Rabbi Mordechai Frizis
Rabbi Mordechai FrizisHezki Baruch

The former chief rabbi of the city of Thessaloniki in Greece, Rabbi Mordechai Frizis, told Arutz Sheva how the community is dealing with the coronavirus pandemic as Greece is entering a full lockdown.

“The Jewish community in Thessaloniki, like the Jewish communities in Greece in general, deals with it more or less the same way as the entire Greek population. They observe the rules and guidelines. In both Athens and Thessaloniki, the Jewish community decided to close the synagogues even during the High Holy Days," he said.

In light of the closure of the airport, the Jewish community is assisting Israelis who are seeking to return to Israel. "It should be remembered that there was a problem in the first lockdown as well, but in the end they found solutions. There are good relations between Israel and Greece. The Jewish community helps and of course the Chabad shlichim who are there help as well."

Rabbi Frizis discussed the difficulty of keeping Torah and mitzvot in Greece in 2020, saying, “From a religious point of view, it is certainly difficult because the Jewish communities are not really religious. It is not easy to keep prayer, kosher and Shabbat. On the other hand, there is still anti-Semitism and it is not the most convenient and easy to be a Jew in Greece. "

Has the level of anti-Semitism dropped because of the coronavirus?

"There is a lot of anti-Semitism in Greece and it is not the easiest thing to be a Jew. There is quite a bit of vandalism to Holocaust memorials and Jewish cemeteries. In the last month alone there have been four anti-Semitic incidents across the country. They harmed Jewish symbols. Fortunately, there are no physical assaults on Jews, but that is because the Jews in Greece do not make themselves visibly Jewish."

“Anti-Semitism has actually increased because of the coronavirus and not just in Greece, we see it in other countries in the world. There are many conspiracies about the coronavirus, which claim that Jews are behind it so they can rule the world. Recently, however, there has been progress and sympathy for Israel because of the Israeli-Greek relations that have warmed up against the background of relations with Turkey, and this is leading to Israel and the Jews being seen in a more positive light."

How many Jews are there today in Greece and how do you see the future of the Jewish community?

“The Jewish community in Greece numbers about 5,000 people. The future of the Jewish community will not be easy. There is a lot of assimilation and it is the norm within the community. There are more Jews who die and fewer Jews who are born. The Jewish community is opening its doors to different populations and I do not see a future for Greek Jews for more than 50 years."