Fire Damages Huge Synagogue in Ukraine’s Second-largest City

One of Ukraine’s biggest synagogues has been seriously damaged in what Jewish leaders suspect was an arson attack.

The fire Monday night at the Central Choral Synagogue in Kharkov completely destroyed the grand hallway of the five-story shul, but did not reach the building’s sanctuary, according to the synagogue’s rabbi, Moshe Moskovitz.

The damage caused by the fire is estimated at about $1 million, but no one was in the building at the time of the blaze.

Police say the cause of the fire is not clear, but Jewish officials in Ukraine say they believe it was an anti-Semitic attack.

Moskovitz said the synagogue would continue to function.

“People are worried that we are going to close the synagogue, but we are not going to do this under any circumstances,” said Moskovitz in a phone interview from Kharkov.

The Kharkov synagogue, which has 1,000 seats, is the only functioning synagogue in Ukraine’s second-largest city. Built in 1910 as the city’s main Jewish house of prayer, it was turned into a sports complex some 20 years later by the Communist authorities.

The Jewish community reclaimed the building in 1990.

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