Friday, August 05, 2005

Choral Synagogue of Drohobych, Ukraine

"With the help of the Rausing Trust of London, the Center for Jewish Art was able to carry out an in depth study of the synagogues of Drohobych, Ukraine. The earliest record of Jews in Drohobych is 1404, just a decade after the first written record of the town itself. The buildings which the Center documented date from the 1840s on, and represent the last stage of evolution of the Drohobych community, from emancipation to annihilation. The Choral (Great) Synagogue pictured here, built between 1842-1865, was returned to the Jewish community in 1993 and is again being used as a synagogue."


Blogger nasxodax said...

I was born in Drohobych and I have lived here for 22 years. From what I remember, the choral synagogue (that one on the photo) was used as furniture store in Soviet times and was later (I can vividly recall mom and dad buying our sofa there sometime in late 1980s).

After Ukraine gained independence, the synagogue was indeed returned to the Jewish community. However, the Jewish community in Drohobych numbers a scarce 30-40 Jews, most of them old age pensioners.

They have not looked after the synagogue for years and thus it was gradually looted by petty criminals and became a shelter (and a toilet) to homeless people. It is NOT 'again being used as a synagogue'.

Only recently (about a year ago, in early 2005) I have noticed some signs of improvement. They have made a gate and locked the door at least - nice start. It would be interesting to see the synagogue fufunctioning again but I doubt it will be soon.

1:30 AM  
Blogger Garth Trinkl said...

Thank you very much for your insightful comment, nasxodax.

I hope that the slight improvement that you noticed at the beginning of 2005 will accelerate. (I visited Drohobych quickly in April of 2005, and June of 2004, and we did not examine the condition of Choral Synagogue carefully.)

Earlier this month [January 2006], I visited Synagogues in Zhytomyr, Ukraine; and Grodna and Minsk, Belarus (as well as the site of the completely destroyed Rose Synagogue, in Lviv, Ukraine.) [We also visited old and new Mosques in Crimea and Odesa.]

The Zhytomyr Synagogue is partially functioning and the Jewish community maintains offices in part of the [smaller] structure.

The Minsk Jewish community is building a very large, beautiful new Synagogue in the vicinity of the American, Russian, and Ukrainian Embassies. [I will try to locate and post a picture of the new building. Also, while the American and Russian Embassies are in large, 19th c. villas, the Ukrainian Embassy is in a large beautiful, modern structure.]

The experience of the Grodna, Belarus large Synagogue sounds a little more comparable to that of the large Choral Synagogue of Drohobych -- but perhaps it was luckier in its location. The building had a locked door, and an elderly female member of the Jewish community responded when we rang the bell, just before twilight. She explained (in Russian) that there were plans for a major restoration of the structure, and she showed us the Renaissance structure inside. Fortunately for the structure, it was located on a bluff only about 300 meters from the Old and New Grodna Royal Palaces (the New Palace having been used as the Belarus Communist Party Headquarters until 1991). Restoration efforts to develop the general area as a significant tourist site were underway. (Near the Palaces --now being used as excellent regional museums and the regional Ministry of Culture -- and the unrestored Synagogue, were two fully restored Orthodox Cathedrals, one from the 11th century and one from the early 20th century. The 11th c. Boris and Hlib Cathedral was the oldest unmodified church in Belarus.)


I also recall that the Great Synagogues of Oradea, Romania, and Pecs, Hungary, are carefully secured (and awaiting total restoration, in the case of the Oradea, Romania Synagogue.) The Great Synagogues of Szeged and Pecs, Hungary are fully functioning, beautiful large Synagogues. (I will assume that the Pecs Synagogue is close to being fully restored by now. I visited it in 2003.]

Thanks again for your comment.

6:16 AM  
Blogger Loli said...

I stumbled on this blog, wanted to add that i am a photographer who documented rennaissance of Jewish life in ukraine. I have been following this synagogue's rebirth with my photography, from 2005-2008
The synagogue has been cleaned up and has one room which is now used for prayer. I participated in the first passover Seder there in 60 years ad the first Sukah.
I will write more later
You can view some of my work at

7:33 AM  

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