Solomon Asser, the President of the American Friends of the Jewish Museum of Greece, sent Passover greetings to all those who have taken part in the Museum’s offerings this past year and gave an update on the Museum’s reopening plans.
Asser says that “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.
Zoom events well-attended, Asser notes in Passover Message
As reported in Greek Reporter, on January 21st of this year, 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,” Asser stated, which His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros and the Ambassador of Greece in Washington, Her Excellency Alexandra Papadopoulou, took part.
“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,” Asser stated.
As part of this event, the Jewish Museum of Greece presented their exhibit called “The Good Shepherds” (“Oi Kaloi Poimenes”). This “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,” Asser states.
Archbishop Damaskinos commemorated through annual Damaskinos Award
Among these was Archbishop Damaskinos, who is revered for the example he set in saving Greek Jews during those fateful years from 1941 to 1944, and is commemorated every year through the “Damaskinos Award.”
“On the Jewish side,” Asser related, “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,” the Friends director stated, “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.”
Asser went on to state that the 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 and others who are interested in this period of history.
Another virtual get-together took place on February 25, when the Jewish Museum of Greece hosted a presentation in honor the memory of David Tiano, an employee of the American Embassy in Thessaloniki, who was captured, tortured and executed by the German occupiers of the city.
US Ambassador takes part in Tiano Lecture presentation
Featured among the speakers at that event were Geoffrey Pyatt, the US Ambassador to Greece and Elizabeth K. Lee, the US Consul in Thessaloniki, who have 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,” Asser stated.
Remembering Greece’s Jewish communities during Passover
“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,” Asser concluded, “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!”
All those who are interested in donating to the American Friends of The Jewish Museum of Greece may visit their website, here.