Moses Elisaf, z’l, the first Jewish mayor in Greek history, passed away on Friday at the age of 68 after a brief bout with cancer.
Elisaf, a physician and professor of internal medicine by profession, ran as an independent in the 2019 Ioannina municipal elections and defeated the incumbent, in his first foray in politics. He served in the position until his death.
During Elisaf’s election campaign, his political opponents claimed that he was a Mossad agent. Elisaf, who often visited relatives in Israel and worked at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University in 1993-94, said at the time that the claim was antisemitic but did not believe that antisemitism, in general, was a serious issue in Greece.
Prior to being elected as mayor, Elisaf served on the city council, was the president of the Romaniote Jewish community of Ioannina for over ten years, and had previously served as the president of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece.
Elisaf was born in Ioannina in 1954 to parents who were among the 69 Jews who escaped the Nazi roundup of the city’s Jews and deportation to Auschwitz in 1944. There were about 2,000 Jews in Ioannina prior to the start of World War II but only 112 Jews returned from the death camps. Today, only about 50 Jews live in the city.
Elisaf graduated from the University of Athens in 1979 and later earned a medical degree at Ioannina Medical School. He worked as a pathologist and professor of internal medicine at Ioannina Medical School. He later became the director of the school’s Lipids, Atherosclerosis, Obesity, and Diabetes Department and became the head of the pathology clinic at Ioannina General Hospital.
Elisaf was also vice-president of the Board of Directors of the Study, Research, and Education Institute for Diabetes Mellitus and Metabolic Diseases and vice-president of the Board of Directors of the Hellenic Society of Pathology of Northwest Greece.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)