ISRAEL— Senior officials of Maccabi Haifa F.C. visited the two synagogues of Athens together with representatives of the local Jewish community and the World Jewish Congress, before laying a wreath at the city’s memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust in Greece on Tuesday.
Ahead of the team’s UEFA Champions League qualifier match against the Olympiacos F.C. set to take place on Wednesday (July 27), a delegation of club representatives led by team CEO Itzik Ovadia, heard from Holocaust survivor Emmy Mekiou during a short ceremony.
Mekiou, who, as a young child hid from the Nazis with her family in Athens, said, “For us, it is very important that you have taken the time to come to visit our community. Over the course of the past ten years, I have spoken to groups and schools to tell share my story and ensure that the hate and crimes of the past will never be repeated again.”
Speaking about the importance of the visit and the opportunity to build a strong bond with Jewish communities of the diaspora, Zvi Wizner, a member of the board of Maccabi Haifa who is the child of a survivor who was saved by Oscar Schindler, explained, “Preserving the memory of the Holocaust is a core principle of Maccabi Haifa. From my perspective, as a child of survivors, it is essential that the team uses its platform to build relationships with Jewish communities and amplify the voices of those who persevered during the years of the Holocaust.”
The Israeli club’s delegation was also welcomed at the headquarters of the Jewish Community of Athens by its director Taly Mair as well as WJC’s Coordinator for Combating Antisemitism Leon Saltiel.
Mair, who expressed her appreciation to the visitors and explained that the team should look at Diaspora Jewish communities as a resource when travelling to Europe, said, “We are honored to welcome you to Athens. As someone who was born in Haifa, this visit has special meaning for me and serves as an important opportunity to continue to enhance the relationship between our community and the Jewish state.”
In his remarks, Saltiel, who is also WJC’s representative in Geneva and to UNESCO, highlighted the organizations track record of working with leading clubs and leagues across the sporting world, adding, “The World Jewish Congress recognizes the unique ability of sports to serve as a platform for bringing people together and elevating the fight against antisemitism in the public consciousness. It can also shine a light on the diversity of Jewish communities around the world. We look forward to continuing to develop more initiatives in this field to bring these issues to the forefront.”
The Jewish community of Greece, historically centered in the city of Thessaloniki, numbers approximately 5,000 members. Today, most, the descendants of those who survived the Holocaust, reside in the country’s capital of Athens. The Central Board of Jewish Communities of Greece, which was a cosponsor of today’s event, is an affiliate of the World Jewish Congress.