Thursday, January 26, 2006

Reader Response: The Condition Of The Great Choral Synagogue Of Drohobych, Ukraine

"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 functioning again but I doubt it will be soon."

Posted by nasxodax to Renaissance Research [August 5, 2005] at 1/26/2006 01:30:34 AM


My response:

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 rather 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 Kyiv large Synagogue is also a fully restored and functioning religious center. I visited it on earlier trips. But I do recall the very old Zhovka and Brody, Ukraine Synagogues being in very poor conditions.]

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 Glib 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.]

Thank you again for your comment. I would appreciate it if you would let me know anything further that you learn about plans to restore the Drohobych Choral Synagogue.

Drohobych, Ukraine Choral Synagogue.

Drohobych is located south of Lviv, in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains. It is an industrial center which grew affluent in the early 20th century as a center of oil refining in the Eastern Austro-Hungarian Empire. It is adjacent to the
Boryslav industrial area, which was a center of the European salt trade since medieval times.

Polish writer and visual artist Bruno Schulz was a highly distinguished native of Drohobych, being born there in 1892. He taught art in the local Gymnasium until his murder by the Nazis in 1942. According to the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, Schulz "viewed Drohobych to be the center of the world and [he] was a penetrating observer of life there, proving himself an excellent "chronicler." His writings and his art are both saturated with the realities of Drohobych. His stories are replete with descriptions of the town's main streets and landmarks, as well as with images of its inhabitants." ...

"[A] series of murals painted by Schulz just before his tragic death (on November 19, 1942, the writer and artist was shot in the streets of Drohobych by a member of the Gestapo) in "Landau's Villa" in Drohobych. Discovered (and photographed) by German filmmaker Benjamin Geissler, for the preceding fifty years it was thought that they had been destroyed. Unfortunately, the discovery was partly destroyed when representatives of the Yad Vashem Institute in Israel secretly removed significant fragments of the murals and transported them outside of Ukraine. The pieces that remained were transferred to the Drohobychina Museum in Drohobych ... (Malgorzata Kitowska-Lysiak)."



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