More than 80% of Greek Jews were murdered during the Holocaust. Among them were the father, sister, mother, and baby brother of Solomon Kofinas, a survivor from Athens and a leader of Kehilah Kedosha Janina (KKJ), New York’s Greek synagogue.
Kofinas was born in 1936 in Athens. After the Nazi invasion of Greece in 1941, Kofinas and his older brother fled to the outskirts of the city, where they hid with the help of Greek Orthodox Christians and later with distant family members. They never saw their immediate family again.
In 1955, Kofinas emigrated to New York, where he married another Holocaust survivor and started a family of his own. Now a grandfather and great-grandfather, he has served as a gabbai and lay leader at KKJ for more than 50 years.
This Museum and KKJ program explores Kofinas’s story of loss, survival, and rescue in Greece.
Watch the program below.
Hear from Other Greek Jews
Dr. Albert Bourla, as CEO of Pfizer, has overseen the development of the world’s first safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine. Long before he stepped up to lead one of the world’s premiere biopharmaceutical companies, Dr. Bourla was born in Thessaloniki, Greece to a family with deep roots in the city’s Sephardic Jewish community. His parents were among the few to survive the Holocaust in the Greek port city. Although Dr. Bourla now lives in New York, he is deeply connected to his Greek Jewish roots. Learn more about Dr. Bourla in this Museum program.
Explore A Sephardic Journey Through the Twentieth Century
For centuries, the Greek port city of Salonica was home to the sprawling Levy family. As the wars of the twentieth century redrew borders around them, the Levys were gradually transformed from Ottomans to Greeks. In time, the Holocaust nearly eviscerated the clan, eradicating whole branches of the family tree. In Family Papers: A Sephardic Journey Through the Twentieth Century, prize-winning Sephardic historian Sarah Abrevaya Stein uses the Levy family’s correspondence to tell their story. Learn more about the Levys in this Museum program.
Listen to Music of the Jewish Diaspora
New York music legend Avram Pengas is a virtuoso guitarist, bouzouki player, and singer whose music is rooted in the Mediterranean tavernas of Athens. Born into a musical family of Romaniote and Sephardic Jewish-Greek heritage and now a popular performer in the local Greek and Sephardic/Mizrachi communities, Pengas and his Noga Band cook up a multicultural stew of rhythms and modes spanning Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Israel, and the Levant. Watch their concert in the Museum’s Edmond J. Safra Hall here.