Ariel Lekaditis was raised as a Christian in Greece until he discovered that he was Jewish. Today he observes Jewish law and lives in the town of Mitzpe Jericho, but has experienced difficulty in the recognition of his Judaism
Ariel Lekaditis (35), or by his Christian name Georgios Lekaditis, was raised a Christian in the city of Volos located north of Athens. Ariel never dreamt that one day he would discover his Jewish identity, and lead a Torah observant life in the town of Mitzpe Jericho in Binyamin.
“From a young age I understood that my family and I were connected to the Jewish people”, Ariel recounts in an interview to Arutz 7, “As a child I asked how it was possible that we have cousins that celebrate Bar Mitzvah, and yet we are Christians. My mother told me that my great grandmother was Jewish, and a member of the Jewish community. At a certain point she was forced to convert to Christianity, and since then some of the family was Christian while some were Jewish and even reside in Israel.”
Today there are only 80 Jews living in Volos, and probably many more that are unaware of their Jewish identity. Before the Holocaust there were more than 800 Jews living in Volos. Some were murdered in the Holocaust, and others converted to Christianity, thereby losing their Jewish identity. “My grandmother’s brother was murdered in the Holocaust but a large part of my family was saved because my great grandmother converted to Christianity, making it possible for many Jews to hide in her house during the Nazi occupation”, recounts Ariel.
In February of 2013, Ariel decided to go to the United States in order to learn more about the Holocaust. There he met a professor from his hometown, who told him more about his Jewish past. “In New York I discovered my connection to the Jewish people, so I decided to get my Masters degree at the University of Haifa, where I got in touch with many of my second cousins from my great grandmother’s side that were saved because of her conversion.”
It didn’t take long before Ariel met with the former community Rabbi of Salonica, Rabbi Mordechai Frizis. “I remember the first question that he asked me – ‘Am I Jewish’”,
Frizis tells Arutz 7. “Of course after he told me his past I told him that he was Jewish and that he only needs to be circumcised.”
Rabbi Frizis put Ariel in touch with Rabbi Yitzhak Sabato from Mitzpe Jericho, who investigated his Jewish status in depth. Last September Ariel arrived at the Chabad in Bat Yam, and was circumcised at a medical center. “Today I put on Tefilin, do everything in order to live a life style according to Jewish law, and of course learn Hebrew. My strongest desire is to establish a Jewish home in Israel.”
In the last weeks Ariel has been trying to make Aliya. However, the Ministry of Interior demand that he provide documents proving that his mother and grandmother married Jews, despite the fact that Ariel explained to them that he is Jewish according to Jewish law.
“I want to live as a Jew and marry a Jew. I believe that whoever wants to live as a Jew can only do so here in Israel. I feel that someone guided me from above so that I could close a circle and return my family to Judaism.”.
The archives of the Jewish community of Volos were destroyed by the Germans during the Nazi occupation. However, despite that, Ariel received a confirmation from the Jewish community of Volos and from the Chief Rabbinate of Athens validating that he is Jewish.
It has been confirmed from the office of the Chief Rabbit of Israel, Rabbi David Lau, that the details of the case were being investigated. The Population and Immigration Authority has not yet responded. When they do, the response will be fully publicized.