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The High Holidays at Etz Hayyim

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We have a weekly challenge in Hania at the synagogue as we never really know how many people will be attending services – especially Erev Shabbat.  During the summer months we can have up to 50 people and during the winter when there are few visitors we are usually about 12 to 15 persons who are all members of the fraternity.  On the Jewish Holidays inevitably we have more people. This year we had some 50 people attending the evening service for Rosh HaShannah and for Kol Nidre we had 59 people and for the morning and afternoon service we had 18 people and for Neilah again over 60 people. A good number of people who came to services were from abroad and came in order to show support for the Synagogue and still others are members of the fraternity who live in Israel or England.  David Clark from London is always here for holidays and we are especially blessed in having the presence of Rabbi Nicholas de Lange of Cambridge who is also on the Board of Trustees of the Synagogue.  Lior Asher came especially to be with us for Yom Kippour, as did Iosiph Naim from israel. Lior took much of the service with Rabbi de Lange and Stavroulakis (who filled in at times). Lior took on the ‘heavy’ afternoon prayers of Kippour and also led our ‘Koen’, Sam Cohen, in giving the priestly blessing…and took over the blowing of the shofar at the end of the service. 

Ever since 1998 when two of us sat in the empty synagogue to keep Kippour the Synagogue had proved to be an intense place of peace and introspection.  We were especially fortunate that all of the mahzors for the two holidays had not been burnt in the fires and in order to compensate for the large number of people our administrative secretary, Alex Phountoulakis put together service books that were adequate o our needs – for the most part. 

 We all broke fast together in the courtyard of the synagogue with dates, small baklavas and soft drinks – soumada and lemonade.  At 9:00 we all ate together at the Galini restaurant where they had prepared boiled chickens, avgolemono soup, araka ladera (peas in oil an dill), okra. Wine, tsikoudia and fruit ended our meal.

On the morning of the day following Kippour the wooden supports for the Sukkah were set in the courtyard and at the time of writing this the first branches are being set on the roof and the arrangement of hangings and decorations are being taken care of by Egon Roth and Yehudit Berndt. Erev Sukkoth service as well as the blessing of the Sukkah will be done by Rabbi de Lange and Stavroulakis will make the kiddush. A buffet dinner will be served in the courtyard of the Synagogue prepared by members of the fraternity…vegetarian and based on traditional Jewish recipes from Greece.  Our caretaker, Besnik Seiti, brought back from Albania a gift of an enormous Pumpkin which was a gift from his mother and we will make good use of it in preparing rodanches etcs..    

Blessings to you all from us at Etz Hayyim –


N. Stavroulakis – Parnas, Etz Hayyim Synagogue.

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