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Jewish Education in Athens, Greece
Since closing the doors of the family’s clothing business in Athens last year, Rafail, 58 is unable to afford the mortgage or sell the house and was forced to pull his children, Lela (10) and Moni (6) out of the Athens Jewish Community School.
Yaldeinu’s scholarship initiative seeks to ensure that children like Moni can continue to receive a Jewish education.

As Greece’s sovereign debt crisis turns into a full-fledged domestic economic emergency, the skyrocketing unemployment and small business bankruptcy rates are rattling families throughout the country. Rafail and his wife Sara are among hundreds of families in the Jewish community making heartbreaking decisions in order to keep a roof over their children’s heads.

The Greek Jewish community, consisting of some 5,000 members, operates synagogues, a Jewish school, a cultural center, and a soup kitchen but with the country’s dire financial situation, the majority of Jewish communal institutions are struggling to stay afloat.

Many members of the Greek Jewish community are now unemployed and falling below the poverty line.  People who were once the community’s steadfast supporters are now turning to it for help.

A keystone of the Athens Jewish community, the School offers the full curriculum of the Greek Ministry of education as well as Hebrew and Jewish History. There’s a pre-school day-care for kids starting at age 2.5. Kids begin learning Hebrew in kindergarten; they study Judaism and Jewish history from first grade on, and celebrate and visit Israel. “Our aim is to make each student feel connected to the Jewish community and understand his/her role in it,” explains Principal George Kanellos.  “When kids graduate from our school they can communicate in Hebrew; they know about our traditions, our religion, and our history,” he said.

Jewish education is even more essential in small communities like Greece’s, argues Kanellos. “Where we live it is very hard to preserve Jewish life. It is not just the learning at our school that is essential. The contact with other Jewish families and the deep friendships that are created here are invaluable. The school cements ties within the community, which is like an extended family.”

In these toughest of times, a special emergency grant from the Joint Distribution Committee extends a lifeline to Greek families in need.    Yaldeinu has committed to fund the community’s educational needs during the cirsis.  Each scholarship costs $5,000 and covers full tuition for chidren whose parents cannot afford the cost of Jewish day school.  Scholarhsip moneys are delivered directly to the Athens Jewish Community School. 




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