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The Library at Etz Hayyim

Actual view of Evlagon Institute library.
Actual view of Evlagon Institute library.
The private library at the former office of Nikos Stavroulakis; today this room is used for other purposes.
The private library at the former office of Nikos Stavroulakis; today this room is used for other purposes.

The “Evlagon Institute for Cretan Jewish Studies”: Resources and Opening Hours

Our extensive library, the Evlagon Institute for Cretan Jewish Studies, currently holds about 4,500 titles on Jewish history with a particular emphasis on Greece, as well as general Jewish history, the monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and Jewish, Byzantine, Ottoman and European art history, together with European and world history in general. The library also holds several standard lexica and dictionaries. An online catalogue of the library holdings will be available shortly.  Our library functions as a reference collection and provides several work spaces and a comfortable reading area. The library also serves as a venue for workshops, lectures, readings and other cultural events. It is open to the public on Tuesdays and Fridays 10 am to 5 pm by appointment. Please contact the synagogue by phone or email to arrange your visit.

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The History and Holdings of the Library

Etz Hayyim’s library evolved from the personal reference collection of Nikos Stavroulakis, the founding Director of Etz Hayyim Synagogue. In its original form, his collection comprised books, off-prints of articles and monographs concerning the Jews in the western Ottoman Empire, both Romaniote or Sephardi. Of special importance were his books on Christianity and Islam, as well as Byzantine and Ottoman art and architecture. The collection also includes monographs on general Jewish history and volumes on related subjects such as theology, mysticism, and political identity. There are also some 250 CDs of music, liturgical and secular, of the Romaniote and Sephardi traditions.

 

In 2000, Nikos’ personal reference collection was relocated to the synagogue where it could be properly catalogued and added to with funding provided by private donors. Unfortunately, a considerable number of these books and monographs were destroyed or rendered unusable due to the two arson attacks in 2010 during which the synagogue’s archive containing documentation of the mid- to late 1990s renovation along with original records of the pre-1944 Jewish community were destroyed. Etz Hayyim was then offered the current library premises by the Archaeological Authority in Hania through the assistance of its then-Director, Michael Andreanakis, and numerous damaged books were restored by specialised staff.

 

In the aftermath of the two arson attacks, Etz Hayyim received an overwhelming response from all over the world to support the restoration of the library and its works. There were donations of Sephardi prayer books and newly-made liturgical texts from Israel and New York. The Yiddish Book Centre in New York also circulated our list of lost and damaged books and, as a result, Etz Hayyim was donated numerous books from across the US. We were particularly fortunate to receive more than 800 works from Mrs Judy Hetzler Humphrey of Manassa, Virginia. Those books not only replaced the ones we had lost, but expanded our library in other directions, for example, Africa and African Art.