Since January 2010, when two arson attacks damaged and destroyed large parts of the library of Etz Hayyim Synagogue Hania, Crete, as well as damaged the walls and ceiling of the Synagogue proper and two offices, we’ve received many generous donations for the reconstruction as well as donations of books from supporters worldwide. About 1,400 books were donated; including several sets of prayer books and various chumashim, furthermore encyclopedias and books on Jewish history, theology and philosophy along with books on general history and art history. The donations allowed us to replace a considerable amount of the destroyed or damaged books but many were also valuable additions to our collection.
The majority of the book donations came from the US, mainly due to a call for donations published on the website of the Yiddish Book Center. We are very grateful to the Yiddish Book Center for facilitating this call for donations and most of all off course to the many donors who helped us recover after the two arson attacks. Most generous donors were Judy Humphrey and Ken Schoen.
More than a year after the two arson attacks, we’ve embarked on a new project that adds yet another valuable aspect to Etz Hayyim Synagogue. With a generous donation by Nikolaj Kiessling we were able to set up a space for a research center for Cretan Jewish history. A research and resource center had been envisioned by Nikos Stavroulakis ever since he initiated and directed the rebuilding of Etz Hayyim Synagogue in the 1990s.
The Research Centre, named after the last chief rabbi of Crete, Avraham Evlagon (1846-1933) is to provide the institutional venue for the study of the more than 2,500 years of Cretan Jewry history from Antiquity to the Shoa. For this purpose the Research Centre will run a library and an archive; initiate and/or facilitate research projects; publish findings of this research for the academic community as well as present those findings to the general public. The center is located on the upper floor adjacent to the Synagogue, above the apartment of the Synagogue’s caretaker. In spring 2011, Etz Hayyim’s collection of books on Jewish history, theology, and philosophy as well as books on general history were moved to the new research center to provide the core of its resources. The renovation of the space and installation of book-shelves for the center has been accomplished. However, we still hope to expand our library collection to include further relevant publications on Hellenistic Judaism as well as Greek and Cretan history. Technical equipment for the research center like a computer, a library database as well as a filing cabinet for the archive still need to be acquired. We very much appreciate any support.