|On September 24 at 7:00 pm the Magen
David Sephardic Congregation, held the fifth in a series of cultural programs
focusing on Sephardic Jewish Communities. This program focused on
the Jews of Greece.
The cultural programs of the Magen
David Congregation, consist of films, speakers, exhibits, handouts and
desserts and have been devoted in the past to Jewish communities
in Morocco, Turkey, Egypt, and Iraq.
The cultural program on Greece was
co-sponsored by the Embassy of Greece, Kol haKEHILA, and the Foundation
for Sephardic Studies based in New York.
The host of the evening was Gail
Shirazi, the force behind the organization of the event. Shirazi is the
Israeli Acquisitions Specialist at the Library of Congress. The evening
opened with greetings from the Political Counselor of the Embassy of Greece,
Vassilis Costis, and the Rabbi of the Magen David Sephardic Congregation
Hayyim Kassorla, remarks by the author, and a brief testimonial by Paulette
Nehama, survivor-in-hiding during the Second World War in Greece. Two films
were screened, "The Jews of Salonika" of Beth Hatefuthoth in Israel, and
a preview of "A pilgrimage to Yiannina" by Vassilis Katsoupas.
The event included an exhibition,
sale of books and cards, and a reception featuring homemade traditional
Greek Jewish deserts. The deserts were prepared by Paulette Nehama, Rose
Miller, Nina Kaplanides and Eleanor Matsas, and included baklava, koulourakia,
revani, karydopita and skaltsounia.
The exhibits included pictures of
families, synagogues, famous Rabbis, maps, Jewish houses, people, and Jewish
artifacts such as Sabbath candlesticks, trays used during special holidays,
and costumes. "We try to give faces to these communities," said Shirazi.
"We try to make them taste, feel, smell and touch the communities".
Paulette Nehama, originally from
Volos, brought pictures of her family. The Mourtzoukos were prominent as
industrialists and owners of the "Leviathan" textile. Nehama also brought
pictures of the Greek family who saved her by hiding her during the Second
World War. Judith Mazza, whose family came from Ioannina, exhibited an
"alephs" that belonged to her family from Ioannina. Nehama and Mazza today
live in Bethesda, MD.
These events are not only of historic
or educational content. People also come to meet other people and often
find people they have not seen for many years. "In previous events, members
of different groups (such as the Iraqis) emerged from near-obscurity. People
connected with others whom they haven't seen since leaving Iraq," says
Shirazi. The program on Greece attracted Greek survivors and Jews of Greek
origin many of whom left Greece in the 1950s. "My mother-in-law was ecstatic
to meet other Greeks and have the opportunity to discuss mutual friends
and relatives," says Rick Glaser, whose wife and mother-in-law came from
Patras at the end of the Second World War.
But it was not only the event itself
that had an impact on people. The preparation of the event was an experience
of its own. "The stories and experiences shared during our planning meeting
were amazing. Two of the women present were hidden as children by
Greek families. Mrs. Matsas was also present and spoke a little about
her husband's experience during the War," says Shirazi.
The cultural evening on the Jews
of Greece was attended by over 250 people.