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Jews Were “An Integral Part” of Greece From as Early as 4th Century

Jews Greece
A Jewish inscription was exhibited at “Stone Paths—Stories Set in Stone: Jewish Inscriptions in Greece.” Credit: AMNA

A Greek inscription referring to Jews dated to between 300 and 250 BCE was unveiled at a new exhibit in Athens, proving that Jews were an integral part of ancient Greece.

The precious piece was discovered at the sanctuary of Amphiareion near Athens and makes reference to a freed slave from Judea.

The exhibition is a treasure trove of ancient inscriptions unearthed during more than two decades of research by the Jewish Museum of Greece.

It is the first time that a Jewish population has been confirmed to have been in the country as early as the fourth century BCE—one of the oldest recorded religious and cultural settlements in Europe, according to the exhibitions’ website.

Jews are “an integral part of Greek identity”

The Jewish existence in the area is proof of the crucial role that Jews played in the social, religious, political, and cultural life of ancient Greece, curators say.

“The Jewish community is an integral part of Greek identity, a fact that has been too often denied for centuries,” Greece’s chief rabbi Gabriel Negrin told AFP last week.

“This history should be passed on to future generations in order to combat ignorance and prejudice,” he added.

Curators say the show proves that Greek society was always multicultural and not exclusively dominated by Greek Orthodox religion.

“Inscriptions do not lie,” archaeologist Eleni Zavou from the Epigraphical Museum told AFP.

The first and main part of the exhibition is housed in the Epigraphic Museum, which contains unique Jewish epigraphic items from collections of museums and services of the culture ministry.

With the help of surveillance and digital material, all aspects of the social, religious, political, and cultural life of the Jews and their local communities in Athens, Mystras, and throughout Greece from antiquity to Ottoman rule are presented.

The second part, entitled Art of Memory and Remembrance, is presented at the Jewish Museum in Thessaloniki. It is curated by Victor Cohen and combines the past with the present through the “dialogue” of ten ancient inscriptions and objects with an equal number of works of contemporary art.

The exhibition’s findings “demonstrate the political, artistic, religious and economic importance of Jewish communities” in ancient Greece, Zavou said.

The show, Stone Paths—Stories Set in Stone: Jewish Inscriptions in Greece, runs until February 2023.

There are around 5,000 Jewish people living in Greece today. An estimated 60,000 Greek Jews perished in the Holocaust—around 83 percent of the prewar community.

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