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ISJM Raises Funds to Repair Historic Etz Hayyim Synagogue Damaged by Two Arson Attacks in January 2010

Work continues in Hania, Crete with clean-up and repair efforts at the historic Etz Hayyim Synagogue, which was attacked twice by arsonists in January. Current estimates put the cost of structural and material repair and replacement at about $100,000. This does not include the costs of time and donated labor, and the replacement cost for approximately 1,000 books that were damaged or destroyed in the synagogue library.

Since the second attack - which was more destructive than the first - ISJM has been collecting funds from individuals - mostly in the United States - to assist with repairs. So far about 75 donors have contributed over $13,000 which puts us more than halfway to our first goal of a $25,000 contribution. Our hope and plan is that this show of support will leverage additional donations form foundation, Jewish organizations and government agencies. If that doesn't happen ISJM will keep raising money until all the needs for the building are met.

Please send contributions - of all sizes - to:

118 Julian Place, Box 210
Syracuse, NY 13210

Be sure to add "Hania" to the memo line of the check, and to make check out to "ISJM" or "International Survey of Jewish Monuments." ISJM is a register 501 (c) 3 charitable organization and all contributions are tax-deductible according to law.

Meanwhile, ISJM now has a list of destroyed books from Etz Hayyim and with the assistance of Prof. Steve Bowman of the University of Cincinnati; we will soon be coordinating donations. If you would like a copy of the booklist by email please contact me directly at Books are especially needed in the subject areas of Judaica, Hellenic and Mediterranean Studies, art, architecture and other fields. Cash contributions for shipping books or for related purchases are also welcome.

Before the Flame Goes Out

ISJM is co-sponsor of Before the Flame Goes Out (BFGO), a multi-disciplinary work by Vincent Giordano and an ISJM advisory team.  BFGO documents the history, art, architecture and community of Romaniote (Greek) Jews from Ioannina, Greece in Ioannina and New York City.  Last year, some of the work form this project wa shown at The Museum of Biblical Art in new York.  This exhibition of photographs by Vincent Giordano of the synagogues, ritual art and prayer and life cycle services from Ioannina and New York is available for showing at other venues. 

For more on Vincent Giordano's project, visit his website at:


ISJM Helps Fund Documentation of 18th Jewish Cemetery at Hunt’s Bay, Jamaica
(Ainsley Henriques, Rachel Frankel, Anne Hersh and Samuel Gruber contributed to this article)

This past January (2008), Caribbean Volunteer Expeditions (CVE) sponsored a successful project to inventory and document existing conditions of the historic Hunt’s Bay Jewish Cemetery, the oldest known Jewish Cemetery in Jamaica.  ISJM provided logistical support and funds to purchase equipment necessary for the survey.

For an audio and viusual tour of the project see Marco Werman's report on Public Radio International's The World from Febraury 25, 2008 at:

The cemetery was the resting place for Jews who fled the Inquisition in the Iberian peninsula and the anti-Semitism of northern Europe. They came to Port Royal, the infamous 17th century entré port, a desolate sandy spit at the end of what is now known as the Palisadoes peninsula enclosing Kingston Harbour. They sought and found the freedom to worship and pursue their lives without persecution, with few restrictions and higher taxes.

The land could not be used for burials so the Jews rowed the departed across the harbor and interred their ancestors in the now isolated cemetery. Untouched for the most of the last century it was overgrown and unkempt. Aware that we needed to care this icon of our historic 350 year old heritage, during the past year Ainsley Henriques of the United Congregation of Israelites Shaare Shalom Synagogue of Jamaica arranged for it to be cleared.

CVE’s mission is to assist Caribbean agencies and organizations with historic preservation projects.   CVE recruits volunteers who donate their time and pay their own airfare, room, and board.  CVE has worked in many Caribbean countries over the past sixteen years and has worked on Jewish cemetery documentation in Spanish Town and Falmouth, Jamaica.  The United Congregation of Israelites Shaare Shalom Synagogue of Jamaica together with the Jamaican Heritage Center contributed the boundary survey of Hunt’s Bay Cemetery in digitized and hard format, services of a professional local photographer and local transportation to/from hotel/cemetery for CVE team. 

ISJM member and architect Rachel Frankel, who served as one of the leaders for the Falmouth Jewish Cemetery documentation project, led the work at Hunt’s Bay. Ms. Frankel has previously worked extensively in documenting the Jewish sites of Suriname, especially the remains of the 1685 Bracha v’Shalom synagogue, and three historic Jewish cemeteries.

The documentation at Hunt’s Bay includes:

  • Map of the cemetery
  • Photographs of each gravestone (in color digital and black and white 35mm)
  • Assessment of the art, architecture and condition of each grave
  • Transcription and translation of the multi-lingual epitaphs, checked against the work published in The Jews of Jamaica by Barnett and Wright.
  • Indices of names, dates, etc.

All documentation from the project is now being sorted, analyzed and digitized. At the completion of the project, hard and digitized copies will be given to Ainsley Henriques of The United Congregation of Israelites Shaare Shalom Synagogue of Jamaica as well as to the AJA (American Jewish Archives). The AJA will also receive the original field notes.

Concurrent with the documentation project was the XIth annual conference of the Union of Jewish Congregations of Latin America and the Caribbean (UJCL) which was held at Kingston. The UJCL represents Progressive and Conservative congregations in Aruba, the Bahamas, Costa Rica, Cuba, Curacao, El Salvador, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas and Surinam. Trinidad and Tobago were admitted for membership during the Kingston conference.  The highlight of the conference was the surprise tour the Hunt’s Bay Cemetery, where the oldest grave known dates to 1672.  The entire conference traveled to the cemetery on Friday after lunch, inspected the graves, heard a short set of lectures on the work being done by the CVE volunteers and then held hands in a large circle and recited the Mourners Kaddish.

Photos and Links

On the Union of Jewish Congregations of Latin America and the Caribbean (UJCL) conference in Kingston see:

For more on the Jewish community of Jamaica see: United Congregation of Israelites

For extensive photos of Hunt’s BayCemetery taken by one of the volunteers see:



Documentation Rescue Fund

ISJM’s Documentation Rescue Fund makes available money for photographers, architects and others to document endangered Jewish sites as needed, on short notice.  The Fund was established in 2007 using existing resources, and has been used to successfully document two endangered synagogues in the United States: Congregation Adas Yisroel Anshe Mezeritch on East 6th Street in New York City and Temple Emanu-El in Paterson, New Jersey.  

The future of small lower East Side Adas Yisroel Anshe Mezeritch Synagogue is uncertain.  According to local sources, developers have proposed demolishing the synagogue and replacing it with a residential tower in which a new sanctuary will be installed on the lower level.  Presently, the synagogue consists of a second-story sanctuary with an impressive 19th-century Gothic style Ark and a ground floor Beth Midrash.  The upper sanctuary is rarely, if even used.  All service, study and gatherings are held in the Beth Midrash.

Temple Emanu-El in Paterson, probably the finest Art Deco synagogue ever built, has now been sold, stripped of most of its historic Art Deco fittings and furnishings. The new owner is purported to want to preserve some historic features of the building, but the future is unknown and the future of the building is uncertain.

Sometimes this documentation can be used for preservation efforts.  Our primary goal, however, is to create a lasting record for posterity.  In the case of Temple Emanuel in Paterson, New Jersey, ISJM documentation was then used to list the building on the New Jersey Preservation Most Endangered List. 

ISJM is now looking for foundation support to allow us to expand this service.





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