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GREEK JEWS CONDEMN ATTACKS AGAINST CHRISTIAN CHURCHES IN GREECE – KIS LETTER TO THE ARCHBISHOP OF ATHENS

With regard to a series of attacks against Christian churches and following the  arson attack on the Petraki Church in Athens, which also houses the offices of the Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Church, the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece strongly condemned this act of vandalism. In a letter to His Holiness the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, Ieronymos, the Board expressed the Greek Jewry’s solidarity. The letter states the following:


Your Holiness,

It is with dismay that we have been observing in the past days the violent attacks against Christian churches in Greece. The attack on the offices of the Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Church, in the Petraki Monastery, is the most recent event in this sad chain of violent acts. Our reaction to these events must be united and firm: We must condemn violence and safeguard all people’s right to worship.

 

We, the Greek Jews, know very well what vandalism of a house of prayer means to a worshiper. We have many times experienced this painful feeling. In a time when religion is constantly targeted, we have the moral obligation to defend with all our strength the right to faith. Hatred and intolerance have no place in a society that means to forge the respect of human rights.

Your Holiness,

 

We share your rightful sorrow for the desecration of holy Christian sites, as such actions are an insult to the core values of our civilization. 

Athens August 9, 2016

Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece

The President Moses Constantinis

The Secretary General Marcel Solomon

 

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ANNOUNCEMENT FOR THE MURDER OF THE CATHOLIC PRIEST IN FRANCE

Europe was confronted once again this week with the face of terrorism. It was the turn of Germany and France this time, which now constitutes the most common place of action for radical Islamists in Europe. This last attack took place in Normandy, where the terrorists chose as their target a place of prayer and worship. There, they brutally killed the 86-year-old Jacques Hamel, priest of the small Catholic community of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, close to Rouen.

The meaning of this recent attack is self-evident. The two terrorists of the Islamic State invaded a holy place and violated the right to prayer and hope. They impose their hatred and try to eradicate the feelings of love and brotherhood among people.

We must not respond to the hatred of the fanatics with hate. “The Catholic Church cannot take weapons other than those of prayer and brotherhood among men”, said Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen. Indeed, these are the true weapons of all religions.  

The attack against the believers in Rouen is an attack not only against the Catholics, but against every believer and every religion. The Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece stands next to the Christian Community of France and the French society. We therefore express our full sympathy and grief and we strongly condemn these hideous actions. With the only weapons that we have in our hands, our prayers and faith, we will continuously fight for religious freedom, love and fraternity among people, so as not to let these high values be defeated by the hatred and violence of the Islamic terrorism.

 Athens, July 28, 2016

 CENTRAL BOARD OF JEWISH COMMUNITIES IN GREECE

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ANNOUNCEMENT FOR THE CONVICTION OF GREEK JOURNALIST STRATIS BALASKAS

The relation and the boundary line between freedom of speech and expression on one hand and defamation on the other provokes always great discussion. Recently Stratis Balaskas, a Greek journalist, was convicted for defamation after characterizing a fellow citizen, who is also an educator and director of a public High School, as “neo-Nazi”. Specifically, the reporter was convicted for publishing libels. The case was brought in front of the Court of Appeals, where the conviction was reaffirmed. The plaintiff, who denied any connection with such ideas and/or organizations, has published in the past several articles in websites and blogs (using also his account at the “Hellenic School Network” www.sch.gr, a web platform of the Ministry of Education that connects educators and schools around Greece) where he argues in favor of the “Aryan race” and calls all the nationalists of the country –and especially the teachers and the parents- to unite in order to fight for the preservation of “racial purity” and spread the truth about the Jews among others. The Court decided that the characterization “neo-Nazi” is defamatory and convicted the defendant to three months jail time. Finally, the case will be considered again by the Supreme Court.

Following articles in the Greek press about this case, the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece issued the following announcement in order to support Mr. Balaska’s claim for justice:

Every well-ordered society has its principles that define what is right and wrong, while the fundamental right of the freedom of speech constitutes the cornerstone every democracy. With these thoughts in mind, we worry about the conviction of the reporter Stratis Balaskas by the Court of Appeals. Mr. Balaskas, according to a press article, was convicted for defamation through the medium of the Press, after calling, in one of his articles, as “national-socialist and neo-Nazi” the Director of a local High School of Lesbos.

Therefore, we deem it appropriate to make some relevant observations: Firstly, to distinguish between the notion of National-Socialism and the notion of Nazism is historically totally incorrect, let alone to consider that the first one implies a mildest characterization than the second. According to the press article, the convicted Mr. Balaskas had rightly denounced the extreme beliefs of the plaintiff, criticizing in that way the work of a public professor and considering that the social role of the plaintiff is not consistent with the expression of extreme nationalist speech. 

Moreover, it is a really discouraging fact that a professor expresses this kind of extreme thoughts without any consequences. A teacher has no right to become a preacher of intolerance. Ideas such as extreme nationalism, fanaticism and anti-Semitism have no place in students’ education. 

We consider it our duty to stand by Mr. Balaskas and support his fight for justice, while our faith to the judiciary system remains strong.

Finally, the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece will always condemn any expression of hate speech and any intolerant behavior.  

Athens, July 14, 2016

Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece

 
ANNOUNCEMENT FOR THE PEW SURVEY ON EUROPEAN FEARS RELEVANT TO REFUGEE INFLUX – GREECE’S SCORES Print E-mail
Wednesday, 20 July 2016 10:52

For the past several years Europe goes through an ongoing crisis. Economic destabilization has inter alia altered to a great extent the nature of relations amongst European citizens. Tolerance of the Europeans towards the refugees, the immigrants and any other minority decreases daily. This fact is also confirmed by the recent survey conducted by Pew Research Center on European scale.

The idea of a multicultural society seems to have collapsed for good. In the face of the immigrant European citizens see the foreign that will be a burden to economy and will endanger national security. The recent terrorist attacks intensify xenophobic and racist feelings as they offer ground for rushed assessments. In this context the rates of Islamophobia have dramatically increased in the recent period.

Regarding our country, the results are highly worrisome. Greece lies steadily among the first countries with the highest scores of negative opinions towards immigrants and refugees. Greece also holds the highest score in Europe regarding society’s negative attitudes towards the Jews. These results must not come as a surprise to us. For a long time diffused anti-Semitism is common in Greece, as this recent survey came to confirm. Anti-Semitic incidents increase more and more. Intolerance seems to have put roots in the very heart of society. The rhetoric of stereotypes and conspiracy theories, as well as prejudice against the Jews, and secondly against the Muslims, is widely tolerated by a major part of Greek society.

Therefore, let this survey be a starting point for reaction. It is time that all competent authorities rise high to the challenge of their responsibilities.

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KIS ANNOUNCEMENT FOR THE DEADLY TERROR ATTACK IN NICE - FRANCE. Nice was stuck on the National Day of Bastille Print E-mail
Monday, 18 July 2016 08:08

France was meant to be once again the target of a new bloodshed on the 14th of July 2016, the day of national celebration. Bastille Day, the Festivity of the French nation was struck by terror. The date was obviously not a random pick. It is the day that represents Democracy, as well as the civilization of human rights, the modern world at large, thus all those elements despised by phanatic terrorists. This time it was Nice’s time to experience the horror of a blind terror attack. Death toll is again too heavy counting 84 victims so far. The target was selected well in advance. It was the crowd that had joyously joined the celebrations for France’s National Day.

Europe lives in fear. The only question lies in when and where the next strike will take place, as the circle of blood does not seem to come to an end soon.

As long as terrorism is not totally defeated, we are forced to live in fear.

Verbal condemnation of every new terror attack is obviously not enough. Customary announcements tend to become just words empty of meaning.

The Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece believes that time has come for all to undertake our responsibilities so as to put an end to this tragedy. The more we remain inert and passive observers the more phanaticism and intolerance will gain ground while Europe shinks in the darkness. The responsibility we bear is historic. Finally, in these difficult moments our thoughts are for the victims and their families to whom we convey our deepest condolences.     

Athens, July 15, 2016

CENTRAL BOARD OF JEWISH COMMUNITIES IN GREECE

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Greek Education Ministry honours students on Auschwitz visit and video projects Print E-mail
Monday, 04 July 2016 11:23

Greek Education Ministry posted on its website the following article:

Education, Research and Religious Affairs Minister Nikos Filis today honoured the 81 secondary school students who travelled to Auschwitz, Poland to visit the infamous Nazi death camp. The event was also attended by the Ministry General Secretary of Relegious Affairs Giorgos Kalatzis.

The students were chosen in a competition of videos on the Holocaust, and came from both general and technical high schools in Athens, Patras, and Larissa, and those that took the floor were at time overtaken by emotion. One girl said her grandfather was a Roma communist with Jewish friends who escaped the camps through sheer luck. Another presented a heart wrenching narrative of how she imagined a girl reacting to her mother’s death camp execution and seeking solace in the embrace of the surviving grandfather.

Many of the students drew direct connections between the horrors of WWII Nazism and the dangers of a fascist resurgence in Greece, Europe and the world in our day. The acceptance and embrace of minorities and the other, such as the refugees and migrants today, was among the key lessons gleaned by the students both in their school projects and the journey to Auschwitz.

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THE GREEK JEWRY MOURNS THE PASSING AWAY OF ELIE WIESEL Print E-mail
Wednesday, 06 July 2016 09:48

The international Jewish Community is today far poorer, as it has lost an important member. Last Saturday, 2.7.2016, Ellie Wiesel passed away, at the age of 87, and his death filled our hearts with sadness and emotion.

Ellie Wiesel was born in 1928 at a small town of the Carpathians. He experienced as a child the horror of the extermination camps, where he lost most of his family members. At the age of 30 he captured this experience to his stirring book “The Night” (1958). All of his life was devoted to the fight against oblivion for the Holocaust victims. His writings are vast and they concern the historic adventures of Jewry.  Finally, for his work and actions he was honored in 1986 with the Nobel Peace Prize.

Wiesel’s biggest fear was always peoples’ oblivion and indifference. “Let your remembrance be a vindication and an honor, an obstacle for yesterday’s enemy to cause his victims a second death – oblivion”, as he writes for the victims of Nazism and therefore asks the passer-by not to forget the 6 million souls that were exterminated just because they were Jews. These stirring words adorn the Holocaust Monument in Athens.

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ANNOUNCEMENT ON THE ANTI-SEMITIC STATEMENTS BY THE PRESIDENT OF URBAN TRANSPORTATION WORKER’S UNION IN THESSALONIKI Print E-mail
Monday, 04 July 2016 11:18

According to media reports, the president of the Workers' Union of the Organization of Urban Transportation in Thessaloniki made several anti-Semitic comments (about God been mistaken at creating Jews and about Hitler who did not finish the job), during his speech at the Union’s general assembly. Bus owners association of Thessaloniki, and union group “Anatropi” issued condemnation statements. Our Board issued the following announcement condemning this incident of anti-Semitic speech and praising the groups that promptly reacted: 

“Manifestations of anti-Semitism have unfortunately become an almost daily phenomenon in Greece. The last incident to this chain of events is the recent statement made by the president of the Workers’ Union of the Organization of Urban Transportation of Thessaloniki. According to a publication from June 27, 2016, on voria.gr website, the Union’s president Mr. Dimitris Tsermenidis, during the last general assembly of the Union, allegedly stated that God by mistake created the Jews, who afterwards killed Jesus Christ. Moreover, Mr. Tsermenidis did not hesitate to express his regret for the fact that “unfortunately Hitler did not finish his work”. Finally, it is noted that he made derogatory characterizations against Avraam Benaroya, the founder of “Federation” (Greek workers’ movement), whose name bears the Hall where the assembly took place.

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