KIEV, Ukraine (Mar. 22)
Ukrainian Jews have rededicated one of the largest synagogues in Eastern Europe.
Some 600 people, including high-ranking Ukrainian officials, gathered Wednesday at the Great Synagogue, called by many the Brodsky Synagogue, to celebrate its reopening.
“It symbolizes the democratic changes in Ukraine and a new stage in the life of Ukrainian Jewry as a whole,” said Lubavitch Rabbi Moshe-Reuven Azman, who heads the synagogue.
The synagogue, built in 1898 by sugar industry tycoon and Jewish leader Lazar Brodsky, served as the focal point of the city’s varied Jewish activities.
In 1926, however, the Soviet authorities closed it down. Since then, the building has housed several institutions, including a puppet theater.
In 1992 Chabad-Lubavitch groups, which are dominant in Kiev’s Jewish religious life, began struggling for the building’s return.
In 1997 they got their wish, when Ukrainian authorities — Jewish activists in Kiev stress the personal involvement of President Leonid Kuchma in this move – – handed it over to the Jewish community.
Shortly thereafter, Vadim Rabinovitch, a Ukrainian Jewish tycoon and the leader of the umbrella United Jewish Community of Ukraine, contributed $100,000 to the restoration of the synagogue.
Azman is going to turn back the clock by using the synagogue as a community center for the city’s roughly 100,000 Jews.
The synagogue will house a Sunday school for children, clubs and camps for young people, a library, Hebrew, Yiddish and Judaic classes for adults, help to the Jewish elderly and classes for the deaf. Some 200 elderly people are already getting daily hot meals in the synagogue.