In Troubled Greece, a Focus on the Future

September 10, 2015


Amid the backdrop of a lingering financial crisis and looming questions about what the future holds, Greek Jewish children will return this week to the community school JDC supports in Athens.

But Jewish leaders in Greece’s capital city, which has a Jewish population of about 2,500 people, say they’re working hard to keep the community’s educational institutions running smoothly.

“Regarding the services and quality of education provided in our school — as far as we are concerned, no changes will be made. The community is working very hard at that,” said Taly Mair, the Athens community’s director. “We expect many more parents to ask for a larger subsidy in school tuition, but we can’t predict numbers yet.”

Volunteerism in the Jewish community may take the biggest hit from Greece’s surge in unemployment and uncertainty, Mair added.

“Because of the crisis, many of our volunteers need to focus on their businesses and on their professional growth,” she said. “Our community relies on volunteers. Imagine that there are 10 employees [of the Jewish community] and 120 volunteers. We need more and new volunteers.”

Neither is the Greek Jewish community immune from the security fears that have plagued many European Jewish communities after violent incidents in Paris, Brussels, and other cities.

“It’s very well known that when there is financial and political instability, as we have here in Greece, crimes of all kind grow,” Mair said. “And unfortunately, the Jewish people are very often targets.”

Minos Moissis, the community’s president, said the assistance of JDC — which has worked to deliver financial support to the Greek community and provide leadership training and networking opportunities for its young people — is critical.

“JDC has played the role of an angel without whom this community would not have made it through the past few years,” he said.

Mair echoed his sentiments.

“JDC has kept our community alive in the most difficult moments of our community’s history. So it was in this crisis, too,” she said. “The fact that we are supported by JDC… gives us strength and optimism, making us feel that we are not alone. And hopefully, we never will be.”

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