that somebody would [oppose the effort to recognize Greek Independence Day], he told me ‘I’m going to use the power of the AJC to get the mayor and the council to recognize Greek Independence Day’ and I told him I would really appreciate it if he could do this for us and he did and sent a letter and in fact, they are going to have Greek Independence Day for the first time in Closter, NJ, with the first-time Greek-American councilwoman. And it was great to show the cooperation between us, just like I have helped the Jewish-American community, it was nice to see the Jewish-American community help the Greek-American community be recognized and that was important.”

Borough of Closter Councilmember Anna Maroules was sworn in on January 7. Photo: Eric Cho, dreambebe.com/ Anna Maroules Facebook

Dr. Kallis, whose parents are both from Thebes, has been recognized with a proclamation from the Bergen County Executive honoring him on Greek Independence Day as a Greek-American for his contributions to the community and his charitable efforts for the poor and for battered women. He regularly attends the annual New York Greek Independence Parade on Fifth Avenue and the annual Greek flag-raising in Fort Lee, NJ, and this year, he noted that he will be there as Closter, NJ, celebrates Greek Independence for the first time.

Dr. Kazmir also spoke to TNH about the effort for Greek Independence Day in Closter, praising Dr. Kallis, “he’s a great guy,” and noting that Councilwoman Maroules reached out to him. “She reached out to me and the AJC and we support Greek Independence Day in Closter,” he said.

Dr. Kazmir pointed out that his relationship with Dr. Kallis and Dr. Kallis’ with the Jewish community are very longstanding, “he’s a great guy and he has helped many [efforts] for Israel and we are happy to support Greek Independence and the initiative in Closter, NJ.”

When asked if Greek Independence Day would be an annual event in Closter, Dr. Kazmir told TNH that yes with Councilwoman Maroules it would be an annual celebration. “It’s important.” Dr. Kazmir said. “The Greek community needs to be recognized for its contributions to the town of Closter, but not only to Closter, to the State of New Jersey, as well as to the United States.”

The text of the letter sent to Closter Mayor John Glidden that was signed by AJC President Daniel Rosen and Vice President Dr. Kazmir follows:

“Dear Mayor Glidden,

The American Jewish Congress, founded more than 100 years ago by luminaries such as Albert Einstein and U.S. Supreme Court Justices Felix Frankfurter and Louis Brandeis, is one of America’s most venerable voices for Jewish-Americans and other minorities. Since its inception, our organization has been driven by the belief that Jews are more secure and thrive in a society that actively defends the rights of all its citizens. That is why, we have continuously advocated for the protection and the celebration of all minorities, at home and abroad.

In line with this legacy, we are writing to invite you to consider officially recognizing in Closter, New Jersey, the Greek Independence Day, which falls on March 25th, as a way to celebrate the identity and contribution of the local Greek American community. The local Greek-American community has built extensive and long-lasting positive ties with the Jewish community. We believe that such a recognition would be not only a gesture of appreciation towards the Greek American community, but also a way to incentivize further integration of the ethnic and religious minorities that have contributed and continue to contribute every day to the unique nature of American life.

Thank you for your friendship and consideration.”

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