30 May 2009

Greece: Jewish history book and more

Tracing the Tribe has just discovered the excellent English-language AthensPlus, produced by the International Herald Tribune and Kathimerini.

This issue is a large PDF file, some 22 MB, but well worth it for a variety of reasons.

Page 20 carried the news that "Greece: A Jewish History," by K.E. Fleming (Princeton University Press, 2008) received the Runciman Award for books. The award is provided annually to a book on Greece or the world of Hellenism, published in English.

It also won the 2008 National Jewish Book Award for Sephardic Culture. Read the first chapter here, and read reviews here.

It was described as "a beautifully written and cumulatively moving account of how, and why, there is both Jew and Greek," by the judges' panel chair Martin Hammond.

Fleming is a New York University professor Mediterranean and modern Greek history and directs the Center for European and Mediterranean Studies and the A.S. Onassis Program in Hellenic Studies.

The book is the first comprehensive English-language history of Greek Jews, and the only one that includes material on the diaspora in Israel and the US. It tells the story of a people who for the most part no longer exist and whose identity is a paradox in that it wasn't fully formed until after most Greek Jews had emigrated or been deported and killed by the Nazis.

For centuries, Jews lived in areas that are now part of Greece. But Greek Jews as a nationalized group existed in substantial number only for a few short decades--from the Balkan Wars (1912-13) until the Holocaust, in which more than 80 percent were killed. Greece: a Jewish History describes their diverse histories and the processes that worked to make them emerge as a Greek collective. It also follows Jews as they left Greece- as deportees to Auschwitz or émigrés to Palestine/Israel and New York's Lower East Side. In such foreign settings their Greekness was emphasized as it never was in Greece, where Orthodox Christianity traditionally defines national identity and anti-Semitism remains common.
Genealogy was discovered on page 16, with a small listing indicating that the Foundation of the Hellenic World (FHW) held a public “Family Tree” discussion on May 24, at Hellenic Cosmos (254 Pireos) about its genealogy programs for Greeks, including those of the diaspora. Michalis Varlas is head of the foundation's genealogy department. The event aims to help participants discover their roots and family trees. Through screenings and group's archival digital collections, visitors can see how their own family history fits into the broader story of Hellenism.

Page 33 offers some interesting recipes from two women chefs. Sougania are stuffed braised onion shells filled with ground beef, rice and cumin. Sfougato is a thick baked grated zucchini omelet with eggs. Both sound delicious. [There are more recipes on page 32, for readers who eat octopus]

The travel section is on pages 42-43, if you're considering a visit to Greece. These pages might encourage you to do that sooner than later. Topics covered the island of Zykanthos, as well as other Greek locations for organic farms, wineries, spas and more.


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