The Jewish Museum in Greece13-01-2016 10:45
The Jewish Museum was founded in 1977. Its goal is to collect and exhibit artifacts related to the presence of Jewish in Greece. As the museum expanded, a neoclassical building of the 19th century was bought in order to house it. The building was renovated and the new museum was inaugurated in 1998.
The museum has a permanent collection, some space for periodic exhibitions, a projection room, a library, a photographic archive and a gift shop.
The permanent exhibition starts on the ground floor. Here, valuable Torah scrolls, donated by various families are displayed. There are also some ornate utensils used for religious purposes. On the next level starts a small history of the Jewish presence in Greek lands. The first scriptures that prove the presence of Jews in Greece are form the 4th century D.C.. This section follows the Jewish history in Greece until the 20th century. There are also many objects, military uniforms; arms and other equipment that indicate the participation of the Jews to the wars and struggles of the Greek State.
On the next level abstracts from newspapers and posters are on display. They refer to the prosecution of Jews in Greece during the Second World War. Here, there are also clothes and everyday objects, few remembrances from the concentration camps. The names of the Greeks families that protected the Jews during the German occupation can be found here. A very interesting incident from the island of Zakynthos is also narrated. It seems that both the mayor and the priest of the island refused to give the names of the Jewish of the island to the German officer endangering their own lives in the process. In this way they managed to save 245 Jews of the island.
On the following level the costumes and the jewelry of the 18th and 20th century are exhibited. One can also see the bridal costume and ritual of matrimony.
On the last level old photographs of Jews are displayed.
The Jewish community is a minority in Greece and as minority struggles both to be accepted and to keep its individuality. This museum tries to do both. On one hand by offering evidence of the long history of Jewish presence in Greek ground proves their right to be part of modern Greece (this is not something I question). The same point is also made through the exhibits of the military service and the participation of Jews to the Greek wars. Simultaneously, the religious artifacts, the evidence of the wealth of the members of the Jewish community and the stories of how Greeks protected them during the German occupation emphasize their individuality and present them as a completely different community. According to my opinion the museum doesn't seem to serve well the political interests of the Jewish community since it doesn't present them as a group with different religious believes that is Greek but as a different national group that happens to inhabit on Greek ground.
Tip: Even if the central door of the museum is closed, don't hesitate to go to the door on your right. Go through the garden and ring the bell on the next door. The guard will let you in.
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