Traditionally, men and women are separated during prayers in a synagogue. Men pray in the main sanctuary, while women attend prayers from a separate area called the Ezrath Nashim.
Today at Etz Hayyim, all community members sit together during prayers in the main sanctuary. The two women’s galleries are now used as offices, as well as library and exhibition spaces.
The original primary Ezrath Nashim of Etz Hayyim Synagogue was a two-story wooden domed structure attached the south-east façade of the main sanctuary. It provided visual access to the interior of the synagogue for the women through a lattice-work screen in the south-east Gothic arch. This structure was destroyed during the German bombing of Hania in May 1941. All that remained of this original Ezrath Nashim were some support beams and wooden floorboards that were found around the southern entrance during the restoration. In 2008, this women’s section was rebuilt as the Jennifer Stein Memorial Library.
A second women’s section had been added in the 19th century on the second floor of the caretaker’s lodge in the northern courtyard.
Photos 1, 2, 4: © Etz Hayyim Synagogue
Photo 3: © Anastasios Skikos