Symbolic Babyn Yar shul to open this week

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Symbolic Babyn Yar shul to open this week

Synagogue at the site of the Shoah massacre near Kyiv will be inaugurated to mark Yom HaShoah, in a ceremony attended by religious and political leaders from Israel and Ukraine

Stephen is the Jewish News' Foreign Editor

Babyn Yar Symbolic Synagogue
Babyn Yar Symbolic Synagogue

The symbolic newly built synagogue at the site of an horrific Holocaust massacre near the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv is to be inaugurated this week, in the latest development at the Babyn Yar complex.

It represents the first Jewish prayer space at the ravine where, during one autumn weekend in 1941, Nazis shot and killed 33,771 Jews from the city and its surrounds.

The inauguration of the synagogue at the site is to mark Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel, and will be led by Ukraine’s Chief Rabbi.

While Jews were the first to be killed at the ravine, from 29-30 September 1941, tens of thousands of others – including Ukrainians, Roma, and the mentally ill – were shot and dumped at Babyn Yar in the following months, as the Nazis occupied Kyiv. An estimated 100,000 were killed there, making it Europe biggest mass grave.

This week’s event is being coordinated by the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center (BYHMC), which is headed by Russian-born human rights activist Natan Sharansky, with a plethora of religious and political leaders attending.

Among those at the ceremony will be Kyiv Mayor and former heavyweight boxer Vitaly Klitschko; Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel; Rabbi David Lau, Ashkenazi, Chief Rabbi of Israel; Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, a Holocaust survivor and chair of Yad Vashem; and Yoel Leon, Israel’s ambassador to Ukraine.

This year will mark the 80th anniversary since the Babyn Yar massacre, when global leaders will converge on the site in September, in part to see the new synagogue, which takes its inspiration from the pop-up book.

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 design also features an interior referencing the wooden synagogues of Ukraine from the 17th and 18th century that have since been destroyed.

The walls are decorated with prayers and blessings, celebrating a reawakening, while the main prayers of the Jewish liturgy, such as the Shma’ Israel, or the Kaddish, are written on the walls.

There is also a blessing for turning a nightmare into a good dream on the main wall, above the Aron ha-Kodesh, where the bible scrolls are kept. This was also written on the walls of the 17th century synagogue of Gwozdziec of Western Ukraine.

The ceiling “celebrates a colourful universe” that becomes visible above the heads of the visitors. These symbols have an additional meaning, as together they recreate the star constellation visible over Kyiv on the night of 29 September 1941.

“For the visitors, looking up into the ceiling of the new synagogue will create a subtle link to the night that the massacre started,” said organisers.

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish News also produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: