The Art of Repair tells the story of an ancient synagogue in Hania, Crete, reconstructed after the devastation of WW II into a renewed, inclusive Jewish community that is now in a struggle for survival.
In 1944, the Nazis rounded up the entire Jewish population of Hania, close to 300 Jews, and eventually loaded them onto a ship that was torpedoed and sunk by a British submarine. Their properties were confiscated and their synagogues bombed. 2,300 years of Jewish life on the island of Crete were almost entirely obliterated.
The Art of Repair focuses on one man's mission to reconstruct the Etz Hayyim synagogue and consecrate it as a place of prayer, recollection and reconciliation. Nikos Stavroulakis was an artist and director of the Jewish Museums of Athens, Salonika and Rhodes. He obtained a grant from the World Monument's Fund in 1995 to rebuild Etz Hayyim. Stavroulakis artfully replaced every bench, cushion and embroidered curtains surrounding the Torah scrolls. Though not religious himself, Stavroulakis refused to allow Etz Hayyim to exist as a static museum or memorial to the dead. The Chief Rabbi of Greece challenged him: "If you want Etz Hayyim to be a house of prayer, you will need to pray there yourself." So he began to pray there alone everyday and in the process became a practicing Jew with an ecumenical vision.
According to director Ken Ross, Stavroulakis stated: "Etz Hayyim is to be a place of reconciliation, where observant and non-observant Jews, Christians and Muslims and even agnostics can see each other and discuss common issues in an atmosphere of peace and harmony. Also where Germans and Jews can meet."
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