New synagogue announced at Babyn Yar on eve of Kristallnacht commemoration

Kiev’s first new synagogue since Ukrainian independence in 1991 will be built at Babyn Yar, the site where almost 34,000 Jews were massacred by the Nazis in September 1941.

Kiev’s Great Choral Synagogue (photo credit: STOYKOV DMITRY)
Kiev’s Great Choral Synagogue
(photo credit: STOYKOV DMITRY)
The Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center (BYHMC) announced that a new synagogue will be built at Babyn Yar, the site in Kiev where almost 34,000 Jews were massacred by the Nazis in September 1941. 
The synagogue, which will be Kiev’s first new synagogue since Ukrainian independence in 1991, is scheduled to open to mark the 80th year since the Babyn Yar massacre occurred. Construction of the synagogue has the full support of leading local rabbis and church leaders. 
Ilya Khrzhanovsky, the BYHMC artistic director said, “The Nazis massacred Jews of every background at Babyn Yar – Religious and non-religious alike. It is important that there is a physical space which will allow those who wish to pray in their memory to do so. The synagogue which we are building, will for the first time provide such an opportunity.”
The initiative is supported by representatives of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations (AUCCRO), a letter of support from whom will be published next week. AUCCRO Chairman, Primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine Epiphanius has already expressed his support. “The tragedy of Babyn Yar is known all over the world as one of the terrible symbols of the Holocaust and the suffering of the innocent. This place is soaked in the blood of the tens of thousands of innocent people who were killed here. Our generation and those who will live after us have no right to forget this tragedy. Everyone, regardless of religion, must be able to remember their relatives, the people who died here, to honor their memory and to pray for their restand that this catastrophe should never happen again”.
The announcement comes just days before the anniversary of the Kristallnacht pogrom in 1938. Tens of synagogues in Ukraine are participating in a global campaign to commemorate the anniversary this year. Kiev’s Great Choral Synagogue will be joined by tens of others, in leaving their lights on for the night of 9 November, as a powerful gesture to remember the victims of Kristallnacht and in opposition to all forms of hatred and discrimination:
March of The Living’s “Let There Be Light” campaign will see hundreds of houses of worship across the world keep their lights on. Furthermore, thousands of people from dozens of countries have submitted personal messages of hope via the campaign website - So far, they include messages from heads of state, Holocaust survivors, world leaders, public figures, cultural and sporting personalities. 
The personal messages will be projected on a number of buildings across the world of religious and spiritual significance, which will feature in a global online broadcast. They include the Old City Walls in Jerusalem and Coventry Cathedral in UK. 
Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich, Chief Rabbi of Kyiv and Ukraine, and member of Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center supervisory board, who supports the project, said: “It is not only incredibly gratifying but also extremely important that so many synagogues and institutions in Ukraine are taking part in this campaign. Hopefully it will lead to a real determination from many in Ukraine to preserve the memory of the Holocaust and to learn its lessons.”
In addition to the participation of synagogues in Ukraine, the personal message submitted by Natan Sharansky, Chair of the Supervisory Board of the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center, has been selected for projection on the Old City Walls in Jerusalem.  
Commenting on the importance of remembering Kristallnacht, Rabbi Bleich said, “The reason Kristallnacht led to the Holocaust was the lack of serious action by world leaders in reaction to the destruction and desecration of hundreds of Synagogues in Germany and Austria on November 9, 1938. 
“The world must learn the lesson to never sit idly by when evil is committed against a nation, a people or a religion. As we well know, the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. #LetTherebeLight should be the wake-up call and a reminder to all to react forcefully to signs of discrimination, and intolerance.”