Athens: Museums


Hellenic Republic


April 26, 2015


I need a drink every time I visit a place like this.

Housed in a small, lovely building, displaying a variety of secular artifacts and religious icons, the Jewish Museum of Greece carries the appropriate name - a museum - the lifeless panorama of history.

Jews lived in Greece for more than two thousand years.  But in large numbers, Jews arrived in Greece following their expulsion from Spain and Portugal in the late Fifteenth Century.  For more than four hundred years, communities thrived here, especially in the northern city of Thessalonica, known as the “Little Jerusalem.”  In 1940, the Jewish population of Thessalonica exceeded 53,000 children, women and men.

One diorama in the museum is called “Shoah.” “Shoah” in Hebrew means “Holocaust.”  In 1942, in the span of merely six months, from Thessalonica to Athens to the distant Greek island of Rhodes, the Jews of Greece were annihilated.  (In the year 2000, the Jewish population of Thessalonica was 1400.)

I need a drink.  I leave the museum.  I hear music. I follow my ears.

Just opposite my café, hundreds of children, women and men assemble and then begin what I would call a “fun ride.”  Every type of two-wheeled conveyance passes my vantage point. 

Riders in all colors and sizes.  Bicycles of all colors and sizes. Roller blades. Scooters.  Women and men, the young and the not so young.  Parents encourage their children. 

And balloons!  White balloons!!

Joyful and determined, Athenians embrace the warm Attica sun. What fun!

The enthusiastic riders, especially the children, provide me with the perfect antidote to my experience in the cool and somber museum.

At the base of the Acropolis, I visit the ruins of an ancient agora or marketplace.  Beside the agora, the Agora Museum and the dozens of full-size marble sculptures attest to the Roman era in Athens.

Who will question the ancient Greeks and the ancient Romans – their skill, their brilliance, their wisdom?

And yet.  And yet.

The bygone Mediterranean civilizations are just that – gone.   We visit the surviving reminders and the ruins.  We study and pay homage to the accomplishments.  We try to understand the success and the failures.

One ancient tribe from the Levant, speaking their ancient tongue that is written in their ancient alphabet, survives and thrives to this very day.

The Jewish People can now be found in almost every part of the world, building communities upon the foundations of ancient law and tradition and contributing to the universal modern society.....

All we earthly travelers respect the past.

We embrace the present. 

We relish the future.

Grab a balloon!

Let’s have a drink!


My friend Marty I. in New York added this information:

There were two distinct groups of Jews in Greece. 
The chronological first group is the Romaniotes who migrated from Rome to Greece in the 1st Century, A.D.  Thus they are neither Ashkenazi, nor Sephardic, and have their own forms of worship, distinct from both. 
Their population was concentrated in the Thessalonian town of Ioannina (sometimes spelled Janina in English) until it was almost entirely annihilated during the Nazi occupation.  Their everyday parlance was in Yevanic, a Greek dialect with a sprinkling of Hebrew words that was written using Hebrew letters.
The other group was Sephardic, having migrated from Spain after the 1492 expulsion.  Their population centered about Athens
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