Devin E. Naar, Assistant Professor and Marsha & Jay Glazer Chair in Jewish Studies, Coordinator of the Sephardic Studies Initiative was the key-note speaker and lecturer during the first international conference on “The Holocaust in Greece: Genocide and its Aftermath” organized by the Journal of Genocide Research and the International Hellenic University.
Devin offered two lectures during his stay in Thessaloniki, and a number of interviews about his work and research on the Sephardic community of the city. His first lecture, under the theme of “You Are Your Brother’s Keeper: Rebuilding the Jewish Community from Afar, 1944 – 1948” focused on efforts by a group of Sephardic Jews who had emigrated to the United States at the beginning of the twentieth century to rebuild the Jewish Community of the city after WWII. Devin presented his research on “The Sephardic Brotherhood of America, Inc.” (formerly known as “The Salonican Brotherhood of America, Inc.”), made up of immigrants who had moved mainly to NYC and the East Coast and who were dedicated to supporting the remaining few of the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki which had been almost entirely annihilated by the Nazis.
In his second lecture, in cooperation with the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, he gave a lecture called “Toward Reconciliation: The Birth of ‘Hellenic Judaism’ in Thessaloniki between the World Wars” focusing on the efforts of leaders in Thessaloniki to achieve rapprochement between the city’s Jewish and Orthodox Christian citizens during the 1920s and 1930s. Their discussions produced a new discourse on “Hellenic Judaism” that viewed Judaism and Hellenism as offering complementary rather than antagonistic world views and as providing a model for social and intellectual relations between the city’s residents. In particular, the talk explored how various leaders in Thessaloniki appealed to the notion of Hellenic Judaism to advance Greek-Jewish educational initiatives at Jewish communal schools, Greek state schools, and through the creation of the chair of Jewish Studies at the new University of Thessaloniki. All of these undertakings represented unprecedented yet fragile attempts to bring together Jews and Orthodox Christians during the turbulent interwar years.