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J.D.B. News Letter

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(By Our Salonica Correspondent)

A loan of $200,000 is being sought by the Salonica Jewish Community to help it solve the desperate housing problem among the Jews of the city and to establish a loan institution to enable the Jewish workers to earn their livelihood. The loan, it is stated in a memorandum submitted by the Community to Henry Morgenthau, while on a visit to Greece, would be secured by morgages on the Community’s buildings in Salonica. The interest on the loan should be as low as possible and the loan itself should be repayable by a sinking fund and spread over a period of 25 to 30 years.

The present position of the Jewish community in Salonica the memorandum says is deplorable. The home of 11,000 Jewish householders were burnt down in the great fire of 1917, and 36 synagogues and 12 schools were destroyed. The majority of the Jewish householders lost the greater part of their possessions and they were most of them entirely uninsured. The land which has been commandered en bloc for the Town Planning Scheme of the reconstructed city has enriched the municipality to the detriment of the Jewish population on account of the difference between the compensation price and the price obtained by the sale by auction of the appropriated land.

Since the Autumn of 1922, the influx of Greek refugees from Asia Minor has deprived a large number of the Salonica Jews of their livelihood. Their places have been taken by the refugees who are working as artisans, carriers, small traders and casual laborers.

In 1926, about 450 families of the poorer class found themselves homeless on account of the demolition of part of the Akdje-Medjid quarter. The Community which had already assumed a very heavy burden in providing special accommodation for 1.500 families, after the great fire of 1917 had to make a further effort to overcome this difficulty. Among other measures it raised a local fund amounting to £3,000 and $20,000 were received from the Joint Distribution Committee. With this fund a new quarter has been acquired. On this area 200 families have already been housed, and it will be possible to give shelter to a further 500 families as soon as the necessary funds are procured.

The Town Planning Committee proposes to demolish a number of dwelling houses inhabited by about 300 Jewish families. The Refugees’ Bank, which has been charged with the administration of those buildings formerly owned by Turks, now repatriated and since leased by Jewish tenants to the number of 1,500, has increased the rents of the dwellings from 200 to 500 percent. This increase is retrospective for three or four years. Pressure of all kinds is being brought to bear on these poor tenants even to the extent of seizing their furniture and effects and sealing the dwellings.

The total annual expenditure of the Jewish Community amounts to about ten million Drachmas, of which only 250,000 Drachmas are contributed by the municipal authorities. The town contributes annually sixteen million Drachmas for philanthropic objects, so that only one and a half percent of the total disbursements for charity go to the Jewish institutions, while according to the last census of 1928, the Jewish Community comprise twenty-five to thirty percent of the entire population of Salonica. Up to two years ago about 700,000 Drachmas were granted to the Jews out of the total budget of ten million Drachmas.

Justice requires that the State, in promulgating a law to this effect should put the municipality under the obligation of granting to our Community its due proportion of funds for charitable purposes.

In addition to these special difficulties, the Jewish population have been exhausted by the general crisis and are quite unable to rebuild any of the synagogues or schools, and the situation is gowing worse every day. The Jewish population is quite unable to solve its housing and other problems without outside help, the memorandum declares.

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