Moses Elisaf, the head of a small Jewish community in the northern Greek city of Ioannina, was elected mayor in local elections on Sunday, becoming Greece’s first-ever Jewish mayor.
Elisaf received 50.33 percent of the vote, narrowly beating mayor Thomas Bega, with 49.67%.
The Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece on Monday congratulated Elisaf stating, “For the Greek Jewry, the success of Moses Elisaf signals a very important cornerstone for the history of the Jewish presence, both in the city of Ioannina, as well as in Greece, since it is the first time a Greek Jew is elected as mayor.” It also called Elisaf’s electoral win on Sunday’s second round of municipal elections “a success that causes admiration and deep emotions.”
They also added “the citizens of Ioannina have shown they condemn the hate that is born from intolerance and antisemitism and appreciate the value of a person regardless of his religious belief.”
Elisaf’s mayoral success is of historical significance, said the Jewish board, as “the Israeli Community in Ioannina was almost completely exterminated during the Holocaust, when some 2,000 local Greek Jews met a horrific death in Nazi concentration camps.” It added, “75 years later, in the same city, a descendant of Holocaust survivors is elected mayor.”
Elisaf is a professor of medicine at the University of Ioannina Medical School and speaking to AMNA Elisaf, who ran as an independent, emphasised his political group “has unifying features and seeks a dynamic majority for a new era in Ioannnina.”
An important aspect of his political focus he said was to transform the city of Ioannina “from a provincial city of Greece to a hub in the wider Balkan region, a modern European city,” and he highlighted the city’s advantageous geographical position at the heart of regional road network, and the city’s rich cultural, educational and historical heritage.