Interview with Carol Gordon on “Shira’s Journey”

In September 2013, an Australian team travelled to Greece to shoot a documentary focusing on the Greek Jews – their rich history, the impact of the Holocaust on them as well as their present-day existence. The documentary is based on an original screenplay written by Carol Gordon who also directed the film together with Natalie Cunningham. “Following Shira’s Journey: A Greek Jewish Odyssey” premiered at the Delphi Bank 21st Greek Film Festival in Melbourne on October 26, 2014 and it has been screened at Film festivals worldwide since then. An integral part of this project are the photos captured by Emmanuel Santos; they were featured in a major exhibition at the Jewish Museum of Australia in Melbourne in 2017.

Carol Gordon answered some questions for the Against Antisemitism blog about this remarkable project.

Your multi-faceted project is based on intense research. How did you first become interested in Greek Jewish Communities?

I grew up in South Africa in a traditional Jewish household. I knew about the Greek Jews from Rhodos because many of them came to South Africa before the war. I also knew vaguely about Jews in Thessaloniki because I had read a book that mentioned the community. South Africa was also home to a very large Greek Orthodox community so we had many Greek friends and they often told me information about the Jews of Greece that I’d never heard of before. After school I travelled to Greece and felt a very strong connection there, resulting in me going back a few times. With each trip I learned more about the many Greek Jewish communities that had existed there. I became determined to find out as much as I could and to document this very unknown history – particularly the devastating effect of the Holocaust on the Greek Jewish communities. It is only in the past ten years that much more information has come out into the public domain. It took me around thirty years of researching until I felt I had enough to write the screenplay and do the documentary.

Shimon Cohen, Rhodes. Courtesy of Emmanuel Santos.

The Documentary and Photographic shoot took you to 10 communities throughout Greece. What were the challenges that you faced?

It was a lengthy process to identify the last remaining Jewish communities in Greece. Once I’d done that, the next challenge was to meet people in those communities and set up interviews with Holocaust Survivors. One of the problems in finding Survivors to interview was that many were too old and some were not well or had dementia. Sadly, since the shoot in 2013, many of the Survivors have passed away. I don’t speak Greek so I often had to work through interpreters. Another major challenge was to raise funding for the project. Unfortunately I never managed to raise much except for a few donations that I was very grateful for. I ended up funding the project from my own savings.

Holocaust survivor Rivka Aron, Corfu. Courtesy of Emmanuel Santos.

“Following Shira’s Journey: A Greek Jewish Odyssey” was shot at a particularly difficult time for Greece, as the neo-Nazi “Golden Dawn” party had already entered Greek Parliament, thus multiplying its violent and murderous attacks on migrants and leftists. Most of the Greek Jews that you interviewed – among them some Holocaust survivors – were very worried about this situation. Are you aware of their thoughts and reactions after judges ruled on October 7 that “Golden Dawn” was a criminal organisation in disguise? What in your opinion is the significance of this verdict?

I have been in contact with many of the people in the Jewish communities since the verdict and they are all extremely pleased with the result and relieved as well. I think the significance of this verdict is that it sends a very clear message – that racism and antisemtism will not be tolerated. Neo Nazism has no place in our world and this ruling confirms that.

In your documentary you also discuss the challenge for survival that the Greek Jewish communities face. What do you think could be done to revitalise those communities?

Sadly, I don’t think that those communities can be revitalised. Before WWII there were 32 thriving Jewish communities throughout Greece. Of the 10 remaining communities that have some semblance of existence, only 3 are fully functioning communities with Synagogues holding regular services. These are Athens, Thessaloniki and Larissa. The most important thing is to make sure that the history of those communities is remembered and celebrated because it is probably only a matter of time before the numbers decrease even more.

Jewish Cemetery, Corfu. Courtesy of Emmanuel Santos.

To what extent can your documentary contribute to Holocaust education and to raise awareness about the problem of Jew-hatred?

Our vision for the Project is to share untold stories for a more tolerant world. Our mission is to connect people, cultures and stories via creative and educational platforms. The fact that we have interviews with Survivors in the documentary and in the Education Package that we are putting together, is very impactful in terms of Holocaust education. It is always powerful to hear testimony from someone who went through it. I think that through the testimonies, the viewer gets an understanding of the danger and horrors that anti-Semitism can lead to. This can be applied to any form of racism.

Nikos Stavroulakis, Chania. Courtesy of Emmanuel Santos

Are you planning an update of your film or/and a DVD edition?

The documentary is being updated at the moment to include some new information regarding Golden Dawn. Once the film has been updated and the education package is complete, we will make them available on line. We have also just finished a Greek subtitled version of the documentary which we hope will be used throughout Greek schools and other institutions for educational purposes.

What do you think about the problem of antisemitism in Greece and in Europe more generally?

Unfortunately the problem of anti-Semitism is still very prevalent in Greece and throughout Europe. There are constant attacks on Jewish institutions and vandalism of cemeteries and monuments. The only thing to do is to continue to educate people about the facts and the dangers of such acts.

Can you give us some key information about Jewish life in Australia? Is Jew-hatred a recurrent problem on the continent?

The Jewish population of Australia represents approximately 0.5% of the national population. There are around 113,000 Jews in Australia with the majority residing in Sydney (New South Wales) and Melbourne (Victoria). There has definitely been a rise in antisemitic activity over the past few years. This includes anti-Semitic vandalism and graffiti, the circulation of anti-Semitic documents and fliers, verbal abuse and online hate groups. We have community groups that monitor such activity and the police are active in responding to it.

Following Shira’s Journey: A Greek Jewish Odyssey (Trailer)
Carol Gordon

Carol Gordon is a Melbourne-based writer, filmmaker, and Holocaust educator. Carol trained as a film editor in South Africa and worked in the film and television industry there for many years. In 1995, Carol moved to Australia with her family. With a Degree in Teaching and an Honours Degree in Communication (Media Studies), Carol has completed several courses through the Australian Film, Television and Radio School. Devoting more than thirty years to the research of the history of Greece’s Jewish communities and their near-destruction during the Holocaust, Carol continues on her mission to present the Shira’s Journey Project to local and international audiences of all ages, and sharing the  little known history of these once vibrant and dynamic communities.

Natalie Cunningham is an Australian filmmaker of Greek heritage. Following the success of her debut short documentary, ‘You Know What? I Love You,’ a touching portrait of her grandmother, Natalie has pursued her passion for inspiring and evocative storytelling through film. Natalie’s work explores themes of cultural identity and belonging and her films have screened at local and international film festivals including the Melbourne International Film Festival and Palm Springs International Short Film Festival. Natalie’s role as co-director and editor of the documentary Following Shira’s Journey: A Greek Jewish Odyssey (2014) marked the beginning of her collaboration with Carol Gordon, with whom she has since worked on The Bialik Button Project (2015) as well as a series of educational resources exploring the history and present day experiences of Greek Jewry. 

Born in the Philippines, Emmanuel Santos is an Australia based documentary and art photographer. For more than a decade, Emmanuel Santos has been tracing the songlines of the Jewish spirit. His photographs are memory tracks spiralling through history, hinting at the prophecy of ingathering from every corner of the earth.

Παρουσίαση του βιβλίου “Εβραϊκές κοινότητες ανάμεσα σε Ανατολή και Δύση” / Book presentation: Jewish communities between East and West

Το Τμήμα Ιστορίας & Αρχαιολογίας του Πανεπιστημίου Ιωαννίνων, η Ισραηλιτική Κοινότητα Iωαννίνων και το Πνευματικό Κέντρο του Δήμου Ιωαννιτών σας προσκαλούν στην παρουσίαση του βιβλίου

Εβραϊκές κοινότητες ανάμεσα σε Ανατολή και Δύση, 15ος-20ός αιώνας: οικονομία, κοινωνία, πολιτική, πολιτισμός,

Πρακτικά διεθνούς συνεδρίου (Ιωάννινα, 21-23 Μαΐου 2015), εκδόσεις Ισνάφι, Ιωάννινα 2016

την Τετάρτη 11 Ιανουαρίου 2017, στις 8.00 μ.μ.στον Πολιτιστικό Πολυχώρο «Δ. Χατζής»

Χαιρετισμοί:
Χρήστος Σταυράκος, Πρόεδρος Τμήματος Ιστορίας & Αρχαιολογίας
Μωυσής Ελισάφ, Πρόεδρος Ισραηλιτικής Κοινότητας Ιωαννίνων

Ομιλητές:
Λάμπρος Φλιτούρης, επίκ. καθηγητής ευρωπαϊκής ιστορίας Πανεπιστημίου Ιωαννίνων
Γιώργος Αντωνίου, επίκ. καθηγητής εβραϊκών σπουδών ΑΠΘ
Στέφανος Δημητρίου, αναπλ. καθηγητής πολιτικής φιλοσοφίας Πανεπιστημίου Ιωαννίνων
και οι επιμελήτριες του τόμου, Άννα Μαχαιρά και Λήδα Παπαστεφανάκη

Συντονιστής: Φιλήμων Καραμήτσος, δημοσιογράφος

[Via facebook]

book_jewish_communities

Jewish communities between East and West, 15th-20th centuries: Economy, society, politics, culture, Anna Mahera – Leda Papastefanaki (eds.), preface Moses Elisaf, Proceedings of the International Conference (Ioannina, 21-23 May 2015), Department of History & Archaeology, University of Ioannina – Jewish Community of Ioannina, Isnafi Publications, Ioannina 2016, p. 382 [Greek and English texts, English abstracts]

The volume explores the multiple aspects of the history of the Jewish Communities (15th -20th centuries) in Europe, with an emphasis in the Mediterranean and the Balkans; it originated in the conference jointly organised by the Department of History & Archaeology of the University of Ioannina and the Jewish Community of Ioannina on 21-23 May 2015.

The contributors to the volume are: Fragiski Ampatzopoulou, Henriette-Rika Benveniste, Eleni Beze, Andreas Bouroutis, Philip Carabott, Iason Chandrinos, Anna Maria Droumpouki, Moses Elisaf, Hagen Fleischer, Maria Fragkou, Annette Fromm, Sakis Gekas, Eyal Ginio, Michal Govrin, Evanghelos Hekimoglou, Dimitris Kargiotis, Maria Kavala, Eleni Kourmantzi, Daphne Lappa, Anna Mahera, Anna Mandilara, Giorgos Margaritis, Leda Papastefanaki, Ioanna Pepelasis, Odette Varon-Vassard, Dimitrios Varvaritis, Stavros Zoumboulakis.

ΠΕΡΙΕΧΟΜΕΝΑ / TABLE OF CONTENTS

Ευχαριστίες

Μωυσής Ελισάφ, Πρόλογος

Άννα Μαχαιρά – Λήδα Παπαστεφανάκη, Εισαγωγή

Πολιτισμικές ταυτότητες των εβραϊκών κοινοτήτων
Henriette-Rika Benveniste, The idea of exile: Jewish accounts and the Historiography of Salonika revisited
Daphne Lappa, Cross-cultural Networks, Mobility, and Religious Conversion in the 18th-century Eastern Mediterranean
Annette B. Fromm, Why is it important? The Jewish Community of Ioannina
Φραγκίσκη Αμπατζοπούλου, Η ‟συκοφαντία αίματος” και οι Έλληνες συγγραφείς στο γύρισμα του 20ού αιώνα
Άννα Μαχαιρά, Μεταξύ αγοράς και πολιτικής: οι Εβραίοι της Γαλλίας πριν από την υπόθεση Dreyfus

Η εβραϊκή ταυτότητα στη λογοτεχνία
Ελένη Κουρμαντζή, Γιωσέφ Ελιγιά: Διανοούμενος και ποιητής της «διαμαρτυρίας»
Δημήτρης Καργιώτης, Άσμα Ασμάτων: Η υπόγεια παρέμβαση του Γιωσέφ Ελιγιά στο νεοελληνικό λογοτεχνικό κανόνα

Εβραϊκές κοινότητες στον ελλαδικό χώρο από τον 15ο στον 20ό αιώνα
Λήδα Παπαστεφανάκη, «Άνθρωποι ταπεινοί, φρόνιμοι, νοικοκυρεμένοι και καλοί οικογενειάρχες…». Προς μια κοινωνική ιστορία της Εβραϊκής Κοινότητας των Ιωαννίνων τον 20ό αιώνα
Evanghelos Hekimoglou, The religious filter in the history of the urban transformations; Sephardim in Thessalonica (15th-20th centuries)
Sakis Gekas, For better or for worse? A counter-narrative of Corfu Jewish history and the transition from the Ionian State to the Greek Kingdom (1815-1890s).
Eyal Ginio, Enduring the Shift from an Empire to a Nation-State: The Case of the Jewish Community of Kavala during the First Balkan War
Φίλιππος Κάραμποτ, Η εβραϊκή παρουσία στην Αθήνα του 19ου αιώνα: Από τον Μάξιμο Ρότσιλδ στην Ισραηλιτική Αδελφότητα

Επιχειρήσεις, δίκτυα, ανταγωνισμοί
Ανδρέας Μπουρούτης, Alliance Israelite εναντίον Deutsche Juden Hilvsverein
Ioanna Sapfo Pepelasis – Dimitrios Varvaritis, A New Perspective on Jewish Enterprising in Greece (1830-1929): Evidence from the founding charters of Joint Stock Companies and biographical material
Άννα Μανδυλαρά, Το ζήτημα των «ελληνικών» εταιρειών: ελληνικά και εβραϊκά δίκτυα ανάμεσα στην Οθωμανική αυτοκρατορία και τη Δυτική Ευρώπη κατά τον 19ο αιώνα

Κατοχή, Αντίσταση, Γενοκτονία των Εβραίων
Γιώργος Μαργαρίτης, Αντισημιτισμός: «τεχνικές» παράμετροι
Μαρία Φράγκου, Τα αντιφατικά όρια της ιταλικής πολιτικής: Οι Ιταλοί Εβραίοι στις κατεχόμενες ζώνες του Άξονα
Μαρία Καβάλα, Οι εκτελέσεις Εβραίων στη Θεσσαλονίκη στα χρόνια της Κατοχής. Πολιτική αντιποίνων και φυλετισμός
Odette Varon-Vassard, The enlisting of Greek Jews in the Resistance. Silence, memory and discourse
Ιάσονας Χανδρινός, «Οι Δίκαιοι του αντιφασισμού»: Το ΕAM και οι προσπάθειες διάσωσης των Ελλήνων Εβραίων, 1941-1944

Μνήμη και λόγοι για τη Γενοκτονία των Εβραίων
Σταύρος Ζουμπουλάκης, Χριστιανισμός και αντισημιτισμός πριν και μετά το Ολοκαύτωμα
Michal Govrin, What Is Memory? Seventy Years Later
Χάγκεν Φλάισερ – Άννα Μαρία Δρουμπούκη, Κλειώ και κλισέ: Η Γερμανία αντιμέτωπη με το «τηλεοπτικό Ολοκαύτωμα»
Ελένη Μπεζέ, Εβραίοι Αριστεροί και Σιωνιστές στη μεταπολεμική Ελλάδα. Αποκλίσεις και συγκλίσεις (1945-1951)

Abstracts
Πρόγραμμα του Συνεδρίου – Conference Programme

Νέα εφαρμογή κινητού για τη Συναγωγή των Χανίων / Launch of the “Etz Hayyim and Jewish Legacy in Crete” Mobile App

Via Israel in Greece

Οι Πρεσβείες του Καναδά και του Ισραήλ παρουσίασαν χθες την εφαρμογή του κινητού τηλεφώνου για την “Συναγωγή Ετς Χαγίμ Χανιών και την Εβραϊκή Κληρονομία της Κρήτης”. Η τουριστική αυτή εφαρμογή αποτελεί σημαντικό εργαλείο, δίνοντας στους χρήστες άμεση πρόσβαση σε πληροφορίες για την πλούσια ιστορία της Εβραϊκής Κοινότητας των Χανίων και της Κρήτης.

The Embassies of Canada and Israel presented yesterday the new mobile phone app for the “Etz Hayyim Chania Synagogue and the Jewish Legacy in Crete.” This tourist app is an important tool that provides users with information regarding the rich history of the Jewish Community of Chania and Crete.

European Day of Jewish Culture 2014: Greece

Women-in-judaism-poster2014

The 15th European Day of Jewish Heritage will be celebrated on Sunday, September 14th 2014. This year’s subject matter: Women in Judaism.

Hundreds of events and initiatives are planned in:

AustriaBelgiumBosnia HerzegovinaBulgariaCroatiaDenmark,

FranceGermanyGreeceIrelandItalyLithuaniaLuxembourg,

NetherlandsNorwayPortugalRomaniaSerbiaSloveniaSpain,

SwedenSwitzerlandUnited Kingdom

European Days of Jewish Culture in Larissa

Date/Time: September 13, starting time 7.30 pm

Address: 29 Kentavron st. Jewish Martyrs’ Square – Larissa 41222

We are happy to announce the participation of the Jewish Community of Larissa to the European Day of Jewish Culture for 2014, with the general subject “Women in Judaism”. Together with B’nei B’rit – Athens , we are organizing an event in Larissa, on Saturday September 13, dedicated to Greek – Jewish Women Writers. The idea is to honor Greek Jewish Women who have contributed to spreading jewish culture though bibliography (novel writers, poets, historians, scientists, journalists, translators, ethnographers, publishers) The event will take place in the Synagogue at 7.30 p.m. and the program includes: Welcome speeches by the presidents of B’nei B’rit and the Jewish Community of Larissa, Lecture on contribution of women to jewish heritage by Mr. Manos Alchanatis, Professor of the University of Athens, Small presentation of the honored women writers and their work and offering honorary diplomas. After that, people will pass to a book fair in the Community Center, where they will be able to see and buy the books of the honored writers. For the closing of the event we will give a cocktail reception at the Synagogue yard, with Jewish food buffet and Jewish music. Invitations for the event will be sent to members of our Community, all Jewish Communities and Organizations in Greece , the authorities of the city (Mayor, Prefect, e.t.c.) Cultural Societies and active Women Organizations of Larissa and non-Jewish friends.
We hope it will be a successful and interesting event which will give many people the chance to get acquainted with our Jewish Community and its contribution to local cultural life.

Rhodes

Date/Time: September 14, 10.00am-3.00pm

Address: Simiou & Dossiadou street, Medieval Town, Rhodes

The Jewish Community of Rhodes presents:

Open doors’ day: from 10.00am to 3pm the synagogue of Rhodes will be open to the public, with guided tour-lectures by mr. Isaac Habib at 12am and 2pm.

Free entrance

For more information:
Telephone: 0030 22410 22364.
Web: www.jewishrhodes.org

Thessaloniki

Open doors’ day in the Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki

Date/Time: September 14, 11am-2pm

Address: 13 Aghiou Mina Str.

Open doors’ day (free entrance) at the Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki

Opening times: On Sunday 14/09, the Museum will be open from 11am to 2pm.

Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki
13 Aghiou Mina Str.
Thessaloniki

www.jmth.gr

info@jmth.gr

Source: jewisheritage.org

Women-in-judaism-Rhodos

“By-standing and standing-by” will be screened at London Greek Film Festival 2013.

By-standing and standing-by. Directed by Fofo Terzidou. Greece, 2012. 73’. UK Premiere.

By-standing and standing-by will be screened at London Greek Film Festival 2013.

Wednesday, 9/10/2013, starting time of the screening: 17:00 @ Westbourne Studios, 242 Acklam Road, Notting Hill, London, UK.

———————————————————

Film Category: FEATURE DOCUMENTARY

Original Title: EKTOS ISTORIAS

English Title: BY-STANDING AND STANDING-BY

Greek Title: EKTOS ISTORIAS

Duration: 73’

Country of origin: GREECE

Video online: www.vimeo.com/45718362

terzidou_by_standing_and_standing_by_2-32879Director: FOFO TERZIDOU

Producer: PERIKLIS KORTSARIS-FOFO TERZIDOU

Production Company / Companies: INDEPENDENT PRODUCTION

Brief synopsis in English: The film looks into aspects of the Shoah of Thessaloniki, once an important Mediterranean metropolis and home of Europe’s most ancient Jewish community. Historic memory and it’s destruction, stereotypes and prejudices as well, as the construction of the official version of events are issues that the documentary deals with through survivors’ testimonies and the analysis of events by historians and other experts.

Brief synopsis in Greek: Η καταστροφή της εβραϊκής κοινότητας της Θεσσαλονίκης, της αρχαιότερης της Ευρώπης, καθώς και η άγνωστη ιστορία της διάσωσης της μικρότερης εβραϊκής κοινότητας στην Ελλάδα, την ίδια εποχή, αυτή της γειτονικής Κατερίνης. Ιστορική μνήμη και μνημοκτονία, συλλογικό τραύμα, επίσημη ιστορία και στερεοτυπικές προκαταλήψεις, είναι κάποια από τα κεντρικά θέματα του ντοκιμαντέρ.

Release Date: 9/3/2012

Original Format: HD CAM

Credits:

RESEARCH: FOFO TERZIDOU, PERIKLIS KORTSARIS

WRITERS: FOFO TERZIDOU, PERIKLIS KORTSARIS

CINEMATOGRAPHY: FOFO TERZIDOU

SOUND: FOFO TERZIDOU

EDITOR: STATHIS AVGOUSTATOS

MUSIC: VAKIA STAVROU

Original Language(s): GREEK-ENGLISH

English Subtitles: YES

Previous screenings / festivals worldwide: 14TH THESSALONIKI INTERNATIONAL DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL (2012). 27TH FORT LAUDERDALE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL (2012). 6TH CHALKIDA DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL (2012). COUNSIL OF EUROPE, INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION ON HOLOCAUST IN THESSALONIKI, OCTOBER 2012.

terzidou_by_standing_and_standing_by_1-32878Via londongreekfilmfestival.com.

“Kisses to the Children” is going to be screened in Chicago

Kisses-to-the-Children-Chicago

(NOTE: In order to see the Trailer with English subtitles please activate the SUBTITLES option)

Five Greek-Jewish children who were saved by Christian families during the German Occupation, five “hidden children” who lived in total silence, tell their stories.

Stories of terror, anguish and confusion but also stories of salvation and carefree childhood into the arms of strangers. Secret Gardens of Eden, nests of love away from the horror of the Holocaust.

Five children were forced to mature abruptly.

Rosina, Iossif, Eftyhia, Shelly and Marios grew old, carrying the memory of thousands of children, those who were never given the time to grow up.

The movie follows these persons from childhood to present day, revealing their hidden stories and invaluable personal documents -a diary of a child, photographs and home movies. It also depicts the life of the Greek Jewish Communities before the War, complemented with rare images of Occupied Greece from archival material, as well as amateur films by German soldiers and illegal footage shot by Greek patriots.

KISSES TO THE CHILDREN is not just another film about the Holocaust; it’s a film about childhood in the shadow of the Holocaust.

It was shot in Athens, Thessaloniki, Ioannina & Chania, Greece, and in Auschwitz, Poland.

The film was awarded 8 awards at Film Festivals.

Running Time 115′, Production year 2011-2012

Written and directed by:

VASSILIS LOULES

Produced by:

MASSIVE PRODUCTIONS / VASSILIS LOULES / GREEK FILM CENTRE / HELLENIC BROADCASTING CORPORATION (ERT)

with the collaboration of:

THE JEWISH MUSEUM OF GREECE

with the kind support of:

THE J. F. COSTOPOULOS FOUNDATION / JEWISH COMMUNITY OF THESSALONIKI / CENTRAL BOARD OF JEWISH COMMUNITIES IN GREECE / AMERICAN SEPHARDI FEDERATION / THE AMERICAN FRIENDS OF THE JEWISH MUSEUM OF GREECE / TASK FORCE FOR INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION ON HOLOCAUST EDUCATION, REMEMBRANCE, AND RESEARCH