Feature Stories

Scholarships Give Greece’s Jewish Children Second Chance at J-School

JDC’s scholarship initiative for Greek families facing financial crisis is ensuring children like Moni can continue to receive a Jewish education.
JDC’s scholarship initiative for Greek families facing financial crisis is ensuring children like Moni can continue to receive a Jewish education.

Since closing the doors of the family clothing business in Athens for good last year, Rafail, 58 has had to count every Euro. Unable to afford the mortgage or sell the house, he and his wife, Sara were forced to cut spending back to a near halt—including pulling their small children, Lela, 10, and Moni, 6, out of Athens’ Jewish Community School.

As Greece’s sovereign debt crisis turns into a full-fledged domestic economic emergency, the skyrocketing unemployment and small business bankruptcy rates are rattling families throughout the country. Rafail and Sara are among hundreds of families in the Jewish community making heartbreaking decisions just to keep a roof over their children’s heads.

The Greek Jewish community, consisting of some 5,000 Jews, operates synagogues, a Jewish school, a cultural center, and a soup kitchen to aid the most vulnerable members of their community. But with the country’s dire financial situation, the majority of Jewish communal institutions are struggling to stay afloat.

Many members of the Greek Jewish community are now unemployed and falling below the poverty line; people who were once the community’s steadfast supporters are now turning to the community for help.

Not long ago, Rafail was an important donor and offered his support to his children’s school. A keystone of the Athens Jewish community, the J-school offers the full curriculum of the Greek Ministry of education, as well as Hebrew and Jewish History. There’s a pre-school day-care for kids starting at age 2.5. Kids begin learning Hebrew in kindergarten; they study Judaism and Jewish history from first grade on, and celebrate and visit Israel. “Our aim is to make each student feel connected to the Jewish community and understand his/her role in it,” says Principal George Kanellos.

“When kids graduate from our school they can communicate in Hebrew; they know about our traditions, our religion, and our history,” he said.

Jewish education is even more essential in small communities like Greece’s, he argues. “Where we live it is very hard to preserve Jewish life. It is not just the learning at our school that is essential. The contact with other Jewish families and the deep friendship bonds that are created here are invaluable. The school cements ties within the community, which is like an extended family.”

The community was shocked to learn that Lela and Moni had to leave the school, and they came together to offer the children full scholarships. In these toughest of times, a special emergency grant from JDC for welfare and tuition assistance enables the community to extend a lifeline to families like this one.

Tags for this story: Children, Education, Families

Subscribe to our RSS feed: Feature Stories – JDC Around the World
X

An error occurred during your login.

X

JDC, Cookies, and Your Privacy

Cookies are small pieces of information sent by our web server for storage on your computer, to be retrieved when you return to this site. We use cookies to allow you faster, more convenient access, and to prevent you from being required to log in on every page of our sites.

For more information on JDC’s use of cookies, read our Privacy Policy.

X

An Error Occurred

X

Logging In With One of Your Social Web Site Logins

Instead of trying to remember a bunch of special username/password combinations to log in to different web sites that you visit, you can now link your account on this web site to your account on one (or more) of the social media web sites shown and log in with the same username/password combination that you use on that social web site to log in to our site.

To provide this connection in a secure manner, we use Gigya, a social network connection provider that works behind the scenes to make safe, secure connections between user accounts on different systems, such as popular social media web sites like Facebook and web sites like ours where you are actively involved in social issues and causes.

Each time you log in, Gigya uses special application programming interfaces (APIs) to establish the connection between the sites and validate your username and password. Neither our web site or Gigya receive or store your social network passwords.

In addition to reducing the number of logins you have to remember, connecting your accounts can make it quicker and easier to share an activity or cause you feel passionately about from our web site with your friends on your social web sites.

You can break the connection between your accounts at any time.