Greek Jewish Community Asks for Support From Abroad

This week, the Greek Jewish community asked for aid from Jewish communities around the world so that synagogues and other services may continue to function.

According to Benjamin Albelas and David Saltiel, the presidents of the Jewish communities in Athens and Thessaloniki, the communities have suffered over the last few years during the recession.  They said the two largest communities in Greece have been using collected money to support those who have lost jobs as well as public institutions.  However, they point to a dramatic change in property tax to being per square meter that has devastated the community since many members of the community rely on real estate for income.

The property tax measure that was adopted this month consists of a 16 euros per square meter charge that applies to all buildings.  The tax is supposed to help the Greek government pay off its debt to the European Union, IMF and other sources of monetary support.

Since the recession hit in 2008, the Greek communities have been forced to take austerity measures such as community figures not being allowed to work beyond the age of pension and ten percent salary cuts for all community figures.  In addition, summer camps have been closed and there has been discussion in Thessaloniki about having only one community rabbi rather than the two that are currently paid by the community.

The request that has come to light this week was initiated a few weeks ago and involves a formal request for support from the  American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) in New York.  The JDC has aided other communities in the past, such as Argentina during the last century when the Argentinean Dollar collapsed.  The two community leaders differ over how much assistance is required - Saltiel estimates one million dollars while Albelas estimates about 400,000 euros.

Since the request was submitted, the Greek communities have submitted their paperwork regarding their finances in the past and present.  A JDC representative will visit this year to finalize support once the the Athenian community has finished submitting its financial information and the JDC has time to to examine it and compile a loan package.