Ukrainians and Jews celebrated the 120th anniversary of the Kyivan Synagogue together

The “Sugar king” and multimillionaire philanthropist Lazar Brodsky built a beautiful synagogue in the center of Kyiv and opened it on the day of his 50th birthday—24 August 1898. After 120 years, the Jews of Kyiv joke that Brodsky even then anticipated the proclamation of Ukraine’s independence on this day.

According to Jewish tradition, one holiday is not connected with another. Therefore, it was decided to celebrate the 120th anniversary of Brodsky’s synagogue two days after the celebration of Ukraine’s independence.

The ceremony on 26 August 2018 was opened by the chief rabbi of Kyiv and Ukraine, Moshe-Reuven Azman, who read a special prayer for peace and prosperity in Ukraine.

Deputies of the Verkhovna Rada [Parliament] of Ukraine Oksana Bilozir, Ihor Mosiychuk, Vadym Rabynovych, and Georgy Logvynsky, all representing different political parties, congratulated the Jewish community on the occasion.

The Ukrainian Minister of Culture Yevhen Nyshchuk spoke on behalf of the government of Ukraine at the anniversary of the synagogue: “The link between the cultural life of Ukraine with the Jewish tradition is inseparable.” The minister stressed: “I am proud that we carried out improvements of the Babyn Yar Memorial Reserve and are finished there with acts of vandalism, after providing this tragic place with surveillance cameras and security systems. Our peoples together have survived the troubles of the past, and I very much hope that we also come together in future achievements.”

Ukrainian Minister of Culture Yevhen Nyshchuk.

The head of the Kyiv regional state administration Oleksandr Gorgan stated at the celebration: “It is very important for us when every Jew feels himself in Ukraine at home, that this is his land. Few countries in the world are as important for the formation of Jewry as the Ukrainian land. Here we have in the Kyiv region formed many Hasidic dynasties.”

Gorgan noted the positive changes in Ukrainian-Jewish relations that took place over the years after EuroMaidan in 2014. “We really appreciate the support that the Brodsky synagogue offered during the Orange Revolution, and especially during the Revolution of Dignity. Your active position changed the Ukrainian patriots. People fighting alongside me on the Maidan Square were tattooing themselves with a tryzub [trident] and a Magen David [Star of David]. Today every Ukrainian nationalist is just as ardent a Zionist,” noted the head of the Kyiv region.

The flagship project in the Brodsky synagogue’s charity sphere is the creation of the town of Anatevka, a residential and educational campus for refugees from Eastern Ukraine. Hundreds of adults and children live and study in the suburb of Kyiv within the framework of this project, the success of which was reported by many world media.

Oleksandr Gorgan, who helps as much as possible the development of this town for refugees, underlined at the celebration: “The revival of Anatevka also works to strengthen the image of Ukraine. What is known about our country in the world? “Chornobyl, war, corruption.” I want foreigners to know about a different Ukraine—freedom, the opportunity to make money, Anatevka.” Lazar Brodsky was a great man who did a lot for Kyiv. I want new generations of people 120 years in the future to thank us for what we do it today”.

Head of the Kyiv regional state administration Oleksandr Gorgan.

Ihor Fruman, a businessman from the United States and head of the American Friends of Anatevka NGO, presented the silver crown for the new Torah scroll to the Brodsky synagogue. Fruman, who is also one of the sponsors of Donald Trump’s election campaign, met with him personally several times and said: “President Trump loves Ukraine and Israel and supports them in every possible way.”

In honor of the jubilee of the synagogue, a special collection of donations was launched on 27 August by Anatevka.com with the goal of collecting one million dollars from donors in Ukraine and abroad for the construction of an orphanage in Anatevka for sixty orphans.

Kyiv Governor Gorgan was one of the first to make a personal donation. He donated $2,000, writing: “God is making a miracle again. The revival of Anatevka is a symbol of unity between Israel and Ukraine, a great place that will contribute to the development of the Kyiv region and Ukraine around the world. It’s a great honor to have the chance to support this great initiative.”

Rabbi Moshe-Reuven Azman: a prayer for peace and prosperity of Ukraine.

Text and photos: Shimon Briman (Azman, Nyshchuk).
Photos of Torah scroll and Oleksandr Gorgan – Roman Vilensky (official site of the Brodsky synagogue). 

Edited by Peter Bejger.