Greek Court Overrules President on Status of Jewish Museum

The High Court of Justice here has decided in favor of the Jewish community’s request to change the status of the Jewish Museum in Athens from a private institution into the ward of a foundation.

The decision overruled President Christos Sartzetakis of the Greek republic, who since 1986 has twice denied the request for a change. The presidential signature is required for such transformations.

The court ruled that the president’s position was unreasonable and groundless. The case was the first time a religious minority in Greece appealed against a presidential decision.

The museum’s exhibits cover a period of almost 2,000 years of Jewish presence in Greece, starting with the apostle Paul who came to Greece to preach the word of Jesus.

It is a cultural center of which the Jewish community here is deservedly proud. The need to change its status was purely financial, according to the Central Jewish Board of Greece, the umbrella organization of Jewish communities in this country.

Since it is a private museum, contributions are not tax-deductible in Greece or in the United States, where there is an association of friends of the Jewish Museum of Athens.

The establishment of a foundation alters that situation.

Greek Jews were particularly incensed by Sartzetakis’ stated reason for opposing the change.

“If the Jews are allowed to have a museum (under such conditions), then the Turks will want one, and the Bulgarians,” he said.

To Jews, who consider themselves full citizens of Greece, though of a minority faith, the remark was insulting because it equated them with foreign nationalities living in Greece.

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