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New Social Compact

The Havurah of Chania

Georgia N. Gleoudi

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I entered the courtyard. Christoph, the Austrian intern, was there, sitting on a wooden chair, ready to light his cigarette. He was there because he chose to volunteer instead of having military service back in Austria. He stood up and came to greet me. “Are you Georgia?” “Do you want coffee?”, “Oh yes”, I said. “I am going to the kitchen to make it. Go into the office. Katerina is waiting for you.”

“Welcome, come in. Have a seat.” Katerina was a PhD candidate in the University of Crete. She was especially interested in the subject of collective memory and in EtzHayyim synagogue of Chania, the only living synagogue in Crete.Here she found a place where both collective memory and individual memory had been perished for many decades. She contributes to the synagogue with research work.

Nikos Stavroulakis restored this synagogue when it was ready to collapse. His initial intention was just to restore this building because it was the only thing that remained after the loss of the Jewish community here. However, this synagogue became a haven for Jews, non-Jews, atheists, Muslims, everyone. He was a pioneer in building an inclusive community. Marianne will tell you more about him. They were very intimate friends. But we can walk around the synagogue and explain you each part of this place.”

“It is a Romaniote Jewish synagogue. This was the tradition of the Jews of the eastern Roman Empire, a tradition different than the Sephardi.

We walked around and she explained to me the history of the synagogue. “After the Jewish community perished, the synagogue was vandalized.We know that homeless Christian Orthodox families used the Synagogue as a house for some time after the Second World War. After they left, no one took care of the building.  According to a testimony of a local person back in the 1970’s he could have bought the place easily shortly after the war, but he was afraid of God’s anger since it was a temple.

We kept walking in the synagogue and I kept asking about the history of Jews and how they left their neighborhood. “Here was the office of Nikos. We keep part of his libraryhere. Nikos was also a great artist. He was an expert in Islamic art.”

We moved to the mikveh. Katerina showed me a poster. “This poster was the first move of Nikos when he decided to restore the building. It is the poster with the 100 most endangered cultural sites all over the world in 1996. He managed to include the synagogue in this list after a speech he gave to New York in 1995.’’

Before coming to the synagogue, I printed the newsletter/jottings that EtzHayyim synagogue sent out in September 2017, after the death of Nikos in May 2017. The newsletter included letters of Nikos’ friends from all over the world. I read interviews of Nikos and articles from his friends and colleagues.

Marianne volunteered a lot in the synagogue. “For about 10 years, I guided people, I got involved in the fundraising and I became a part of this synagogue and of our community.” “What each one of us brought from his country, we brought it here.”

“Nikos had friends with strong personality. This is how I explain the success of this place. Each one could take the burden to lead the synagogue and do it successfully”.

Some months ago, I had visited the exhibition for Shared Sacred Spaces in Thessaloniki. The EtzHayyim synagogue and a video of Nikos was there to surprise the visitors. A French film producer had visited them two years ago and made a short documentary for their story. When I heard his voice, I thought that a man in his age would be very persistent and courageous!

Georgia, what I am trying to tell you is that Nikos did not create this community on his own. People who came here founded this community. Nikos was just here to welcome them, discuss with them all kind of subjects and share with them knowledge and experience. People who come here are people who feel that they cannot fit in somewhere else. Here they are free to share thoughts and feelings.

“You know, many people focus on this community aspect. Nikos first and foremost, would like restore the building and revive the history of Jews in Crete. The matter of community emerged much later.”

“Nikos was a very well educated man and he travelled a lot in his life. He knew very well what he wanted to create He was very sure for his steps and he had a lot of confidence. Ηe questioned everything and he discussed a lot”.

Some moments ago, Katerina had told me that in the beginning Nikos had to deal with many difficulties. Marianne confirmed me the same “The Central Greek Jewish Board and all the other Jewish communities did not help him in the beginning. Where is he going? There is no Jewish community there. He is the only one Jew and will we spend money only for one Jew?

In the inauguration day, representatives from all Jewish communities of Greece were there to honor the synagogue.

“The next day after the inauguration in 2000, Nikos came to the synagogue and prayed. Step by step, we made it and every Friday night we have the regular service. In this way, with people knocking on the door and coming inside for talking with Nikos, a havurah as Nikos named it, was created.”

Nikos was interfaith. He traveled a lot, he met many cultures and religions and he wanted pluralism. He brought features of each religion in this synagogue, such as Buddhism. But for him it was clearly a Jewish place open also to other religions.” I will never forget my enthusiasm when I realized that in 2017 the EtzHayyim synagogue published an Interfaith calendar with the major holidays of the Abrahamic religions. “Oh, yes! Nikos was exclusively responsible for every single detail of this calendar. It was an innovative action.”

In January and February 2010, some people put fire on the synagogue and destroyed a great part of the building as well as artifacts, books and material of great value. The case never went to court and the incident has been forgotten by the local society. The local society perhaps was not ready to deal with the revival of a Jewish past and perhaps the rebuilding of a Jewish community.

Katerina also told me “In the municipal archives or in the archives of local newspapers, you can find articles written by some locals back in the late 1990’s against the re-opening of the Synagogue of Hania. They refered to it as an ‘invasion’ of Jews.’’

Ending our meeting, I went to discover the Jewish quarter with the help of Katerina. In the  20th of March 1944 the Jews of Chania were arrested by the Nazis. They would be embarked on the ship “Tanais” to travel to Athens and from there to the concentration camps. Not even one of them would ever reach their final destination. The ship was sunk taking into the sea their past and their history.

I would like to thank: Ms Marianne Vinther (President of the Board), Ms Katerina Anagnostaki and Ms Anja Zuckmantel for their help but foremost for their vision and their persistence.

PS: Nikos Stavroulakis came, after a very long career and after his personal commitment to Greek Jewish Museums, to Chania in order to save the one and only synagogue on the island of Crete. EtzHayyim depends on donors for its function and its brighter future. Marianne was very positive for the future of the synagogue and she and the whole staff of the synagogue will struggle hard to keep alive the vision and the mission of Nikos and of all the synagogue’s friends and supporters.

Georgia Gleoudi is a graduate of "MA in Religious Roots in Europe: in Lund University and has a BA in International Relations and European Studies from Panteion University, Athens. She is interested in Religion and State relations, faith - based diplomacy and intercultural relations

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New Social Compact

The Sustainable State- Book Review

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Chandran Nair’s new book, The Sustainable State, is a response to runaway consumption by a rapidly expanding world populace. He explains how the rise in living standards, especially in the developing world, is soaring an unsustainable demand for everything from meat, to cars, to modern housing and then gives possible solutions.

Nair reminds me of economist Ha-Joon Chang in both his premise and the evidence he uses to defend it.  Both scholars are highly critical of the current economic ecosystem and the multinational corporations that run it.  Nair points out that the major industries of today are what’s causing the unprecedented environmental crises that we’re experiencing today.  Not only are corporations polluting the environment and depleting natural resources, but are also covering it up and blocking possible legislative antidotes.

Thus, Nair endorses Ha-Joon Chang’s solution: East Asian-style state regulation of the economy.  Since corporations will never voluntarily do anything that will hurt their profits, a strong federal government must force them to do so through laws that have the planet’s future in mind.  The book points out that the manufacturing and sales costs of consumer products don’t reflect their full cost.  For instance, a roll of toilet paper cost the forest it came from a tree; deforestation has existentially high long-term costs to Earth’s inhabitants.  Anything produced for or shipped to market cost the world through energy consumption, if nothing else.  Thus, Nair supports making producers pay for the full cost of their merchandise through programs such as cap-and-trade and reforestation taxes.

The book gives several examples of (generally East Asian) countries and cities trying to regulate their way to higher sustainability, with varying degrees of success.  For instance, China has arguably become the world leader in terms of environmental initiatives through tough laws governing pollution and a long-term environmental strategy.  In China’s Youyu County, they went from having under 1% of land forested in 1949 to over half today.  Singapore has largely staved off the kind of affordable-housing crisis seen in major cities and city-states by instituting a comprehensive public housing system.  Jakarta, on the other hand, has struggled in their efforts to reduce their crippling traffic congestion.  For instance, when they created 3-person minimum carpool lanes, car owners simply hired pairs of people to meet the requirement.  When Jakarta changed to an odd-even license-number congestion scheme, people simply bought extra license plates.

This book fits in nicely in the post-Trump, post-Brexit era in its skepticism of Western democracy.  Example after example is given of Western government ineptitude towards environmental management, from oil lobbyists’ consistent ability to kill or water down regulations, to general short sidedness.  India’s democracy is also criticized for its failure to clean up the Ganges, among other things.  Nair has a lot of praise for single-party governments in China, Vietnam and Singapore in their recent environmental policy records.

He stresses that he isn’t anti-democratic per se, but rather, he can’t ignore the trends.  Most Western democracies are currently neutered by partisan deadlock, lobbyist money and a myopic obsession with the short term, due to the nature of the election cycle.  Single-party states, by definition, have no partisan deadlock, aren’t reliant upon lobbyist money for re-election and can implement policies that may piss off their constituents in the short term, but are critical for the future.  The recommendation is thus given that democracies stick up to corporate interests and institute long-term policies that will meaningfully address the environmental issues of the future.

The Sustainable State is sobering in its assessment of our current state of resource depletion and global warming, but also cautiously optimistic in its faith that government, when acting in good faith, can curb the excesses of industry and regenerate the planet.  There are diagnoses for specific problems, such as the wildfire haze that emanates from Borneo every year and for pollution.  The main omission of the book is in regards to the water crisis.  Nair mentions high-efficiency circular farming and water pollution, but otherwise largely ignores the disturbingly low supply of water for drinking and farming.  This deficit has already sparked conflicts in countries such as Syria and will only snowball as the population continues to explode.  Desert countries and landlocked countries will eventually succumb civil war over access to water, creating a refugee crisis that the world has never seen, if radical and affordable solutions aren’t found for supplying water for consumption and irrigation.

Chandran Nair gives plenty of real-life examples of good policies that are mitigating issues and explains why they are successful.  Oftentimes, the solution lies in the checkbook.  Governments can spend money on decades-long programs, corporations can pay through sustainability taxes and individuals can pay through gas taxes and car ownership caps.  In democratic and nondemocratic nations alike, we the people must push our leaders to do more, for the future of the human species.

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New Social Compact

In Northern Nigeria, Online Skills Help Youth, Women Tap New Opportunities

MD Staff

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A mother holds her baby during the Click-On Kaduna Workshop held recently in Northern Nigeria. Photo: World Bank

Rashidat Sani lost her job when she was pregnant with her child.  Now a nursing mother, she has been unable to find flexible employment that would allow her to take care of her baby and earn a living.

That was before Sani attended the Click-On-Kaduna digital skills workshop earlier this year, which helped her become an “e-lancer;” a self-employed contractor who can work various online jobs.

“This workshop has been perfect for me,” said Sani. “I can stay home and take care of my baby while working on my computer. I can’t thank the organizers enough.”

Sani is one of more than 900 young people who attended the three-day workshop designed to help young Northern Nigerians tap into the digital job market. With support from the Rockefeller Foundation, the workshop was created by the Kaduna State government and the World Bank to increase job opportunities for the country’s youth—which currently makes up more than half its population—and decrease youth unemployment which has risen to 33%.

“There are nine million people in Kaduna State, 75% of whom are below 35,” said Muhammad Sani Abdullahi, Commissioner of Budget and Planning for Kaduna State. “There are also roughly 70,000 government jobs in the state and this cannot meet up with the job deficit.”

The hands-on workshop aimed to give unemployed and underemployed youth, women, and disadvantaged groups some of the tools needed to compete in the online job market. Sessions included practical trainings on how to set up an online profile, build a personal brand, negotiate a fair compensation, and land a first job. The workshop also provided opportunities for participants—nearly half of them women—to interact with e-lancing platforms like Upwork, a key partner of Click-On Kaduna, as well as several local platforms such as Efiko, Asuqu, MotionWares, or Jolancer.

In the last decade, digital technology has disrupted the global economy and fostered the creation of countless new markets, products, platforms, and services. Among the innovations, there has been a rise of online freelancing platforms which have enabled disadvantaged people across skills, gender and income levels to overcome physical and socio-economic barriers to earn an income through the Internet.

In Nigeria, unemployment rates have increased from 11.92 to 15.99 million in 2017, with the youth reported to be the most affected. This is further aggravated in Northern Nigeria due to its fragility and where the educational and economic infrastructures remain inadequate.

Kaduna State, located in the northern part of the country, faces these challenges. Plagued by years of endemic violence, government leaders recognize the importance of creating jobs for its young people, and the immense opportunities the digital economy offers.

Boutheina Guermazi, World Bank Director for Digital Development, said the global digital economy has given rise to a massive new market facilitated by digital platforms that are accessible to anyone who has access to the Internet.

“It is helping to promote inclusion by creating economic opportunities for youth in fragile states by equipping them with the skills needed to improve their social welfare regardless of their gender and income levels” she said. “These new income-generating opportunities need to be leveraged to create and connect people with jobs, especially women in the North who often do not have equal access to markets and jobs.”

Building on the success of the workshop, the Bank and Upwork rec+ently launched a pilot program that aims to kickstart the online careers of about 150 job seekers, expose them to more and better jobs, and contribute to Click-On-Kaduna’s sustainability and long-term impact.

Each of the selected participants will be given five tasks created under the Upwork pilot program. Once successfully completed, they will be paid for their work and rated, increasing their competitiveness for jobs on the platform. Participants will also be provided with further opportunities for mentoring and capacity building from Upwork while receiving payment for their work.

“I did not even have any idea of Upwork in the first place if it had not been for Click-On Kaduna,” said Nehemiah John, who participated in the workshop and the pilot program. “Aside from [participating in] the pilot project I am about to round a [new] contract with a client on Upwork. He requested a t-shirt design which I have done, and he liked it.”

The outcomes of the pilot program will continue to be monitored by Upwork and the Bank team, with the goal of increasing the number of people able to access online jobs and increase their incomes.

World Bank

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New Social Compact

Wedlocks in Kashmir’s landscape

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Marriage is a sacred institution in the human societies. Down the passing phases of time, the human beings have tied knots of man and woman in pairs to continue the order of the universe. God created human being in pairs and created humans out of those predecessors. This is even today the order of the nature and will remain so forever.

Marriage is a social and legal contract where man and woman are tied in a holy knot under the auspices of religious principles of Nikkah,as in Islam to carry forward the legacy of humans and human beings. Marriage is a pious knot that brings a man and a woman together forever to created an edifice of support for one another in times of need pain happiness, good and bad, nothing and something etc and is equated with one half of the Muslims faith. Marriage holds a vibrant symbolic significance in that people still want to marry and revere the institution. Overall it is said that the institution of marriage gives peace and order to the life of the man and Islam is in fact testimony to that bizarre fact.

Marriages form a major component of our Kashmiri culture which have come a long way since times immemorial. Marriages in Kashmir have undergone a fundamental transformation. In simpler terms, the age of marriage has risen. During the past times, the marriages in Kashmir were performed in an atmosphere of extravaganza where a lot of food and dishes were wasted and those nostalgic memories are perhaps etched to one and all if one recalls the memoirs of the past life. However today a civic and moral sense has prevailed among the masses where lavishness is slowly and steadily losing grip in our society and austerity is taking the substitution there of. Even the persons who accompany the groom towards the bride’s house have been reduced to few.The guests are also nowadays restricted in our society.It is a good gesture and a positive step towards development of society in Kashmir.

In an interview to India today T.V. few years back, i reteriated and favoured the stance of the government regarding ban on lavish marriages in Kashmir and guest control.

However the major problem that besets our marriages in Kashmir is the night long overuse of loudspeakers and subsequent firecrackers at the time of bharat reception. Suppose a person is suffering from disease and is ill, a student has examinations next day, a pregnant woman is expecting a child and the neighbours marriage causes the trouble. It becomes a major sin and music is prohibited in islam as wrong(haram).This ultimately causes trouble to one and sundry. Above the social plane lies the plank of moral conduit. We need to totally stop the use of loudspeakers during mehandirats. Although women can sing in pairs through get together.

Today, when our valley is under the grip of political violence and chaos and uncertainity has become order of the day, people need to show a religious and responsible civic sense and say goodbye to lavish marriages, particularly the menace of dowry in Kashmir.When parents of affluent give huge gifts and dowry to their daughters on their marriages,it causes roadblocks for the poor and disadvantaged sections of the societies and hinders their marriage prospectus..After all, it is the questions of our sisters. A parent who raises a girl child and marries him to a different person knows the pains of departure. Girls need to be respected and cared. They are not the property of their in-laws. There must be regard for the sacrifice of the women’s parents and the bride itself.

According to a famous Hadith, Prophet Muhammad SAW says that a marriage is performed on the basis of four factors. Some marry for the prestige of the caste some marry for the financial prospectus, some marry for the beauty of the girl and others marry for the character of the girl.Our beloved Prophet Muhammad SAW says that we need to focus and keep the last factor that is character of the girl in consideration for the to be married man.

In contravention, in our valley the parents are wary of the future of their daughters and want and wish to marry their daughters to the government employees. How many parents ask about the past, character, morality of the man.Be he a morally bankrupt but he should be a government employee. How sad and pathetic? Besides, the daughters are pushed towards late marriages on account of getting education and other factors.It is good to have education,but age factor matters. Parents should rather focus on the humbleness, compassion, character of the to-be grooms. Delaying marriage until personal and professional goals are achieved is a illogical response of our society.

Today,our society has degraded enormously. Our youth are under the grip of a moral disaster and soaked in immoral acts. The problem of late marriages has already aggravated and compounded the problem. The late marriages have given rise to various social problems and ills. Parents should marry off their wards once they become adults and attain maturity. God is responsible for their future. This will prevent our society from moral ills and our society will metamorphosize into a moral hub of social order. Unfortunately, we lack marriage planning  and counseling centers in Kashmir. Besides, there is no problem if parents ask about the choice of their wards. Compatibility is a vital factor and golden rule in marriage.

The money which we spent on the lavish marriages can be exploited for the overall good and development of our society.The poor can be helped via this mode. This will make our society a just and humane and also please our creator Allah SWT.

Post-marriage step is a crucial phase in the life of a man. According to John D Gray, men are like rubber bands and women have a wavy nature. The married men and women ought to understand each other and have a regard for each other and their families. Patience is the essence of life. Differences can arise, but it is the role of the married persons to annihilate the crisis that makes inroads almost in everybody’s life day-in and day-out and display a calm attitude thereof.

Kashmir history is witness to the fact that in some cases ,the demand of dowry ruins the marital bond during post-marriage time.In some cases, the daughters have committed suicide or have been dragged towards the same under the circumstances. There should be a total ban on the use of dowry in Kashmir. Government should rope in a permanent ordinance to ban lavish marriages and dowry in Kashmir. I was stunned when recently in a facebook post,it came to light that thousands of girls are unmarried in Kashmir. What causes that and who is to be blamed? Let’s ponder over it….One day we have to answerable before Allah SWT about our worldly deeds as this life is too short.

The parents which raise a child in the hope of pillar of support tomorrow need to be respected and regarded by the daughter-in-laws. The in-laws become the parents of the women after marriage and they need to treat them equally in that perspective and kind regard. This creates a healthy atmosphere in the lives of couples during post-married life and turns as boost in arm to solidify their strength of oneness forever. Marriage is more than being together. It is a responsibility in vogue, vis-a-vis the creator and created. We can’t turn a blind eye to this raw fact. This is all about the conjugal commitments.

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