NEW YORK – The President of the American Friends of the Jewish Museum of Greece, Solomon Asser, on March 26 shared an update on the organization’s efforts so far this year along with greetings for Passover, the Holiday of Pessach. The text of the message follows:
Dear Friend of the Jewish Museum of Greece,
After many months of coping with the isolation and stress of the “new normal,” we are now beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. With the vaccination of millions of Americans and coming herd immunity, an “exodus” from this pandemic will, hopefully, materialize.
By the beginning of summer, meeting our friends in person and traveling abroad will be real possibilities. The Jewish Museum of Greece—which has continued to work remotely and effectively throughout this time—plans to soon resume its vastly expanded outreach and research activities. It will be there to welcome you, its friends, with open arms and open doors.
On January 21st, the American Friends of the Jewish Museum of Greece marked the 76th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz. The Remembrance Day of Greek Jewry was commemorated in a highly-attended worldwide virtual Zoom event, in the presence of His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros and under the auspices of the Ambassador of Greece in Washington, Her Excellency Alexandra Papadopoulou.
Some 50,000 Jews – Romaniote and Sephardic – perished in Auschwitz and other camps, approximately 90% of the pre-war Greek Jewish community. Their story has been told, though never often enough, by the Jewish Museum of Greece and its American Friends.
During this virtual event, the Jewish Museum of Greece presented the Exhibit “The Good Shepherds” (“Oi Kaloi Poimenes”). It tells the story of heroes, all members of the clergy, both Jewish and Christian, who risked their lives resisting the inhumanity of the Occupation Forces, attempting to forestall or diminish the scale of deportations to Auschwitz. Among the Christian Shepherds was Archbishop Damaskinos, noted for the example he set saving Greek Jews during those fateful years from 1941 to 1944, and who we continue to commemorate through the Damaskinos Award.
On the Jewish side, we remembered the Rabbis of Athens, Volos and other cities, whose persistence and tenacity in the midst of peril and chaos made them cooperate with Resistance groups to spirit away members of their congregations to the mountains of “free” Greece. Unfortunately, not enough could be saved through such heroic acts, a cruel fact that the exhibit “Hidden Children” reminded us of just a few years ago.
But such stories of heroes and children must be recalled, in their glory and their horror, to remind us of the fortitude and the spirit of our humanity, just as we recall the story of the Exodus with the Haggadah. AFJMG intends to bring “The Good Shepherds” exhibit to the United States, thus making it accessible to many more Americans Friends of the Jewish Museum.
On February 25, the Jewish Museum of Greece provided a preview of its future plans and programs at a virtual get-together held to honor the memory of David Tiano, himself a victim of the Holocaust. Featured among the speakers of this event were the US Ambassador to Greece and the US Consul in Thessaloniki, who have steadfastly sponsored this event over the years.
The keynote presentations celebrated the past and present accomplishments of our historic communities in Ioannina, Arta and Corfu, highlighting the Romaniote traditions which, thanks to the Jewish Museum of Greece and our association, are experiencing a revival after many decades of neglect. To underscore the importance of these traditions, presentations were made by Zanet Battinou, the director of the Jewish Museum of Greece, Dr. Mimis Cohen, a member of our Board, and the first Jewish mayor of Ioannina, Dr. Moses Elisaf.
All three of these Romaniote speakers forcefully expressed the hope that Ioannina could become the hub of a Romaniote revival, bringing to Corfu, Arta and all of Greece large groups of friends from abroad. We, the American Friends of the Jewish Museum of Greece, look forward to these groups from the US and Canada who choose to celebrate the High Holidays in Greece, notably in Ioannina and Corfu… once the pandemic is past, of course.
On behalf of the Board and myself, we send you and your families warmest wishes on the occasion of the Holiday of Pessach. Please celebrate the holiday remembering and honoring the Jewish Museum of Greece and our Greek Jewish communities, which serve us well, bringing our unique traditions back to light. As always, please all contribute generously! And may you all enjoy a blessed holiday.
Chag Pessach Sameah!
Please donate at: www.afjmg.org/donate/
American Friends of the Jewish Museum of Greece