Title Image

Exhibitions

Click on the Tabs below to find some information about exhibitions at Etz Hayyim!

An Exhibition about Etz Hayyim: 20 Year Commemoration of the Reconstruction from 1996 to 1999
by Etz Hayyim 

.

Over the course of several months in early 2016, the staff at Etz Hayyim prepared an exhibition about Nikos Stavroulakis and his rebuilding of the synagogue entitled “20 Year Commemoration of the Reconstruction 1996 – 1999”. The exhibition marks the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the synagogue’s reconstruction and was officially opened on 14th June in the exhibition space above the administrative office.

.

The staff felt it important to honour Nikos’ initiative by presenting nine individual panels that highlight the step by step process of the rebuilding project, but told in Nikos’ own words and with personal quotes and photographs to accompany the text. This narrative is routinely explained by staff to Etz Hayyim visitors because the story of the synagogue’s reconstruction and of Nikos are mutually intertwined. Yet, the exhibition has allowed visitors to fully appreciate Nikos’ work in reconstructing the building, as well as his lasting vision for Etz Hayyim as an all-inclusive place of prayer, recollection and reconciliation, with the use of carefully selected photos showing the ruined and  abandoned synagogue as it stood for fifty years from 1944 to the mid-1990s.

.

The exhibition begins with background information on Nikos as an academic, art historian, writer, painter and printer and describes how he came to be associated with Etz Hayyim. It touches on the events that led to Nikos’ involvement in rebuilding the synagogue fifty years after WWII and the deportation of Chania’s Jewish community, and immediately following a devastating earthquake in 1995 that caused serious structural damage. The exhibition details the history of the building from its origins as a Venetian Catholic church in the 15th century and how it came to be a synagogue in the 17th century.

.

The panels then extrapolate each stage of the reconstruction process, beginning with the southern courtyard and mikveh, the northern courtyard and the synagogue interior, itself. This is followed by a panel about the rededication and reopening of Etz Hayyim in October 10th, 1999 that was attended by the rabbis and presidents of several Jewish communities in Greece, both international and Greek dignitaries including a former Greek Prime Minister, the then German Ambassador and the Metropolitan Bishop of Chania, together with members of the Havurah, local officials and press and other interested parties.

.

The exhibition ends with a view on Etz Hayyim today; specifically how it runs on a daily basis including the various Jewish holidays, as well as the Hashkavah (memorial service for the Cretan Jewish community), the cultural events routinely taking place, its educational outreach program, and lastly, a section on Etz Hayyim’s dedicated staff and volunteers, the Havurah and the ways in which the synagogue is maintained by a non-for-profit organisation.

.

The exhibition is open to the public during the opening hours of the synagogue.

.

“Tales from an Old Fort Town”: A personal response to the Jewish History of Crete
by George Sfougaras

In early Spring 2017, Etz Hayyim received an email from Cretan artist George Sfougaras explaining that after a visit to the synagogue, and with the realisation that as a child he was told very little about the history or even presence of the Cretan Jewish community, he had created “a small book as a personal response to the Jewish community and their plight” and that he “would be very grateful if you could let me know what you think”.

.

Soon afterwards, we received an electronic version of the book just in time that Nikos Stavroulakis (זצ״ל) whose work, particularly at Etz Hayyim, had made such an impression on George during his earlier visit, was still able to view the artwork and provide the feedback that George had so kindly requested. Nikos fully shared the idea that the history of the Cretan Jewish community had been largely overlooked and was thus appreciative of George’s approach and the execution of his project. Nikos also suggested that the artwork should one day be displayed at Etz Hayyim.

 

Tales from an Old Fort Town, a title referring to George Sfougaras’ birthplace of Heraklion in Crete, expresses a sensitivity to the richness of the island’s long and complex history, as well as the integral role that Crete’s Jewish community and other neglected communities played in that history. The artist shows that the irreversible loss of the Cretan Jewish community in World War II was not just a terrible tragedy for the members of that community, but also a major loss for Crete and the Cretans, themselves, who have perhaps increasingly lost touch with the complexity and richness of the island’s past. We at Etz Hayyim are confident that George’s artwork will add a valuable and much-needed dimension to the general understanding of Cretan history.

.

The exhibition is accompanied by a book which the artist describes as “my personal response to the history of the Jewish community of Crete, a community which played an important part in the life of the island but which, through ignorance, racism and religious intolerance, has now disappeared. The community had almost been eliminated entirely and so I had to search long and hard to find its few remaining traces. My motivation for creating this book lies in the belief that the Cretan Jewish community is remembered, while the hatred that destroyed the community is recognized and addressed, accordingly.

The book stands as a brief personal tribute, as an echo of a Greek community that is no more and as a work of love for the island of my birth. All of the illustrations were originally completed as monochrome pen and ink designs for screen prints and are an essential component of my on-going work into the many histories of Crete”.
.

In his book, George’s artwork is enhanced by the evocative poems of Shelly Tracey, a South African poet with Latvian and Lithuanian Jewish roots. For Shelly, her poems serve as an addendum to George’s response to the disappeared Jewish population of Crete. For the poet, “George has captured a sense of loss in his powerful prints and in his account of why he decided to create this project. My poems are influenced by the experiences of the Jews who were forced to leave Crete and also by George’s evocative images”.
.
Etz Hayyim Synagogue
.
October, 2018

“Tel Aviv & Jerusalem Through My Eyes”
by Maria Sanadaki

Traveling alone, exploring with no guidance. Using just a tiny map and a camera. I had the chance to open my eyes widely, to talk with the locals in each neighbourhood and to receive the hospitality of Israelis. Tel Aviv was as chaotic and loud as Athens. It reminded me of Thessaloniki´s neighbourhoods too, the smell of fruit and baked food. There were cats everywhere, kids playing outside and people talking from their balconies to each other. Different cultures, the sunsets, salt on the skin and the wind at the ports of Tel Aviv and Jaffa. All of these experiences make someone wish to visit this place again. The pure feeling I have for Etz Hayyim and the way I felt while being in Israel inspired me to depict Tel Aviv, Jaffa and Jerusalem through my eyes.

.

The first thing you come upon when you enter through the synagogue’s gate is the garden. A garden full of visitors and those people who work there. Full of life, not only from the people, but all those plants and the synagogue cats as well. Somehow, I eventually visited Etz Hayyim in the spring of 2015. It was then that I met Moritz Plattner, Momo, who was a volunteer there at the time. Since then, we have become very good friends. At the time, he gave me a short tour and then I volunteered to translate the website from English into Greek. However, the reason I remained volunteering there is the amazing aura which Etz Hayyim exudes. Every time I find myself there, I feel free and happy.

.
Maria Sanadaki was born and raised in a village close to Hania. She studied sociology at the University of Crete and completed her first Erasmus in 2012 in Berlin. Since then, she has lived in Berlin, Crete and Vienna. While in Vienna, Maria held her first solo photographic exhibition, “Memories from Greece” in the “Jonas Reindl” cafe. In May 2019, Maria left Vienna and has since been traveling throughout Europe and Greece, documenting the lives of her friends through poetry, short stories and photography.

Maria Sanadaki