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Thursday, 20 September 2012 09:22
From 11th to 14th September 2012, a delegation from CRIF (Conseil Representatif des Institutions Juives de France), the umbrella organization of the French Jewry, visited Greece. The delegation was headed by the President of CRIF Dr. Richard Prasquier and included distinguished executives as Mr. Pascal Markowicz, lawyer and President of the CRIF Committee for International Relations; Mme Véronique Harari, member of the CRIF Committee for the Interfaith Dialogue; Mr. Michel Azaria, member of the Committee for Holocaust Remembrance; Dr. Maurice Soustiel, and Mme Jenny Laneurie Fresco members of associations for the preservation of the sephardi culture, and Mme Eve Gani, development manager at CRIF.
While in Athens the French visitors were escorted by presiding members of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (CBJC Greece) led by President of the Board Mr. David Saltiel, and President of the Jewish Community of Athens, Mr. Beniamin Albalas, and met Minister of Public Order and Citizen Protection Nikolaos Dendias; Minister of Justice, Transparency and Human Rights Antonis Roupakiotis, and Deputy Minister Kostas Karakounis; as well as Minister of Education, Religion, Culture and Sport Konstantinos Arvanitopoulos and General Secretary of Religion Giorgos Kalantzis.

During these meetings concern was expressed on the part of CRIF regarding the election of Nazi sympathizers to Parliament and the increase in the number of racist incidents in Greece. The need for action to be taken by the State and by healthy sections of society against every manifestation of racism was stressed and attention was drawn in particular to the importance of Education in keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive. Generally speaking, the ministers voiced a clear and categorical stance against racism in its every form and manifestation. The statement made by the Minister of Justice is a characteristic example. Minister Roupakiotis said: ‘The Jewish people of Greece paid a huge toll in blood during the German occupation and we regard it our duty to defend not only the rights of the Jewish Community of this country, but also the memory of those who fell victim to Nazism and the Holocaust.’ Mr Roupakiotis also said that the Ministry of Justice is already working on stricter legislation against racism.

The CRIF delegation also met the Most Reverent Archbishop Ieronimos of Athens and all Greece and discussed relations between the Church and the Jewish Community and the part played by the Greek Orthodox Church in saving the life of Jews during the German occupation. When referring to anti-Semitic declarations made by representatives of the Church, Archbishop Ieronimos made his disapproval of racist utterances clear: ‘They were isolated incidences which the Church singled out and condemned,’ said the archbishop.
The CRIF executives also met Mayor Giorgos Kaminis of Athens, his Excellency Ambassador Arye Mekel of Israel and his Excellency Ambassador Jean Loup  Delforge of France.

As far as contacts with Greek Jewry are concerned, the French visitors attended a dinner held by the Jewish Community of Athens, which was also attended by the President, Vice President and General Secretary of CBJC Greece. An initial meeting for introductions and the exchange of information took place at the offices of CBJC Greece (photo), during which there were interesting exchanges of opinions on issues of Jewish interest between the CRIF delegation, the Board of Directors of CBJC Greece and representatives of the Jewish Community. The French delegates then visited the Jewish Museum of Greece and the Synagogues of Athens before laying a wreath on the Holocaust Memorial. Their stay ended with a visit to the Jewish Community of Athens Primary School, which made a great impression on them.

In Thessaloniki the delegation of CRIF was welcomed with a dinner held by the local Jewish Community and also attended by members of the Community’s Board of Directors, Vice-Regional Governor Apostolos Tzitzikostas and the new French Consul Mr. Christoph Leregole. Official meetings also took place between the delegates and Minister for Macedonia and Thrace Theodoros Karaglou (photo), Vice-Regional Governor Tzitzikostas and Mayor Giannis Boutaris. The French visitors were very interested in the Jewish sites of Thessaloniki. They also toured the Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki, the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki Primary School and the “Saoul Modiano” old people’s home before laying a wreath on the Holocaust Memorial.   

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