The Jewish Museum of Greece and the Epigraphic Museum document the presence of the Jews of Greece since the end of 4th century BC!
The life-time project of the Jewish Museum, now available to the Athenian public
The Jewish Museum of Greece (JMG) was pleased to announce a new temporary exhibition of great importance, entitled “Stone Paths – Stories Set in Stone: Jewish Inscriptions in Greece”, which is co-organised and co-hosted by the Epigraphic Museum (EM).
The exhibition was inspired by the Academy of Athens award winning (2019) publication of the academic volume Corpus Inscriptionum Judaicarum Graeciae: Corpus of Jewish and Hebrew Inscriptions from Mainland and Island Greece and supports the existence and presence of Jews in Greece since the end of 4th century BCE, thus highlighting the Jewish element in Greece in one of the oldest recorded religious and cultural settlements in Europe
This exhibition represents the quintessence of the existence of the Jewish Museum of Greece. This is because the epigraphic constitution is at the core of JMG’s research programs, which focus on the recording, study and publication of the intangible and material evidence of the archaeological and historical past of the Greek Jews. Thus, the culmination of a continuous, arduous and thrilling effort, which began in 2000, and reaches a mature point today, with the presentation of the specific epigraphic items.
The exhibits in the Epigraphic Museum are presented in thematic sections, which cover all aspects of the social, religious, political and cultural life of the Jewish communities of late antiquity. The novel approach represented by this double presentation lies in the exploration of the early settlement of the Jews in Greece not as an isolated historical event, but as an integral part of a broader historical, geographical and chronological context emphasizing and highlighting, in this way, Greece’s multicultural identity.
Also, the exhibition, aspires to contribute to the creation of a vivid stimulus of inspiration and dialogue with the present. In this context, the Jewish Museum of Greece presents the art exhibition entitled “Art of Memory and Commemoration”, curated by Viktor Koen, proposes a new reading of archaeological material, through the contemporary gaze of ten artists from the world of good and applied arts. Ancient epigraphic art, as an early form of design, is being redefined as a new point of reference through the works of its contemporary descendants of a wide range of art forms and design. Among them are the font designer Yannis Karlopoulos, industrial designer Andreas Varotsos, artists Artemis Alcalay, Xenis Sachinis and Katerina Zafeiropoulou, artist duo Kalos & Klio and photographers Aris Georgiou and Marilia Fotopoulou have ensured a wide range of styles and results. The exhibition is completed by a painting by Morris Ganis (1973–2019) -in whose memory the exhibition is dedicated.
It is noted that this exhibition is carried out with the support of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, while it is financed by the German Federal Foreign Office, from the Greek-German Future Fund.Hellenic-German Fund.
The exhibition inaugural ceremony took place as follows: Monday 16/05 at 18:00 at the Jewish Museum of Greece (Nikis 39, Athens), in the presence of the Minister of Culture and Sports, Ms. Lina Mendoni, (who addressed a short greeting), as well as the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany,Dr.E Dr Ernst Reichel. The ceremony continued at 19:00 at the Epigraphic Museum (Tositsa 1, Athens).
Opening the exhibition, the Director of EME, Ms. Zanet Battinou, stated that “the exhibition is the culmination of many years of work and aims to highlight and promote selected historical and archaeological evidence of the Jews of Greece, from the end of the 4th BCE to the 15th century, while referring to the art exhibition “Art of Memory and Remembrance” she added that, “it is an attempt to communicate with the specific remnants of a world that no longer exists and proposes a new reading of archaeological material, through the modern look of the world of fine and applied arts”.
EME’s President, Mr. Makis Matsas, taking the floor afterwards, excitedly confessed that “today, with this exhibition, an old dream of mine is being fulfilled”. He continued by emphasizing that the exhibition is inspired by the many years of research for the creation of the “Constitution of Jewish and Jewish Inscriptions from Mainland and Island Greece” which was envisioned by the Director of the Museum and which after 20 years of hard work was delivered in 2018 to the world public. And he concluded that “the exhibition has a very significant value because, on the one hand, it documents the existence and presence of Jews in Greece since the end of the 4th century BCE, thus highlighting the Jewish element in Greece as one of the oldest Jewish communities in Europe, but at the same time highlighting the multicultural past of our homeland, Greece “. Mr. Matsas also expressed his gratitude to the Minister and the services of the Ministry of Culture and the Epigraphic Museum for the preparation and lending of valuable archaeological material, but also for the firm and continuous support.
The Minister of Culture and Sports, Ms. Lina Mendoni, characterized the inscriptions as “talking stones”, that is, the most direct presumption of historicity of a place and the body that bears the language and writes it. According to the Minister, “the greatest importance of this exhibition lies in the fact that it historically demonstrates that diversity not only does not hinder coexistence but on the contrary, it is an enriching factor that broadens the foundations, strengthens the adaptability of society and ultimately increases cohesion and authenticity.” The Minister also stressed the special interest of the exhibition from a museological point of view “as it is characterized by a dual structure in conception, the first of unique historical Jewish significance that sheds light on the manifestations of the religious, political, social and cultural life of Jews and their local communities from antiquity to Ottoman times and the second which offers a polyphonic narrative and an interactive relationship with the past”.
On his part, the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany, Dr. Reichel said that: “it is my pleasure to launch these periodic exhibitions with you. They remind us that the Jews have been an integral part of European history since ancient times. Last year, the Federal Republic of Germany celebrated 1,700 years of recorded Jewish history in the country, emphasizing its importance through the centuries and contrasting it with anti-Semitic narratives. The exhibitions we are launching today are in line with this effort. That is why I am very happy and proud that this demanding project was implemented under very adverse conditions due to the current situation with the funding of the German Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs from the resources of the Hellenic-German Fund for the Future”.
Last but not least, the Director of the Epigraphic Museum, Dr. Athanasios Themos referred to the collaboration between the two museums, saying that “this collaboration has another dimension, that of the visitor’s diving into historical time and emerging in modern art through ancient monuments”, while he added that “this exhibition is in essence about multiculturalism”.
The overall exhibition “Stone Paths – Stories Set in Stone: Jewish Inscriptions in Greece”, is accompanied by the digital edition (e-book) of the epigraphic constitution, in order for the visitor to have an overview of the full extent of the available material.
Also, the contemporary art exhibition entitled “Art of Memory and Commemoration”, is accompanied by a bilingual catalog, as well as a bilingual edition entitled “The Jews of the Byzantine Empire” by Professor Nicholas de Lange, on the history and archeology of the Jews of late antiquity and Byzantium.
Specially designed training programs are also provided.
During the event, the Certification/Accreditation Mark was handed over to EME by the Directorate of Modern Cultural Heritage, with the care of Director Stavroula Fotopoulou, a distinction which the Museum had achieved back in 2020, but due to the pandemic the Mark had been handed over only in a digital form.
The exhibition will be open to the public until the end of February 2023.