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Kol haKEHILA Three years later - 7.01
|Summer of 1998. Summer of
2001. Three years have passed since I first decided to step out to the
world and tell the story; tell the story of my family; the story of my
relatives and friends; the story of the community in which I grew up;
the story of the community which I studied and researched; the story of
the community which I see dying and disappearing.
I felt that there was something I could do, to stop the downfall of a small, but historic community, with a history going back to Eretz Israel, and a collective memory going back to antiquity. Something I could do to connect this community to the world, to make it aware of its history and importance, to make it proud of its heritage, and remind it that its history and heritage are its only inheritance.
I was born and raised in the Jewish community of Athens. My family comes from Ioannina and Smyrna (Izmir, Turkey). I left at the age of 19 to study in Jerusalem, then at Yale and then returned briefly to Greece in 1993. It was at that time that I began to study and document the Jewish heritage of Greece, and had the idea of creating a Jewish organization with a newsletter, to deal with the Jewish heritage of Greece.
It took many more years, after I made aliyah to Israel with my wife Yvette Nahmia, to start Kol haKEHILA. I owe the decision to start the newsletter to my friend and colleague Dr. Samuel Gruber, President of the International Survey of Jewish Monuments in the United States. He pushed me to start, since, he said, "you have no other choice." I had no other choice but to bring the story out to the world.
Three years later, looking at the Jewish community of Athens, and the Jewish communities of Greece in general, I see a picture far from ideal. Although there are many aspects of the life (and death) of the Jewish Communities of Greece which are known to me, still reading the draft of my wifeís Yvette Masterís thesis, which she completed last year at the Rothberg School of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, was a shocking revelation. Her thesis was titled: "Under the Shadow of the Holocaust: the disappearing Jewish communities of Greece." She lists in detail the course of the Jewish communities of Greece from their past to their present, through the shock of the Holocaust. She lists tables that show numbers getting smaller every decade; communities disappearing from the lists; numbers that reveal a very unpleasant and pessimistic reality.
Kol haKEHILA, within this context, made every possible effort, to prevent, preserve, expose, tell the story, bring together, and remember. Our contribution has been very modest, but we feel that it has made a difference, no matter how small. Our readers who have grown from 150 to over 2,000 in three years, and our website, which is visited on a permanent basis every month by nearly 3,000 visitors, show that the word is out and more people are aware and better informed about issues related to the Jewish heritage of Greece.
We have also organized activities in the form of lectures, bringing together people of Greek origin, co-organized tours and exhibitions, and have shared with the world all aspects of a small fragment of Jewish history, one of the most ancient and important ones in the world.
I have undertaken to create and edit Kol haKEHILA out of conviction that a change can and must be made. I have been privileged to have a team of excellent, wonderful, warm and loving friends, correspondents, language editors, writers, photographers, and reporters from all over the world. I thank you all for sharing your little and valuable time to make this vision a very worthwhile reality!
We are closing the chapter of Kol haKEHILA newsletter after three years and twelve issues, and we hope that our global "kehila" will continue its efforts towards the preservation and study of the Jewish heritage of Greece, through the internet.
Stay tuned and read us on the web!
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