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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Greek Jewish community fighting to stay solvent

The Greek Jewish community is struggling to stave off bankruptcy.
David Saltiel, the head of the community in Thessaloniki, which has used its deeper pockets to support needy Jewish communities around the country since the onset of financial troubles, confirmed the severity of the situation.

“I'm afraid that if something does not happen to save all the Jewish communities in Greece we will be in a difficult situation,” he said. “Worst of all is not being able to support Jewish life, the synagogues, the schools and those in need."

Since the recession began last year, revenues from Jewish assets and donations have dropped precipitously making it increasingly difficult for communities around the country to pay for services rendered to its 6,000 members.

The biggest blow so far has been the new property tax. The measure, passed by the Greek government earlier this month in a bid to raise money to pay off its debtors, levies an additional 16 euros on every square meter. Because the Jewish community’s biggest source of income is real estate, its coffers have been particularly badly affected by the law.

“A lot of the property is either vacant because people cannot afford them or the tenants are demanding rents reduced by 40 percent or they threaten to leave,” said Albelas.

In order to avoid bankruptcy, Greek Jews have appealed to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), an international relief group based in New York City, for help.
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