The Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce, The Hellenic-American Cultural Foundation, and American Friends of the Jewish Museum of Greece
Jews of Greece: 25 Centuries of Continuous Presence
Wednesday, April 19, 2017, 7:00 pm
at the offices of
Norton Rose Fulbright
1301 6th Ave, New York City
Dr. Mimis Cohen, MD, FACS, FAAP, is a founding member of the American Friends of the Jewish Museum of Greece and a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He will give a presentation on the early interaction of the Greek and “Romaniote” Jewish communities around the Eastern Mediterranean, including the cross-fertilization of ideas which has had a significant and long-lasting impact on Western civilization and became the basis of Judeo-Christian culture. The history of Romaniote communities and their traditions and customs will be discussed as well as the influence from their non-Jewish neighbors in the development of a unique culture. Tragically 86% of the pre-war Jewish population of Greece perished during the Holocaust, including the Jews from the Romaniote communities.
Dr. Cohen was born and raised in Athens after the Second World War. His parents survived the Holocaust in Athens thanks to the courage of Greek Orthodox friends. A reception with Dr. Cohen will follow the program.
The program and reception are free of charge, but please note, due to building security requirements, only registered attendees will be admitted to this event. No walk-ins will be permitted.
We are mourning the passing away of one of the principal founders of the Jewish Museum of Greece, as well as leading Member of the country’s Jewish Community.
Minos Mordechai was born on 15 May 1947, in Ioannina, the heart of Romaniote Greece. He was the first son of the three children of Auschwitz survivors, Solomon Mordechai and Anna Mordechai, born Levi. He started helping his father at his factory, at the young age of 8, as his father could neither read nor write. The name of the factory was Profisol and it made pipes. Later, he studied at the Polytechnic University of Athens, graduating as an engineer. After his father’s death, he worked with his younger brothers Isaak and Elias Mordechai and Aris Fornis at Athlitiki, S.A., an import company of Diadora and other sports clothes and shoes.
Since 1989, he and his two brothers involved themselves in banking, funding a Securities company, which was called Axias, S.A. and numbered other investors. Like his brothers, he was a prominent member of both the Jewish community and the Board as well as Friends of the Jewish Museum of Greece. In the past forty years, of the Museum’s existence, his presence and support were always keenly felt, at every turn. A generous benefactor, he has also been forthcoming with counsel and advice, during the many phases of the Museum’s establishment, development and consolidation. To him and to his family, the Friends of the Museum owe a heavy debt of gratitude for its remarkable progress into one of the leading museums of its kind in all of Europe and a mainstay of the Community.
A successful business leader, Minos stood out as exemplar of “tikkun olam”. Not only did he practice it, but he and all his family, excelled is social action and advocacy against all forms of racism and anti-semitism. Revealing of his character and deeply-held beliefs was the fact that, when on one occasion, his residence was robbed, he refused to answer the question whether, he thought, the thieves were immigrants or Greeks. For his fortitude and steadfast anti-racist human stance, he received, in 1997, the coveted prize: S.O.S. – Racism, bestowed by an NGO with this name.
He is survived by his wife Lila, two children Solomon and Dolyanna, and a newborn grandson.
As Greece prepares to mark the 76th Anniversary of its entry in World War II, after Mussolini’s invasion on October 28th, the country’s representatives in New York City, in close cooperation with AFJMG, launched a renewed exhibit of “Synagonistis”, at the Consulate General’s premises. It was a festive event, which started at 6:30 pm, on Tuesday, October 25th, 2016.
The Consulate General’s premises were soon full to capacity by the American Friends of the Jewish Museum of Greece and the diplomatic corps attending this event that has already made its tour in Washington, DC, Tampa, FL and Atlanta, GA. Synagonistis is the story of hundreds of Greek Jews who took part in the Greek underground resistance on the mountains of Greece.
A little after 6.30 pm, Dr. Konstantinos Koutras, Consul General of Greece in New York, greeted the many visitors and, in his words of welcome, highlighted the significance of the event. In particular, he stressed the importance of remembering the sacrifice of people, forgotten for too long. They were both Jews and Christians, brothers -in-arms who, early in the occupation, joined
The fight against Fascism and the savage occupation it had imposed on Greece; against an ideology of racism and anti-Semitism that it sought to impose on Europe.
Dr. Koutras was followed by Rabbi Martin A. Cohen, Spiritual Leader of AFJMG. In a brief but powerful message, enriched with facts and figures, as well names of Jews who fought in the resistance, Rabbi Cohen underscored the scale and the diversity of Jewish participation in the resistance movements and the war effort in general; a signal contribution that was totally out of proportion to the size of Jewish communities in pre-war Greece.
After a musical interlude, which featured the renowned Ballad of Mauthausen, of Mikis Theodorakis, interpreted by Mr. P. Kordis and Mr. N. Antoniou, it was Mr. Solomon Asser’s turn to speak to the occasion. After thanking our Greek hosts, the President of AFJMG analyzed the salient traits of the Jewish contribution to the country’s massive effort during WWII. He added a personal note remembering the names of several family members, who joined in the resistance and fought either as doctors or as combatant. Furthermore, the president praised the Jewish Museum of Greece for its notable initiative in mounting this exhibit. One of the many facets of its output and outreach; which brings to light the history, traditions arts and culture, but also contribution of the Greek Jewish communities, certainly the oldest in the entire European Union.
Jewish Museum of Greece, Athens
Drawing from Plato’s “Theory of Forms”, the artist explores the ability of the senses to convey Ideas. Whereas in Plato’s Phaedo the senses are seen as an impediment to the understanding of truth, this exhibition is a study of our capacity to perceive through the senses. Thus, sense perception becomes an instrument of knowledge, and the physical, material objects become a manifestation of abstract Ideas.
Fragoudaki delves into the greater concept of materiality questioning what we see, what we feel and what we are able to understand. Through her interaction with the material she is trying to reveal Forms that are inherent to the objects, but hidden at first sight. Once the artist interacts with materials, she becomes aware of what they are and their properties and often transforms them, challenging our notion of reality.
The works in this exhibition were inspired by artifacts from the permanent exhibition of the Jewish Museum of Greece. They express the artist’s interpretation of the tactile, material culture of two thousand years of Jewish history in Greece through stone, wood, paint, paper and textile objects.
MAYOR BOUTARIS’ ADMINISTRATION INITIATIVES
TO BRING UP
THE JEWISH HERITAGE OF THESSALONIKI (2011-2016)
The Mayor strongly supports and acts as an advocate for the idea to administer the Greek nationality back to the Jews who having survived the Holocaust fled Greece. They were deprived of their second nationality the Greek one after a controversial political decision was taken by the central government during the 50’s.
In the context of the Boutaris’ Administration initiative to promote ‘cities’diplomacy’, the Mayor actively assists the efforts of Thessaloniki’s Jewish Community to bring back to Thessaloniki the historical Greek-Jewish Archives kept in Moscow for the past 65 ye It seems that this story is going to have soon a happy ending.
On Boutaris’ Administration request Thessaloniki participates in the National Martyrdom Cities’ Network – something that the previous administrations denied systematically on the ludicrous allegation that “Thessaloniki’s Jews lost their lives elsewhere”.
The Thessaloniki City Council paid honor to the last Holocaust survivors, Thessaloniki Jews citizens, as soon as the new Administration took office in 201
In 2013 and for the first time ever, the Municipality of Thessaloniki participated with a big delegation representing all the city’s actors at the ‘March of the Living’ in Krakow, Poland. Mayor Boutaris was the head of the delegation and lit one of the six candles in memory of the six million Jews lost in the Holocaust.
For the first time ever in 2013, the Municipality of Thessaloniki organized a Silent March in remembrance of the first train deporting Thessaloniki Jews to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps 70 years after the Holocaust. The events were attended by the political authorities of the country, the region and the city, and by thousands of Thessaloniki citizen Relevant events took place also during 2014 (71 years after the Holocaust) and 2015 (72 years after the Holocaust). In 2016 (73 years after the Holocaust), the Silent March was also attended by the Mayor of Tel Aviv-Yafo, Mr. Ron Huldai, and the Head of the “March of the Living”, Mr. Aaron Tamir.
The “Liberty Square” (Platia Eleftherias) at the heart of Thessaloniki, Greece, a place of great importance for the city, since several historic events took place during the long Thessaloniki history, is planned to be restored into a proper public space for social gathering and relaxation (until now it has largely been used as a parking lot) as a way to pay real tribute to the important historical moments of the cit The remodeling of the square is the best opportunity to move the Holocaust Monument to a more prominent spot within this historical place.
The Municipality of Thessaloniki promotes the founding of the HolocaustMuseum and Educational Centre close to the Old Train Station, the spot from where the Jews of Thessaloniki were deported to the concentration camp The Museum will serve as a symbol to remind the dramatic events of WWII and to uphold the memory of the more than 50.000 Thessaloniki Jews lost at the Holocaust. In that context, a memorandum with the Thessaloniki Jewish Community and the National Railways Services was signed during the first term of the Boutaris’ Administration to secure the land upon which the Museum is going to be built. Architectural plans are ready, and the project is in the stage of securing building permits, while funding is being sought.
In early 2016, a Memorandum of Understanding between the Thessaloniki Jewish Community and the Memorial de la Shoah of Paris was signed in the premises of the Thessaloniki City Hall and in the presence of Mayor Boutaris. This development opens the way for the organization of the Memorial de la Shoah to offer its experience and know-how for setting up the Holocaust Museum and Educational Centre.
During the inauguration ceremony of the City Council (28 August 2014) for the new Local Administration term (which will last until 2019), M Boutaris wore the Star of David as a symbolic move against totalitarianism, racism and exclusion and as a move to remind the Holocaust, provoked by the fact that for the first time ever two Golden Dawn city councilors, who praise the Holocaust, have been elected in the Thessaloniki City Council.
The Spiritual Leader of AFJMG, Rabbi Martin A. Cohen, Ph.D., was honored by the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City, for 60 years of distinguished service as professor of history on Thursday, April 14, 2016.
A recognized authority on Judaism, Rabbi Cohen has written extensively on Jewish history, theology and education. His historical books include The Martyr, on the secret Jews and the Mexican Inquisition, Two Sister Faiths, on early Rabbinic Judaism and early Christianity, and his edition of Sephardim in the Americas. The San Diego Opera Company premiered an opera entitled The Conquistador, based on The Martyr, in March 1997.The Martyr has now been reprinted (2001) by the University of New Mexico Press. Dr. Cohen’s translation into English of the classic work of the Portuguese Renaissance, Samuel Usque’s Consolation for the Tribulations of Israel, has undergone two editions and received wide acclaim. His theological works include the book Jewish Mission/Christian Mission, co-edited with Helga Croner. Dr. Cohen’s work in the field of education is exemplified by his co-editorship of the series entitled Adventures in Living Judaism. Dr. Cohen has contributed studies to various encyclopedias, among them The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible and the Encyclopedia of Religion, and seventeen articles to the Encyclopedia Judaica, of which he served as an editor of three departments. Dr. Cohen’s book, The Canonization of a Myth, dealing with the Inquisition and its political role in seventeenth century Portugal, was published in 2003. Dr. Cohen is presently working on a series of major projects in Sephardica and a book on the formation of Rabbinic Judaism.
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1928, Rabbi Cohen attended the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned his bachelor’s degree (1946) and master’s degree in Romance Languages (1949). He taught as an instructor in Romance Languages for four years at the University of Pennsylvania (1946-1950) and one year at Rutgers University (1950-1951) before entering the United States Air Force in 1951. He enrolled at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1953, was ordained in 1957 and received his Ph.D. in Jewish History in 1960. He began teaching at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1955, part time, and from 1960, as a full time member of its faculty, serving in Cincinnati until 1962. In 1962, he joined the faculty in New York, where he has served uninterruptedly, despite his many other activities, as Professor of Jewish History. In addition, Rabbi Cohen has served as visiting professor of history and theology in various colleges, among them Antioch College, Temple University and Hunter College of the City University of New York. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and is listed in the Dictionary of American Scholars.
Rabbi Cohen’s devotion to the Jewish community is evidenced by his service as rabbi to communities in Cleveland, Ohio; Muncie, Indiana; Louisville, Kentucky; Monroe, New York; Brooklyn, New York, and the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in New York City. For over forty years he has served as Chaplain of the Metropolitan [New York] Conference of the National Federation of Temple Brotherhoods, which conferred upon him its first annual Solon Miles Chadabee Award for outstanding achievement, twice designated him Man of the Year, and in 1998 bestowed upon him its Tikkun Olam award for distinguished service to Brotherhood, the Jewish people and the community at large.
In the broader community, Rabbi Cohen has served as president of the American Society of Sephardic Studies; Chairman of the Board of the Jewish Historical Society of New York; National Chaplain of the AMVETS, in this capacity the first Korean War veteran to achieve national office in a major veterans’ organization; member of the Board or Directors of the Jewish Conciliation Board of America; Scholar and Consultant on International Affairs of the Foreign Relations Commission of the New York Board of Rabbis; Chairman of the International Scholars Committee of the Anti-Defamation League of the B’nai B’rith; co-editor of Nuestro Encuentro, the Anti-Defamation League’s first publication in Spanish; and, for the last nine years of his long service to that organization, Chairman of its Commission on Jewish-Catholic Affairs and co-Chairman of its National Interfaith Department. Since 2005, Dr. Cohen has also been serving as the spiritual leader of the American Friends of the Jewish Museum of Greece.
In August of 1998, Dr. Cohen presented the keynote address at Santangel 98, an international conference on Sephardic and related scholarship hosted by the Dominican University. Rabbi Cohen has been married for sixty-two years to Dr. Shelby Ruth Cohen, now Professor Emerita of Applied Psychology at Kean University.
The Annual Holocaust Remembrance Day of the Greek Jewry was commemorated at the Consulate General of Greece in New York City on Tuesday, February 2, 2016.
The ceremony began with introduction by Ambassador Georgios Iliopoulos, Consul General of Greece in New York, followed by Rabbi Martin A. Cohen, Professor of Jewish History at the Hebrew Union College.
The keynote speaker was Ambassador Loucas Tsilas, who gave a presentation “Understanding the Holocaust”.
Mr. Solomon Asser, President of the American Friends of the Jewish Museum of Greece gave his remarks on behalf of AFJMG and presented an award to Ambassador Georgios Iliopoulos for his important work in promoting Greek-Jewish heritage.
The ceremony ended with closing remarks by his Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
The exhibit opened April 1st, 2015 at the Washington Hebrew Congregation and is on display until May 26. On April 21, the synagogue hosted a reception celebrating the opening of “Synagonistis: Greek Jews in the National Resistance” and welcomed Zanet Battinou, the director of the Jewish Museum of Greece. Also present were Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, Greek Ambassador to the U.S. Christos P. Panagopoulos and local Jewish and Greek-American community leaders.
After the six-month war on the Albanian front, in April 1941 Greece succumbed to the forces of the Wehrmacht and for the next three-and-a-half years experienced the darkest period of its modern history. Despite the unbearable terror, executions and the famine during the first winter of 1941–42 that decimated the population, especially in urban centres, Greeks by the thousands were won over to the idea of resistance. In 1943, Athens was gripped by strikes and demonstrations which were steeped in the blood of its residents, while from 1941 insurgent groups appeared in the countryside and in 1943–1944 they became real partisan armies that engaged in regular battles with the occupiers.The victims of struggle against the occupiers were many: more than 30,000 died in combat, were murdered or executed; more than 800 villages were burned in retaliation and the country’s infrastructure destroyed.
Greek Jews were not absent from this struggle, which embraced the whole country and its people. In the general patriotic upsurge during the occupation, the survival instinct blended with the desire for revenge. The deportations of thousands of co-religionists, relatives and friends – and the terrorism, humiliation and executions which preceded them – sparked the emergence of a dynamic resistance on the part of the Jews.
Although the available data is limited and fragmentary, it is estimated that about 650 Jewish men and women, from almost all the Jewish communities in the country, enlisted in the various resistance groups from the beginning of the occupation to the liberation or joined the partisans to escape the grasp of the Nazis. The exhibition “Synagonistis: Greek Jews in the National Resistance” aims to highlight this heroic, but also torn-out page of modern Greek history. To narrate the tale of Greek Jewish resistance during World War II. To pay tribute to all those who refused to bear the Yellow Star, by naming them and presenting personal documents, photos, testimonies that underline their courage and self-sacrifice during the darkest times. Identifying the fallen resisters, one by one, is the minimum debt owed to those who chose the glorious death of a warrior mixed their blood with the ashes of the thousands of their coreligionists who were murdered by the Nazis.