Library Resources and Opening Hours
Currently, our library holds about 4,500 volumes not only on Jewish history with a particular focus on Greece but also on general Jewish history and Judaism, Christianity and Islam as well as on Jewish, Byzantine, Ottoman and European art history and European and world history in general as well as several standard lexica and dictionaries. An online catalogue of the library holdings will be available shortly.
The library functions as a reference library and provides several work spaces and a comfortable reading area. It is open to the public on Tuesdays and Fridays 10 am to 5 pm as well as by appointment. Please contact the Synagogue to arrange your visit.
The library also houses the Evlagon Institute for Cretan Jewish History, which – as a resource and research center – aims to document and further elucidate the almost 2,500 year long Jewish history on the island of Crete.
The library also functions as a venue for lectures, readings and other cultural events, e.g. the meeting of a local poetry group.
The History and Holdings of the Library
The library of Etz Hayyim Synagogue evolved from the personal library of Nikos (Nicholaos) Stavroulakis. In its original form it was made up of books and off-prints of articles and monographs concerning the Jews in the western Ottoman Empire: either Romaniote or Sephardi. Of special and parallel importance were books concerning Christianity and Islam as well as a considerable number of books on Byzantine and Ottoman art and architecture. The collection also includes monographs on general Jewish history and also many volumes on related subjects such as theology, mysticism, and political identity as well as a collection of some 250 CDs of music – liturgical and secular – of both the Romaniote and Sephardi traditions.
Great care was taken at its re-location in the synagogue proper after 2000 that budgetary concerns were determined by the importance of the library and insuring that new publications be added to it and private donors guaranteed that the library grew. Of special concern were books concerning Greece in general and Crete in particular as well as Israel and Zionism and the Shoah.
Unfortunately, a great number of these books etc. were destroyed or rendered unusable due to the two arson attacks of 2010 during which we also lost the archive of the Synagogue which contained documentation of the renovation as well as some original documents of the former community. We were offered the premises of the archaeological authorities in Hania through the assistance of its director Michael Andreanakis and numerous damaged books were restored by specialized staff.
We had an enormous response from all over the world to assist in the work of restoring the library. From Israel and New York offers of Sephardi prayer books as well as religious texts were made. The Yiddish Book Center also circulated our list of lost and damaged books; as a result we received book donation from across the US. We were particularly fortunate in receiving more than 800 books from Mrs Judy Hetzler Humphrey of Manassa, Virginia. Those books not only replaced what we had lost but expanded our library in other directions e.g. Africa and African Art.