The dedication of a Torah scroll at the restored Choral Synagogue took place last week in the Ukrainian town of Drohobych. Yaakov Dov Bleich, the chief rabbi of Ukraine, dedicated the scroll together with representatives of Jewish communities from across Ukraine, along with local residents and descendants of Jewish families of Drohobych, who came from Israel and the US for the occasion.
The synagogue restoration project, initiated by Felix Vekselberg, took more than seven years to complete and was funded by his son, Viktor Vekselberg.
Rabbi Bleich said: “Today’s event marks another important milestone in the revival of Jewish life not only in Drohobych, but all across Ukraine.
“Viktor Vekselberg was born and raised in Drohobych and, for many years, has supported the Jewish community. I regret that he himself was not able to attend today’s celebration, as he has been banned entry into Ukraine for political reasons. I am sure that, given his great efforts in helping develop Drohobych, he has all the merits to be considered for the title of Honorary Citizen of this town,” Rabbi Bleich added.
The Choral Synagogue was built in the mid-19th century for one of the biggest and most thriving Jewish communities of Galicia.
Drohobych was home to 17,000 Jews before the Holocaust, about half of the town’s population at the time. It is estimated that in 1942 and 1943, Nazis massacred between 11,000 and 14,000 Jews there.
Israel’s sixth prime minister, Menachem Begin, married his wife, Aliza, in the Drohobych synagogue in 1936. One of the guests at their wedding was Ze’ev Jabotinsky, leader of the Revisionist Zionists and mentor to Begin.
After World War II, the synagogue was used as a warehouse for textiles and for salt storage. It was later turned into a furniture store and its annexe was used for food storage. In the 1990s, the building was transferred to the town’s Jewish community, but was looted and set afire. Restoration work began in 2013 through the efforts of Felix Vekselberg, with the financial support of his son, Viktor.