Jewish community praises Greek mayor for yellow star protest

Marcy Oster

ATHENS, Greece (JTA) – The mayor of the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki wore a yellow Star of David at his inauguration to protest a newly elected city councilman from the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party.

Mayor Yiannis Boutaris wore the symbol pinned to his jacket last week while being sworn in for his second term.

The move was hailed by Greece’s small Jewish community in a letter to Boutaris on Monday.

“Your gesture sends a strong and clear message to those nostalgic for Nazism and fascism that under your leadership your city will continue to fight against any phenomena of racism, intolerance and anti-Semitism,” the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece wrote.

Boutaris was protesting the presence of Golden Dawn lawmaker Artemis Matthaiopoulos on the municipal council.

Matthaiopoulos gained 7.7 percent of the vote in May’s local elections, garnering Golden Dawn two councilmen. It was part of a strong showing by the party across Greece despite an ongoing government crackdown on the xenophobic party, which has been accused of dozens of attacks on immigrants.

Boutaris’ move also was seen as a gesture of solidarity with Thessaloniki’s Jewish community, which was devastated in the Holocaust and now numbers about 1,000 members.