Tu Beshevet was made more memorable as central to the Seder we also planted a quince tree in the front garden of the Synagogue. Unfortunately our date palm that was planted in 1999, died from a strange attack of beetles allegedly from Egypt that has swept through Hania. Before the Seder Stavroulakis gave a reading about seeing things from upside down! and how it changes our perspective.
We hope next year to be able to use the Seder that Gabriel Negrin has brought out in Hebrew and Greek. This is long overdue.
HIGH ISLAMIC AND OTTOMAN ARCHITECTURE
A series of lectures on the evolution of Ottoman mosque architecture -
Many of you will have visited Istanbul or even Edirne where Ottoman architecture reached its full development in the mid 16th century through the collaboration of a great donor (Sultan Suleiman) and the architectural genius, Sinan Pasha. Architecture has on many occasions in history been the lasting expression of success of a civilization in drawing to itself the tangled threads of its origins and creating a new form from older elements that had expressed similar but at the same time quite dissimilar achievements and even world view. Fortunately the time has passed since Hagia Sophia has been considered to have been copied over and over by the Ottomans and this course of lectures will be devoted to seeing the manner in which older forms and achievements – reaching back into Greco-Roman and Christian times – reached a new ideological expression in the fusion of the Antique tradition with Islam and eventually with the Ottoman Turks.
We will begin by a study of the great Umayyad Mosque of Damascus and the Aqsa Mosque of Jerusalem and the manner in which Greco-Roman-Christian achievements were give a new form through Islam in the 7th century. Almost all of the mosques built during the period of High Islamic Civilization (8th through 13th centuries) are variations on these mosques. The lectures will trace the history of this through the three capitols of the growing Ottoman Empire, Bursa, Edirne and finally Istanbul where Hagia Sophia stood and expressed ideas and a theology that was to a degree antithetical to that of the Ottomans. How its architectural components were re-invented and even discovered through the genius of Sinan is one of the neglected periods of history.
The lectures will be accompanied by visual aids in the form of CD projector photographs as well as hand-outs. At the end of the course there will be a special series of lectures on applied arts in the form of tile and metal work.
N. Stavroulakis did his initial graduate work under Prof. Oleg Grabar who was a pioneer in the study of Islamic Architecture and Applied Arts. His initial doctoral research was done at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem under Prof. Michael Avi Yonah and later under Prof. Bezalel Narkis. He lectured in Ottoman and Byzantine Fine Art at the University of Tel Aviv and later at the College Year in Athens. He was active in leading tours to Istanbul, Edirne and Bursa.
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.