New York.- In a gala celebration of the American Sephardi Federation and the American Friends of the Jewish Museum of Greece on December 3, 2007, Archbishop Demetrios of America was awarded the inaugural “Damaskinos Award” for “his important work in constructive interfaith endeavors.” The Damaskinos Award” was named for the ever-memorable Archbishop Damaskinos of Athens (1891 – 1949), who risked life and liberty to rescue Greek Jews from certain death at the hands of the Nazi occupation. The award carries the very image of Archbishop Damaskinos, as it was recorded on the cover of the October 1, 1945 Time Magazine, with the subtitle “His country is a battleground of titanic forces.”
In his remarks, the Archbishop spoke of the emotional power that this award had for him, noting that in his first year studying Theology at the University of Athens, Archbishop Damaskinos was on the throne of the Church of Greece. He also spoke at length of his personal experience in Thessaloniki during WWII, and how his Jewish fellow students disappeared without warning. This very point was made in the keynote address of the evening by the distinguished lawyer, Richard Ben-Veniste. The Archbishop concluded his remarks by emphasizing the important work of the Jewish Museum of Greece which keeps alive the memory of those whose lives were so unjustly taken from them.
Among the honorees, the Consul General of Greece in New York, the Hon. Catherine Boura, was cited “for her extraordinary work in promoting Greek Jewish history in the United States.” Throughout the evening, hosted by Alexis Christoforous of CBS News, the enthusiasm of the Greek-Jewish community was evident, from the singing of the National Anthems of the United States and Greece by everyone in attendance, to the musical presentation of Nadia Weinberg in Greek, Ladino and Hebrew that concluded the evening.
Of special note was a congratulatory message received from and signed by the entire Holy Eparchial Synod, who wrote to the Archbishop: “We are proud that Your Eminence is the recipient of the Damaskinos Award presented by the American Friends of the Jewish Museum of Greece and the American Sephardi Federation, and we offer our warmest congratulations. The award recognizes your lifelong dedication to fostering good relations between our Greek Orthodox community and the Jewish community throughout the world, especially in Greece and the United States.”