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Symbolic synagogue unveiled at site of Babyn Yar Nazi massacre

Kyiv Chief Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich leads the memorial ceremony and inauguration of a symbolic synagogue at the site of the Babyn Yar Nazi massacre, April 8, 2021. (Courtesy/Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center)
Kyiv Chief Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich leads the memorial ceremony and inauguration of a symbolic synagogue at the site of the Babyn Yar Nazi massacre, April 8, 2021. (Courtesy/Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center)

The Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center unveils the first Jewish prayer space at the place where 33,771 Jews were murdered by the Nazis during World War II.

The symbolic synagogue structure was inaugurated at a ceremony attended by Ukraine and Kyiv Chief Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich alongside nine other rabbis, and addressed by Jewish world leaders and other dignitaries.

The massacre occurred on September 29-30, 1941, at the Babyn Yar ravine.

“When closed, the building is a flat structure that is manually opened, and then unfolds into the three-dimensional space of the synagogue structure,” the center says in a statement. “The imaginative, one-of-a-kind design also features an interior which references two destroyed 17th and 18th century Ukrainian synagogues. It forms part of a planned wider multi-faith space for prayer and reflection, to be completed in due course.”

It is the first of a dozen buildings to be built in the complex, which will be one of the world’s largest Holocaust memorial centers, according to the statement.

“For many years Babyn Yar has had no proper stone or memorial, I find it telling that the first structure of the memorial will be a place for introspection and prayer designed symbolically as a synagogue,” Rabbi Bleich says. “This will help visitors relate to the mass murder that took place in Babyn Yar and not forget the spirituality or the origins of those Jews murdered on the eve of Yom Kippur and Yom Kippur itself.”

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