Kiev shul celebrates renovation

In his opening address at the ceremony, the chief rabbi of Ukraine, Ya'akov Dov Bleich, compared the story of the Choral Synagogue to King David's speech in Psalm 30 in which he gives thanks to God for being able to overcome his enemies, trials and tribulations.

"The walls of our synagogue sing the same psalm," Bleich said. "From the bureaucratic opposition of the 1890s through the Bolshevik repression of the 1920s, from the fascist devastation of the 1940s to the stagnation of the postwar years, the walls of the synagogue have been singing this psalm."

Opened in 1894, the Choral Synagogue was the first permanent house of worship for the Jewish community of Kiev.

Following the 1917 Russian Revolution it — like most synagogues across Ukraine — attracted the unwelcome attention of Soviet authorities, who took control of the building in 1929.

The synagogue suffered further under the occupying forces of the German army during World War II, serving, among other functions, as a horse stable. While most synagogues remained closed after the war, the Jewish community managed to reclaim the Choral Synagogue.

"Our synagogue is unique, and not only for its architectural beauty," Bleich said. "First of all for being a significant source of vitality for the Jews of Ukraine and for being the only operating synagogue in the capital during 50 postwar years."

"It's a celebration for everyone who's seen the synagogue beforehand," said Israel's ambassador to Ukraine, Anna Azari. "And it's also some kind of graduation or growth of the Jewish community," Azari said, noting the participation of local Jews in funding the project.

"This is a big holiday for all Jews in Ukraine, since the synagogue is a symbol of Jewish life for both religious and secular Jews," said Hillel director Osik Akselrud.