Jewish Sightseeing & Culture in Kiev
Kiev (Kyiv) and the Jewish Community
Kyiv currently has a Jewish population of approximately 20,000. Although this is significantly lower than it was during the 19th and early 20th centuries, during which Kyiv had one of the largest, most important populations in Eastern Europe.
Jewish synagogues, schools, businesses and markets were prominently represented in a city where Jewish businessmen, engineers, scientists, teachers, doctors, lawyers, writers, artists and tailors all lived and prospered. Israeli political leaders Golda Meier and Ephraim Katzir, as well as the Soviet poet Ilya Ehrenburg were born in Kyiv. The famous Jewish writers Sholem Aleichem and Isaac Babel and poet Osip Mandelstam lived for long periods in the city. The construction of many beautiful buildings, such as Bessarabs'kyi Market and the Kyiv Oblast Hospital, was financed by wealthy Jewish patrons.
Jewish Open Space in Kiev - Kyiv
Every year in September Jewish Open Space festival takes place in Mariinsky Park in Kyiv (Kiev). It is a project that has been going since 2014 and has steadily grown in popularity and support.
The aim of the festival is to give guests the chance to learn more about life of the Jewish community in Ukraine, as well as learning about the important and beneficial work it does for our society.
The festival is a free event consisting of Jewish entertainment such as singing, jewish dancing, Folk klezmer music and activities relevant to jewish culture.
Holocaust in Kyiv and the Tragedy of Babyn Yar
Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, Kievan Jews fell victim to persecution during the Soviet era and faced violent, anti-Jewish riots called pogroms. It is estimated 1,326 pogroms took place across Ukraine. Between 1918 and 1921 it is estimated that half a million Ukrainian Jews were made homeless and somewhere between 30,000 to 70,000 people were killed.
The darkest page in the history of Kyiv's Jewish community was written during World War II. Nazi Germany invaded Ukraine in June of 1941 and occupied Kyiv by September. On September 29, Nazi commanders ordered all Jews to meet on Dehtyarivs'ka street. At the time, a train station happened to be nearby and people naively assumed they were being deported. Almost to a man, the city's Jews obeyed the order, and were systematically marched off to Babyn Yar, a deep ravine in the woods. As the procession neared the edge of the city, naivety turned to terror. Like livestock through slaughterhouse gates, the crowd was funnelled between rows of armed German soldiers. Stripped of their possessions and human dignity, men, women and children were lined up against the edge of the ravine and shot. Thirty-two thousand Jews were murdered in the massacre of September 29-30. Altogether 100,000 people were executed at Babyn Yar during the German occupation. The few survivors were later star witnesses at the Nuremberg Trials. After the war the ravine was filled with soil, and now Babyn Yar is a park with a number of stirring monuments devoted to those who perished.
Two monuments have been erected to commemorate this tragic episode. In 1976 a grand monument was erected Dorogojitska Street. The plaque is inscribed in three languages, Ukrainian, Russian and Yiddish, but fails to mention the Jewish identity of the victims, reading only: “In this place, German Fascists executed nearly 100000 citizens of Kyiv and prisoners of war”.
The second monument was erected in 1991 on Melnikova Street which is located at Babyn Yar ravine. It depicts a large “menorah” and again makes no specific reference to the tragedy. A plaque simply reads “In memory of the tragedy at Babyn Yar. Each year, on 29 September, memorials are held, bringing together the Jewish community and other prominent figures from the city.
If you would like to know more about this tragic event then please visit BABYN YAR HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL CENTER page.
Synagogue's and Jewish sites in Kiev
Jewish Museums & Places of Interest
Museum of Sholem Aleichem
Address: Velyka Vasylkivska St, 5А, Kyiv, Ukraine, 02000
Ploscha Lva Tolstoho
Tel: +380 44 235 1734
On March 2nd 2009 on the 150-year anniversary of Sholem Aleichem a new museum was opened in Kiev.
Sholem Aleichem was an outstanding Jewish author, playwright, poet, publicist and Jewish spiritual leader of East European Jews.