Rattled by the Euro debt crisis gripping the country, Greece’s small yet vibrant Jewish community is facing an unprecedented emergency: the majority of Jewish communal institutions—synagogues, a Jewish school, a cultural center, and a soup kitchen—are on the brink of closure and many members of the community are unemployed and struggling to support themselves and their families.
JDC’s partnership with the Greek Jewish community dates back to 1915, when funds were sent to the Chief Rabbi of Thessaloniki. In the decades that followed, JDC helped equip the local Jewish elementary schools, rebuilt the Jewish quarter nearly destroyed in a fire, established a micro-financing program for the poor, and aided refugees fleeingGreece prior to Nazi occupation.
More than 85% of Greek Jews perished during the Second World War, and most of the survivors emmigrated to Israel. But for the 7,000 Jews who remained, JDC aided with emigration, earthquake relief, long-term credit programs, vocational training, and medical assistance. As the community became self-sustaining by the mid-1960s, JDC began to partner with local institutions to help cultivate future community leaders and ensure a viable Jewish future in Greece.
Today, in the wake of the economic crisis, JDC, through the local Jewish community, is helping to:
- Save the poorest Greek Jews by supplying food, shelter, and other relief services to elderly who are struggling to survive on plummeting pensions. JDC is leading the global Jewish effort to secure crisis-related social services for children in need, young families, and other adults thrust into poverty by job loss or severely reduced incomes.
- Developing tomorrow’s Jewish leaders by providing scholarships for young Jews whose families are no longer able to afford Jewish day school tuition due to their financial hardship. JDC also supports young Greek Jews’ participation in regional leadership retreats and camp programs, ensuring a future cadre of spirited young leaders for the community.
Find out how JDC’s scholarship initiative for Greek families facing financial crisis is ensuring children like Moni can continue to receive a Jewish education at Athens’ Jewish Community School.
DID YOU KNOW?
By the fall of 1945, JDC was providing aid to half of the Jewish population in Greece, including basic material assistance, medical care, and housing. JDC’s loan “kassa” provided funds for refugees’ shelters, rehabilitation, vocational training, a child-care program, and cooperatively operated restaurants.