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Emergency relief to Greek Jews

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The Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency, which will convene this week in Jerusalem with the participation of community leaders and representatives from around the world, will grant emergency aid to the Jewish community in Greece to meet the immediate needs raised by the economic crisis that has struck the country.

Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky convened an urgent meeting earlier this week of the agency’s executive, during which it decided to grant aid totaling about NIS 4 million over two years to provide for the continued activities of communal Jewish institutions, including programs to strengthen the community’s relationship with Israel and special tracks for those who choose to make aliya to Israel.

The funds will be provided by the Jewish Agency, United Israel Appeal and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.

Greece is home to about 5,000 Jews, with about 3,500 in Athens and another 1,000 in Thessaloniki.

According to data obtained by the Jewish Agency, most Greek Jewish institutions are on the verge of closing due to the financial crisis, which has led to a drastic drop in donations, a collapse in income from community assets and the imposition of new taxes on community institutions.

Additionally, many community members’ income is at the poverty line and some 70 elderly people need help to buy food and pay rent.

Sharansky said, “The Jews of Greece are known particularly for their generosity, especially for needy communities in Israel and the rest of the world. They have [donated] twenty million dollars over the past decade, an enormous sum given to some of the weakest populations in Israel and elsewhere. Today, this wonderful community needs us, and it is unthinkable that we will not undertake to save them in their time of need.”

Along with the Jewish Agency, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, as well as the AJC and other organizations have also been at the forefront of efforts to help the Greek community.

“We welcome the decision by the Jewish Agency to join the group of global partners, led by JDC, that have already been working for months to help the Greek Jewish Community in its time of need,” said JDC CEO Steven Schwager. The JDC has donated $330,000 for welfare and school scholarships to the Athens Jewish community, while other philanthropic groups such as the Lauder Foundation and Leichtag Family Foundation have also provided funds.

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