During the last two years in Greece, every Holocaust monument has been vandalised more than once. The only exception is the Holocaust monument in Volos. Anti-Semitism in Europe has increased. Having had said that last week Jews in Germany were warned by the local authorities not to wear kipa for security reasons.
Greece holds one of the highest levels of anti-Semitism in Europe. It was unbelievable that the new mayor of Ioannina is a Jew. Moisis (Moshe) Elisaf the president of the Jewish community of Ioannina had fallen into the political arena and managed to be elected mayor. When you hear news about Jews in Greece, most of the times is about vandalism in Jewish cemetaries, buildings and in general in locations of Jewish interest. Just think that Greek society very often falls willingly or unwillingly to antisemitic narrative nearly daily.
With the election of Dr Elisaf, it is clear, without any doubt, that the people of Ioannina made the beginning and gave the slogan that it’s time to try to change and improve. As a Jew and as a historian for the Holocaust, I want to believe that this event will be the start to move away from intolerance and anti-Semitism. Surely with the election of Dr Elisaf, anti-Semitism will not disappear, nor will the world love us here in Greece.
Either way, to be loved, we need at least to be respected. We want you to respect us. The fact that you love us, this is an effect of the quality of your heart and your soul. It is indeed very moving to have a Jewish mayor in Greece, breaking one of the anti-Semitic stereotypes that “Jews are not engaged in politics.” Ioannina shows that they are pioneers and that they broke the chains of intolerance and anti-Semitism.
Let us, therefore, hope that the new mayor of Ioannina will represent the world that trusted him and inspire other Jews of Greece to be proud of their origin.
It’s not too late. Not too early. Everything is about time.