Betsy Gidwitx Reports

Jews have lived in the region of Ekaterinoslav, part of the old Pale of Settlement, since the late eighteenth century. By 1897, the Jewish population of Ekaterinoslav had reached 41,240, more than one-third of the population of the entire city at that time. Pogroms occurred in 1881, 1882, 1905, and 1918; the 1905 attacks were the most devastating, killing 97 and wounding more than 100 people. Prior to the consolidation of Soviet authority in the 1920’s, the Jewish community was highly organized, maintaining a diverse network of Jewish religious, educational, and cultural institutions. It was an important center of both Zionism and the Chabad movement. A small Karaite community had its own prayer house.


Twenty years after the demise of the Soviet Union, Dnipropetrovsk is once again an important center of both Zionism and the Chabad movement. The State of Israel enjoys a robust image in the city, reflecting substantial emigration from Dnipropetrovsk to Israel, continuing bonds between local Jews and their family members and friends in Israel, the presence of many Israelis as teachers and other community professionals, a stream of capable shlichim (emissaries) of Israeli organizations, and the Zionist stance of Chief Rabbi Shmuel Kaminezki. Regularly scheduled commercial air service connects Dnipropetrovsk and Ben Gurion airport in Israel. Estimates of the current Jewish population of Dnipropetrovsk range from 25,000 to 40,000; it is the second largest Jewish population center in Ukraine, surpassed only by Kyiv.


Dnipropetrovsk is the center of the Chabad movement in Ukraine. Honoring the historic presence of Chabad in the city that continued into the 1930’s, the late Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson appointed Rabbi Shmuel Kaminezki to the post of Chief Rabbi of Dnipropetrovsk in 1990. Rabbi Kaminezki is widely recognized as the most effective large-city community rabbi in all of the post-Soviet successor states.



23. The long-awaited and much-heralded Chabad Menorah Center opened in October 2012, built in the form of a seven-branch menorah and comprising 538,000 square feet (approximately 50,000 square meters). Although the Center has been referred to as a Jewish community center, it is a unique structure, bearing little resemblance to Jewish community centers in North or South America. It is, instead, an office complex, Jewish museum, conference center, ban-quet hall, hotel, hostel, and small shopping mall. It has no indoor or outdoor sports facilities and no space dedicated to children's pro-grams. Parking space is limited.


The Menorah Center surrounds the Golden Rose Choral Synagogue, the red-roofed structure with grey facade.

Photo Retrieved July 19, 2013.



Although the structure appears to have seven separate towers, it is a single L-shaped building with an 18-story center and three progressively smaller sections branching out on two sides from the center. A long and wide L-shaped corridor extends through each 'wing' of the building, meeting where the two wings join. Multiple sets of small elevators are located along the corridor. Entries into small elevator lobbies, shops, the hotel, and other functional areas are separated by stone replicas of facades of former synagogues in the area.


Shops include a kosher café, travel agency, bank branch, business center, and Judaica shop. Entry into the center is easily accessible; it appears to be visited by more than several hundred people daily, some of whom seem to be casual 'sightseers'.

Retrieved July 19, 2013.



The Menorah Hotel is a four-star facility accommodating 80 people. Its elevators and door key system are programmed to be Shabbat-compliant. Because the hotel and the Golden Rose Choral synagogue are connected through a corridor, some religiously-observant individuals and families take advantage of Shabbat package rates. A hostel in a different section of the complex accommodates 94 individuals in rooms for two to six individuals.


The large conference and banquet facilities include two connecting ballrooms that together seat 1,500 people. Smaller conference rooms and informal meeting spaces are located throughout the structure. The Menorah Center also contains a 320-seat theater with a professional sound system. A number of non-Jewish organizations (professional groups, medical associations, commercial exhibitors, government groups, and others) have rented space in the Menorah Center for conferences, meetings, dinners, and other functions. Concerts and other cultural events also have been held in the Center.


The Menorah Center ballrooms seated more than 1,000 guests at a recent wedding dinner. A mechitza (barrier) separated men and women. A video system with several monitors showed speakers, the band, and group dancing.


Photo: Chabad of Dnipropetrovsk.



Office and meeting space in the Menorah Center is available to both commercial and community tenants according to a two-tier rent system. Community groups, such as the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Hillel student group, pay a discounted rate for permanent offices as well as for occasional additional space that may be leased by the hour or day for special purposes, such as a conference or dinner. Commercial tenants at the time of the writer's visit included lawyers, an information technology company, and various shops. According to information available to the writer, 10,500 square meters of the 12,500 square meters of space designated for rental purposes had been leased and occupied by mid-April.[46]


The central location of the Menorah Center, the elegant appearance of its ground floor, its spacious community rooms, and lightly visible security have all contributed to its early success. Yet questions persist about the wisdom of building such a massive, conspicuous symbol of Jewish wealth in a country where antisemitism is never far from the surface. Equally, the financial viability of such a structure also is questioned. The reputed $60 million construction costs were borne entirely by two local Jewish oligarchs, Hennady Boholubov and Ihor Kolomoisky;[47] the two donors have agreed to cover operating costs for up to two years, until the structure is fully occupied. The building is professionally managed. Internal sources estimate the monthly operating costs at $120,000 ($1.44 million annually), whereas external property man-agers have provided annual estimates of $3 million to $5 million.


Hostel accommodations include two to six beds in a room, a table and chairs, storage space, and attached bathroom. The larger hostel space includes a common area with bean bag seating and large eat-in kitchen.


Photo: the writer.


The Museum of Jewish Memory and the Holocaust in Ukraine, which is located in the Menorah Center, is covered elsewhere in this report. See pages 61-64.



[46] These figures were impossible for the writer to confirm. Clearly, large spaces in the building were vacant in mid-April. Rumors also circulated that prominent Jewish community lay leaders had exerted pressure on individuals and firms to lease space in the structure.

[47] The two men are principals in PrivatBank, Ukraine's largest bank. Mr. Boholubov now spends most of his time in London, and Mr. Kolomoisky resides in Geneva.

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