The Art of Repair focuses on one man’s mission to rebuild a destroyed synagogue in Hania, Crete, and create a new, inclusive place of prayer and reconciliation. The film documents and celebrates the difficult art of transforming profound loss into hope for a broken world.

On May 29, 1944, the Nazis rounded up the entire Jewish population of Hania, Crete — close to 300 Jews including over 100 children– and eventually loaded them onto a ship that was bound for Auschwitz. Not knowing of its human cargo the ship was torpedoed and sunk by a British submarine.  Jewish properties were confiscated and synagogues bombed.  Twenty five hundred years of Jewish life on Crete were almost entirely obliterated.

Nikos Stavroulakis, the former director of the Jewish Museums of Athens, Salonika and Rhodes, obtained a grant from the World Monuments Fund to rebuild the synagogue.  He insisted that it not become a static museum but a living house of prayer.   “Etz Hayyim is to be a place of reconciliation, where observant and non-observant Jews, Christians, Muslims and even agnostics can meet . . . and see each other as people and not belligerents.”   Gradually, he formed an inclusive community that prays and practices Jewish rituals together.

Etz Hayyim is a destination for people from around the world and it is now the most active synagogue in Greece. Today, over 30,000 people of all faiths and ethnicities visit Etz Hayyim every year. The synagogue welcomes all comers to participate in its religious services, especially Shabbat and Jewish holiday services. It includes a robust educational outreach to counter antisemitism, a powerful force in Greek life.

In a world of intense religious and ethnic conflict, Etz Hayyim Synagogue remains open and welcoming to all.

Click here to visit The Art of Repair website and find out more.

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