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A Jewish family as urban realia

14 December 2015 / 13:12:53  GRReporter
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Bohor, Mois’s grandfather, opened a clothing shop on the corner of central Athens Karaiskaki and Ermou Streets. "My grandfather was a tailor but people did not have a lot of money at the time and they bought secondhand clothes," says Mois. "He would alter used clothes and display his goods every Sunday in Avyssinias Square, at the bazaar." Everyone else was selling antiques, which is why the phrase "going to Yussuroum" denotes both the flea market and antique shops. Bohor had seven children in Athens. After his death in 1887, his eldest son, Ilias expanded the business and became a pillar of the Athens Jewish community. Ilias’s younger brother, Noah, Mois’s father, married Mazaltov Habib, an Athenian Jew, and tried to take advantage of the many opportunities that opened up in Greece after the Balkan Wars. He moved to Thessaloniki, where he opened a hospital supplies firm with Abraham Nahmias but the massive fire of 1917 that wiped out almost the entire Jewish quarter in the city foiled his plans and forced him to move back to Ermou Street in Athens, though to number 84.

At the recent event, Mois Yussuroum reminisced, "My father opened his shop when he returned from Thessaloniki together with a partner, Spyros Kourousis. During and especially after the First World War, my father would go to all places where there were troops of the Entente - French or British - and buy military material, from tents to uniforms, bring them back to Athens and sell them." Noah Yussuroum was an auction hunter, travelling from France to Egypt to bring back stock for his shop. In 1924-1925 he struck gold at an auction of materials from the old royal palace (now the Greek Parliament) after Greece was first declared a republic. He built a new house in Thisseio neighbourhood, not far from the Acropolis, and decorated the balconies on the second floor with Stars of David.

Noah and his wife had two children, Isaac and Leon, in Thessaloniki and four more in Athens, born between 1920 and 1929. Mois was the eldest and he and his brother Iakovos fought in the Battle of Crete (May 1941) against the Germans and then joined the National Liberation Front (EAM) and fought in the resistance. "My brothers in arms did not know that I was a Jew," says Mois, "as I used the name Yorgos Gazis, in case I was captured as a prisoner of war." After the war, Noah’s children took different roads: Mois became a dentist, Isaac a civil engineer, and Leon and Iakovos went into the iron business and opened a shop on Ermou Street. Mois Yussuroum is a living witness to a long family tradition that is intrinsically linked to Athens’s commercial life, leaving a trail in the Jewish community of the city as a donator.

Tags: Flea MarketYussuroumAthensHistoryJewish family
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