Jewish Museum of Greece

The idea of the Jewish Museum of Greece was conceived in the late 70’s. The initiative belonged to the Jewish Community of Athens, especially to some of its members, who offered their full support to this effort. In 1977, a small museum was unofficially founded, which was temporarily housed in a room next to the Athens Synagogue. The first objects salvaged from the war were basically artifacts and documents from the 19th and 20th century as well as copious quantities of religious objects, documents and jewelry. These were seized by the Bulgarians from the Jews of Thrace in 1943, and were returned and handed over to the Greek government after the resignation of the Bulgarian King and the establishment of the communist regime. In the years that followed, a detailed and careful gathering of artifacts from all the Communities of Greece started under the guidance of Nikos Stavroulakis, director of the Jewish Museum until 1993.Thanks to the interest of many individuals, the collection was significantly enriched with rare books and puplications, fabrics, jewelry, ritual objects and household utensils. Soon, the museum began to attract the interest of many visitors from Greece and abroad, as well as of many scientists and donors willing to contribute to its development. In 1981, the organization “American Friends of the Jewish Museum of Greece” was established in Chicago and New York as a non-profit fundraising organization providing a tax-deductible structure for friends in the U.S.A. who wish to financially support the Museum. The Association of Friends of the Jewish Museum of Greece was organized a little later by members of the Athens Jewish Community, which since then has continuously supported every initiative of the museum. The ongoing enrichment of the museum as well as the broadening of its activities soon forced the search for new premises. Therefore, the collection was transferred, in 1984, to a rented apartment of a building at 36 Amalias Avenue. The exhibits were reorganized, emphasizing themes of major interest to the broad and non-homogeneous, public. After years of efforts, the museum acquired legal status in 1989. Since then it is functioning as a Legal Body and is managed by a Board of Directors, consisting of nine members. As the years unfolded, the museum’s activities dramatically expanded, focusing on the areas of research, study of Greek Judaism and publications, in collaboration with other institutions and scientistsfrom Greece and abroad. Simultaneously, the collection is being continuously enriched with new acquisitions from all over the world, greatly surpassing all initial expectations. The museum’s increasing needs for additional space as well as the vision to acquire its own home, lead to the purchase of a neoclassical building, with the assistance of Friends from Greece and abroad, as well as of the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki. The building was restored and renovated with the substantial financial support of the Ministry of Culture and of the Associations of the Museum’s Friends. At the end of 1997, exactly twenty years after its establishment, the Jewish Museum of Greece moved to its permanent home, a beautiful building at 39 Nikis str., in the area of Plaka at the center of Athens.