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Ukraine Unveils Large Jewish Center, Holocaust Museum

  • RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service

The opening ceremony was attended by Jewish leaders from Ukraine, Russia, and other former Soviet republics, and officials from Israel.

The opening ceremony was attended by Jewish leaders from Ukraine, Russia, and other former Soviet republics, and officials from Israel.

DNIPROPETROVSK, Ukraine -- A large Jewish cultural center with a Holocaust museum has opened in Ukraine's eastern city of Dnipropetrovsk.

The museum, which opens to the public this weekend, is a complex of seven buildings arranged in the shape of a menorah, the traditional Jewish candleholder. Named the "Menorah Center," it houses thousands of artifacts plus a community center, hotel, kosher restaurant, and art galleries.

The museum occupies almost 3,000 square meters in the 50,000-square-meter Menorah Center.

The complex hosts an Institute for Jewish Culture In Ukraine and a gallery that features photographs of 40 major synagogues in Dnipropetrovsk before the Nazi occupation and video footage about the Holocaust.

The opening ceremony was attended by Jewish leaders from Ukraine, Russia, and other former Soviet republics, officials from Israel, and the president of the Jewish Communities of the Commonwealth of Independent States, Levi Levayev.

Yuli Edelstein, Israel's minister of public diplomacy and Diaspora affairs, praised the local authorities and the Jewish community for reviving Jewish heritage and culture in Dnipropetrovsk. He expressed hope that the new Jewish center will serve the local Jewish community, its children, and its future.

"The real achievement will be when we get here in a year from now, in two years from now, and we will see this place full of kids, full of different Jewish activities, full of different organizations working here," Edelstein said. "I think that this will be the real answer to what Nazis and communists tried to do to Jewish communities in the Ukraine and in the former Soviet Union."

PHOTO GALLERY: The opening of the Menorah Center
Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Matusof of the Brussels-based European Jewish Public Affairs group was also present at the ceremony. He said that Jewish centers in Ukraine would help Jewish communities to fully integrate into European society.

"When there is a center like such in Dnipropetrovsk and also in other places in Ukraine where there are striving Jewish communities in terms of buildings and spaces," he said, "people feel that there is a place where they could come, there is someone they could talk to, there is a meal they could share, there is a place where they could send their children to learn, to be educated better, to have a proper Jewish life, and at the same time living integrated fully in the society with a European perspective."

Beth Moskowitz from Boston's Jewish Community Relation Council called the Jewish center’s opening in Dnipropetrovsk a revival of Jewish life in the city.

"We all thought that there would be no Jews here today in 2012," she said. "And to see the amount of Jews that actually take part in the Menorah Center and in the synagogue, in the Golden Rose Synagogue, the activities here -- it's hard to believe. I actually think this is the center for Jewish community and the center for thriving and there has been an incredible revival."

At least 12,000 Jews from Dnipropetrovsk were killed by the Nazis in 1941.

The Jewish cultural center in Dnipropetrovsk was initiated and financially supported by local businessmen Henadiy Boholyubov, a banking magnate whose net worth is estimated by "Forbes" at $2.8 billion, and his partner and fellow billionaire Ihor Kolomoyskyy.

Some sources put the cost of the building during the time of its construction at $60 million. That figure could not be independently confirmed.

Reported by RFE/RL Ukrainian Service correspondent Yulia Rastybaska. Written by Charles Recknagel in Prague
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