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The youth of TRADITION by Solomon A. Halegoua - 11.00

"if we want ... we can, and once we want ... we can accomplish it" 

Someone said that we can also do it better. Someone believed that our children and the children of our children will not be the last generation of Greek Jews. He saw a vision. He saw the synagogue full of children and parents every Saturday morning, happy with spirit, fulfilling their duty to God and themselves. So he decided to make this a reality, and he called it "Tradition". 
In 1999 a group of co-religionists with the guidance and financial support of a donor who wishes to remain anonymous donor (who wishes to remain anonymous) have undertaken to gather the children born between 1987 and 90 at the synagogue every Saturday morning, to be present at the Shabbat morning service. Then, after the service, with the participation of our two rabbis Arar and Mizan, we spend about half an hour in the adjacent room learning about our religion, customs, traditions and heritage. After the Kiddush and meal that follow, we take the children to a different secular activity each time: parties at the Jewish club of Athens, bowling, movies, museum visits, soccer, swimming pool swimming, going to the beach, and lunch at a variety of youth-prefered restaurants. For about two hours the children will play together and after lunch, they will be taken home. 
This program was planned over a long period of time, and this perhaps explains its success. It is thanks to the efforts of the "right" people, who have committed themselves to the goals of "Tradition": Sakis Negrin, Morris Moshe, Matilda Vital, and Arno Bilfeld. Each one was chosen for his or her activity in the community and for personal integrity. The goal of "Tradition" is to restore the small Jewish community of Athens. To bring the people to fill the synagogue, not only in the High Holidays, but on Fridays and Saturdays, to remind each other who we are, and what is our duty towards God and our fellow men. 
One of our first duties was to establish how many children we could invite to this program and to inform their parents about this new program. Turning to the Jewish school of Athens, we were informed that there are only 56 children studying in the third to sixth grades. We then confirmed this number with the Jewish community of Athens who raised this number to 69. To our surprise, to this date we have gathered 90 children! 
After we knew who the children were, we invited all the parents to a dinner to explain to them who we are and what we wish to accomplish. The first reaction was doubt. Many parents were sure that, like older similar efforts, the whole project would fail. Others were uncertain about the timing (Saturday morning) since their children were usually taking their private English, French or piano lessons, or were busy with athletic activity. We managed to circumvent all these difficulties, and to finally have the written commitment of 39 parents that their children (46 in total) will participate in our program. 
Since then, the program has been growing, like the number of children, which has risen from 46 to 70. The children have also started to participate in the services, with songs and prayers, by carrying the Torah Scrolls, and slowly learning to recite the "Shemah". 
I take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank the anonymous donor for his commitment and love towards the Jewish Community of Greece, and our rabbis Arar and Mizan for helping "Tradition" by educating the children and bringing them closer to our religion. I would like to thank the Jewish Community of Athens president Benyamin Albalas, who have been supportive of our effort. Finally, I wish to thank the parents who have shared with us the vision of making a difference for their children. The elders of the community who form the Saturday minyan, who since our program started, may have lost some piece and quiet, but have gained many new service participants. I also wish to thank Freddy Coupeberg for being with us with his team, and finally, I wish to thank our children, members of "Tradition", who have made our life a bit more difficult, but have made our Saturdays unforgettable. 

To send us your ideas and suggestions of how to make this program better for the children of our community, please contact "Tradition" at and fax: + 30 (1) 322-8462, or address your mail to Solomon Halegoua, Mitropoleos 3 Syntagma, Athens 10557 Greece. 

Solomon A. Halegoua is the coordinator of the "Tradition" program, and an executive in the "Silhouette Health Studios" chain of Greece.


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