March 15, 2013 -- New York -- AJC, the global Jewish advocacy organization, mourns the passing of Andrew Athens. He was 91 years old.
AJC honored Athens and his pioneering work to advance Greek-Jewish and Hellenic-Israeli ties more than once. The most recent occasion occurred in recognition of Athens’ 90th birthday before AJC’s National Board of Governors and invited guests from the political and diplomatic communities, in his hometown of Chicago in 2011.
Partnering early on with his cherished friend, the late Maynard Wishner, a fellow Chicagoan and AJC national leader, Athens spearheaded a number of joint AJC and Greek-American delegations to Greece, Cyprus and Israel. Such visits served as a demonstrable show of friendship and cooperation among the two diaspora communities, and aimed to enhance the breadth and depth of ties among these three eastern Mediterranean nations. He also worked closely with AJC to bring Greek Americans and Jews together in the U.S. through a number of joint initiatives, including establishing an annual Holocaust Remembrance Day in Chicago.
"I feel privileged to have known Andy Athens and to have called him a dear friend," said AJC Executive Director David Harris. "AJC’s relationship with the Greek-American community is a unique and exemplary one—and that is, above all, because of Andy.
“When we began working together in the 1980s, he was absolutely determined to see Greece and Cyprus end their rather frosty links with Israel, believing that these three democratic countries ought to be natural friends,” Harris continued. “He lived to see that vision realized. Andy’s innate kindness and profound commitment earned him admirers throughout AJC and the Jewish community. He was an outstanding American, ever proud of his Greek heritage, and inspired by his Greek Orthodox faith. We shall miss him more than words can ever express. May his memory be for a blessing.”
Athens, born in Chicago, Illinois in 1921, served with valor in the U.S. Army in World War II. He later had a successful career in the steel industry, eventually becoming the Chairman of Metron Steel. As the first and longest-tenured President of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad, Athens was admired in Greece and throughout the Greek diaspora. Until his health declined recently, he traveled regularly to visit Greek communities, including in the Former Soviet Union, where he was instrumental in establishing a number of medical clinics for the underserved.
AJC extends heartfelt condolences to Andy’s grieving family and to the entire Greek and Greek-American community.