Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Giant Ukraine JCC provides shelter from the storm — in style

By Cnaan Liphshiz for JTA

Menorah CenterDNEPROPETROVSK, Ukraine (JTA) — Five months into the war that turned him into a refugee in his own country, Jacob Virin has already attended 20 Jewish weddings — including those of his son and two other relatives — at the $100 million JCC of Dnepropetrovsk.

Towering over the skyline of this industrial metropolis, the 22-story Menorah Center is said to be the largest Jewish community center in Europe and a symbol of the remarkable Jewish revival here after decades of communist repression.

But with eastern Ukraine descending into chaos in recent months, the center of late has assumed a new symbolism. With one of its two hotels serving as temporary housing for some of the hundreds of refugees displaced by fighting between government forces and pro-Russian rebels, and a recent mass wedding for 19 Jewish couples held on its roof terrace, the center has become an emblem of Jewish survival during the current crisis.

“More than any other single complex, the Menorah Center has empowered the Jewish community of Dnepropetrovsk to better serve as an anchor for Ukrainian Jewry in difficult times and as an engine for Jewish renewal,” said Zelig Brez, the community’s director.

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