The World Jewish Congress Greece affiliate, The Central Board of Jewish Communities (KIS), issued the following statement about the statement of the community regarding its procedures and available resources amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Our Board has undertaken timely initiatives to prevent the spread of virus. Here are some of the measures implemented in the Greek Jewish Communities:
As of Feb. 27, through a KIS circular letter, all Synagogues, cemeteries and cultural centers are closed. [Special exemption guidelines were given for funerals, with permission only to the fewest possible attendees, and the yitzkors that are held online via teleconferences].
At the same spirit, all cultural and commemoration events around Greece were cancelled or postponed.
As of March 16, the Jewish Museums were closed and KIS administration and staff started working from home. All eight Jewish Communities around Greece followed this policy.
On March 17, our Board, with a new announcement, urged all Greek Jews to conform with the “stay at home” directive and called for solidarity activities to assist the elderly. See the announcement on our website:
As of March 24, our Board announced an emergency phone number for the Jewish community available on a 24/7 basis. Our Board also sends regular briefings via e-mails and newsletters to our larger community.
The Greek Jewish Communities made timely preparations to assist the elderly and their members in need, while pursuing new means to maintain Jewish life and connection. Emergency phone numbers were activated in Athens and Thessaloniki.
The Jewish Community of Athens organized a Webinar on coronavirus, during which renowned doctors answered people’s questions on how to deal with the threat of coronavirus in everyday life and the ways to protect ourselves. A webinar on Monday March 30, featured a psychologists who advised the community on how to maintain our good spirit while in quarantine.
Shabbat and Havdalah services via live streaming are offered regularly by the Jewish Community of Athens and the Rabbi of Athens.
All Jewish Communities have cancelled collective Pessach Seders and informed their members of options to make their orders of kosher le Pessach products either on-line or by phone.
Smaller Jewish Communities have preferred direct phone communication with their members.
Youth organizations stay connected through social media and live streaming activities.
This is the current situation in the Greek Jewish Communities.
We highly appreciate your assistance and greatly value the World Jewish Congress – European Jewish Congress briefings via zoom that keep us connected and well informed.
David Saltiel, President
Victor Eliezer, Secretary General
The Jewish Community of Athens also issued a statement on its actions:
Our Community is being proactive and has coordinated all its actions in accordance to the guidelines and State orders so that our professional staff, volunteers and all our members are protected.
At the same time, it is taking initiatives to continue the Community life as usual as possible while providing assistance and support where needed.
Without the support of all Community executives, professionals and volunteers, none of this would be possible, and we thank them all from the bottom of our hearts for their tireless contribution!
In these difficult times, we promise to continue to do all that is needed in order to maintain the safety and health of our members and will remain close to them as we continue to serve and help them in any way needed.
Our Community is part of the Global World Jewry and by staying united and strong, we will successfully overcome this global challenge.
Stay safe and Hag Pessach Sameach to you and your loved ones.
Kol Israel Arevim Ze leze
Our Community Board of Directors, its professionals in all areas of responsibility, our committees, our School, our Rabbi, our security staff and volunteers, have faced the threat of COVID-19 from the very beginning, with responsibility, seriousness, discipline, but also by offering practical support to those who most need us these days.
In early March and following the Government decree recommendation on measures to prevent and limit the spread of COVID-19, we have suspended all activities that would potentially bring together vulnerable groups, such as the Synagogue and Community Center gatherings, visits to the cemeteries, visits of tourist groups and schools etc.
At the same time we proceeded with the following actions:
Information was provided including guidelines, useful telephone numbers and the Community 24-hour helpline which was activated so that all our members can address any concerns they may have, and respond to them in collaboration with community professionals and volunteers.
In terms of our administration as soon as we realized what was happening to our Italian neighbors, we immediately invested on systems so that our professional team were able to work from home in case the Corona would strike us too, which it did, making sure we could answer and service all requests remotely, as they could access their personal pcs and telephone lines. In order to protect our members as well as the staff we restricted access to the Community offices. Visits were allowed only if necessary and after prior arrangement. At the same time, the service provided by the administrative staff was and continues to be effective and efficient by telephone and online.
We organized the distribution of Passover goods to all our members’ who ordered online or through the phone. This was organized through delivery with the usage of two of our members in the transportation business, so as to avoid collection from Community premises as was done in previous years.
Our Rabbi established live transmission of Kabbalat Shabbat to our closed Facebook group as well as live Havdalah every Saturday afternoon.
We organized a constructive online discussion called “Ask the Doctors”, where over 100 of our members had the opportunity to be informed, to listen and be advised and receive scientific answers to issues that concern them by three doctors, members of the Community.
Following the Ask the Doctor very successful webinar we organized another one which was a discussion on "Maintain Good Psychology for us and our family in difficult times". In this webinar psychologists and psychiatrists, together with our own social worker participated and answered many members’ questions and worries.
Board meetings as well as other Committee meetings have been adapted to the requirements of these times and have been conducted since the beginning of the crisis via an online platform.
We are communicating regularly with the Greek authorities for any changes.
We are constantly in contact with our friends abroad and learning best practices from each other through platforms created by organizations such as ECJC, Yesod, WJC, JCC Global, JDC, Claims Conference and others.
Meanwhile, The Social Welfare Committee was activated immediately and since the very beginning were vigilant in helping our most vulnerable members. Specifically:
Our professional team started communicating with all vulnerable members informing them about the instructions provided by the Ministry of Health and advising them with useful telephone numbers. We keep in touch with them regularly in an organized but also discreet way without creating panic to our members.
- We are recording any potential needs they might have & remind them of our presence and call availability when in need. We are also offering distance consulting and support.
- We have activated volunteers of our social welfare committee and assigned them specific cases so that each one can contact their assigned cases at least 4 times a week to provide company and support.
- In respect to the elderly and Holocaust survivors belonging to the various Claims Conference programs, we begun to contact initially the members who do not have an immediate family environment and are lonely, as well as those whose family members are living abroad. Gradually all beneficiaries were contacted to make sure they have everything they need.
- We assisted in completing the form for the Passover provisions for all welfare as well as all our Claims Conference beneficiaries that needed assistance. All goods have been already delivered just in time before total lock down occurred as of Monday 23rd of March.
- Thanks to our generous donors, we are able for the time being to support additional needs that arise due to the Corona Virus crisis.
- In contact with the Jewish Youth of Athens and other community members we organized a volunteering platform in order to offer help where needed such as grocery and medicine pick up, online purchases and bill payments among other.
Furthermore, measures were immediately taken at our School, the Lauder School of the Jewish Community of Athens, to ensure the safety of both staff and
students, as well as to continue the educational program. More specifically:
- From the very first moment the School closed, the main concern was to continue the curriculum. Along with our professional teachers, learning material, instruction manuals and projects were sent to students, asynchronous teaching and synchronized videoconferencing were quickly put in place.
- Currently, learning material is sent to pupils on a daily basis, it is then monitored and followed up with the necessary feedback, and videoconference lessons are held with all age groups.
- On Fridays, teachers of the Jewish curriculum invite all our students to an interactive Kabbalat Shabbat enhancing a sense of continuity and maintaining the unity of the School Community.
- The parents of our pupils are given the opportunity to communicate through the platform with the School psychologist in order to be advised on the new situation.
Regarding the Lauder - Pierce Project and Young adults, video conferences were organized by our Lauder Pierce Jewish Studies teachers and our Rabbi, and online activities for MENA (our Jewish Youth movement aged 12-18), were also organized by our Hanoar Hatzioni Shaliach. For our adult students, upon request we have doubled the teaching hours in Hebrew language through our online e-lauder.gr platform.
It should also be noted, that despite all difficulties due to lockdown, the Real Estate Committee continues the renovation project of converting the Kiddush Hall into a Youth Learning center financed by Educating for Impact (EFI).
Regarding Passover we issued the following announcement making sure our members remain healthy and safe:
“Pesach is an important family holiday for all of us. But this year, we urge you to avoid family gatherings. Let's use technology wherever possible to "stay close". Our Community is organizing a series of initiatives that we shall keep you informed about.”