August 6, 2021

Ukrainian synagogue receives first Torah scroll since war

The Ukrainian synagogue where late Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Bagin married received its first Torah scroll since World War II.

Ukrainian Jewish officials gathered at the Choir synagogue in the town of Drohobych on Wednesday to celebrate the arrival of a scroll in a ceremony with songs, dances and speeches.

Completed in 1865, the synagogue, inspired by the Rundbogenstil school, was among the most impressive in the region. It was abandoned during the Holocaust, when most of the region’s Jews were murdered by the Nazis. It was used as a warehouse during the communist era.

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In 2013, philanthropist Viktor Vekselberg funded the restoration of the synagogue. The project, led by Vekselberg’s father Felix, who was born in this town – was completed last year. Viktor Vekselberg, who was also born in Drohobych, also donated the scroll.

Begin, and his wife, Aliza, were married in the synagogue in 1936. Among the guests was Zeev Jabotinsky, the leader of the revisionist Zionists and mentor of Begin, who would become Israel’s sixth prime minister.

Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, left, and his wife, Aliza, arrive at JFK Airport in New York on March 23, 1979. In a brief statement at the airport, Begin said, “We have some problems, but I came to sign the peace treaty ”. He was due to leave New York on Sunday to go to Washington to sign the peace treaty the next day.
(AP Photo/Ron Frehm)

The synagogue is depicted in Maurycy Gottlieb’s famous painting, “Jews Praying at the Synagogue on Yom Kippur,” which is now in the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. Gottlieb was born in Drohobych, then part of the Austrian Empire.

The city then became part of Poland, which was occupied by the Germans. Then, it belonged to the Soviet Union before it became part of the Ukraine.