Our Precious Greek Jewish Heritage

Dr. Joseph Frager,

לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
Dr. Joseph Frager
The writer is a leading American pro-Israel activist who sponsors and coordinates many Zionist events. He is clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine (Gastroenterology & Liver Diseases) at the Einstein School of Medicine as well as a practicing physician.

My first Sabra grandchild was born, blessed be G-d, last week. He inherits a great and precious Jewish Greek Heritage from his great-grandfather. I thought it only appropriate to learn more about the Jews of Greece.It is a fascinating subject.

 Josephus records Aristotle in the 4th century BCE speaking about a Jew he met in Asia Minor. Josephus quotes the historian Clearches of Soli. Aristotle said of this meeting, "But as one who had been intimate with many cultivated patrons, it was rather he who imparted to us something of his own." Greek Jewry derives from different periods of our existence. Some Jews are descendants from the First Temple Exile of the Babylonians in 586 BCE.

The Romaniotes who lived in Greece for close to 2000 years claim they descended from Jews who escaped a Roman Slave Ship in the year of the destruction of the Second Temple 70CE.  The Romaniotes DNA more closely matches Ashkenazic Jewry. The Wall Street Journal on June 28th ran a story about the last remaining Romaniote Synagogue in the Western Hemisphere and a New York City Landmark in the Lower East Side. The Romaniote Jews as well as the remaining Jews of Greece were nearly wiped out by the Nazis.

Thousands of Spanish Jews settled in Greece after the Inquisition began in 1492. More than 80% of all Greek Jews were murdered by the Nazis (many were taken to Auschwitz). This was the Sephardic population that suffered the most at the hand of the Nazis. The Nazis did not distinguish between Ashkenazic or Sephardic Jews. They killed anyone who was a Jew or had a Quarter Jewish roots.

The Great-Grandfather of my grandson had a bust of Jabotinsky in his house in Greece. Zionism was alive and well in Greece long before World War II. Greece under Eleflerior Venizelos was one of the first countries to accept the Balfour Declaration of 1917. Our Greek Jewish Heritage is a source of pride and meaning. Am Yisrael Chai.