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Jews of Greece in Washington, DC by Elias Messinas - 10.00

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.

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