One of the small miracles that has taken place in
Greece is the restoration of the Etz Hayyim Synagogue in Chania, Crete. With
only one Jew living on the island, the synagogue is open daily, a tribute to the
perseverance and dedication of one man, Nikos Stavroulakis. Jews lived in
Chania for centuries, many of them in a ghetto built by the Venetians. The
community had two synagogues, Etz Hayyim, the Romaniote synagogue and the Shalom
Synagogue for the Sephardic members of the community.
The island was under German
Occupation during WWII and, in June of 1944, the small community of
340 Jews were taken off the island by boat. On route in the Aegean, the
boat was destroyed by bombs and all the Jews on board were killed.
It was only in 1995, when the British archives of WWII became public that
is was learned that the British had scuttled the boat, thinking that it carried
For decades, the only surviving
synagogue, Etz Hayyim, lay in ruins. Nikos Stavroulakis, the founder of the
Jewish Museum of Greece and a Jew of Chaniote descent, gathered worldwide
support for its restoration. In October of 2000 Etz Hayyim was rededicated. It
stands now, not only as a functioning synagogue, but also as a memorial to the
Jews of Chania lost in the Holocaust.
Copyright © 2002 Edward Victor