Greek Church Celebrates 99th Anniversary

When it comes to longevity in the Bronx, The Greek-American Institute has the Yankees beat by a decade.

Zoodohos Peghe Greek Orthodox Church, located on Bruckner Boulevard between Arnow Place and Willow Lane, celebrated the 99th anniversary of the founding of its associated school on Friday, April 29.

The church hosted a lunch feast and Greek dance performance by junior high schoolers from the K-8 school. The Greek American Institute was officially recognized by New York State in May, 1912, when Yankees were still at the Polo Grounds and Babe Ruth was a teenager on the streets of Baltimore.

The institute was first located on Eagle Avenue, near the intersection of E. 161st Street and Third Avenue. and founded as a schoo,l with an adjoining chapel by Greek immigrants who wanted to keep the traditions of their home country alive for younger generations.

The Institute was the first Greek-American School in New York and the second one in the country. After several moves around the Bronx in its formative years, the church portion of the institute was officially dedicated to the Virgin Mary of Zoodohos Peghe (The Life-Giving Fountain of The Virgin Mary) in the late 1920s, while it was operating out of a firehouse on Forest Avenue.

Zoodohos Peghe eventually settled into its home on Bruckner Boulevard in 1966. Pericles Manolis attended the 99th anniversary celebration. He serves as a living linking the history and the future of Zoodohos. His father attended the Greek American Institute when it opened and this spring, his grandchildren are graduating.

“It’s revived the Bronx,” Manolis, 75, said about the Institute. “It’s helped build up the neighborhood.”

Manolis was baptized at one of the church’s previous locations, and as a young man he helped with the move to Pelham Bay.

“I’m glorified that my grandkids are graduating 100 years after my father went here,” he said.

Ted Germanakos who attended the current school, said the longevity of the institution as a whole is a source of pride.

“It means absolutely everything,” Germanakos said. “We know we’ve been a staple of the Bronx community for years and people say ‘after nearly 100 years they stay so true to their roots.”

Father Sylvester Berberis has been the church’s pastor for 18 years. He attributed the institution’s long history to the passion of his parishioners.

“It’s the faith of the people, their insistence on a good education and as well as instilling Christian values in them, because both are related,” he said. “The reason it’s survived so many years has been because of the hard work of the people.”

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