Monday, July 7, 2008

Ukraine: New Developments in Jewish Quarter in L'viv

Ukraine: New Developments in Jewish Quarter in L'viv
by Samuel D. Gruber

(ISJM) It is period of uncertainty for the future of the Jewish quarter of L'viv, Ukraine, as properties in and around the historic district become available for new development, including lots adjacent to the site of the 16th century Golden Rose Synagogue. So, last week in L'viv, protagonists involved in the planning and development of the future of the city's historic Jewish neighborhood (part of the larger historic center which is a UNESCO designated World Heritage Site) gathered together for a "roundtable" discussion sponsored by .The Center for Urban History of East Central Europe (see: Part of the regular Kolo Lvova series, last month's topic was "Around
Staroevreiska Street: At the Heart of Lviv's Jewish Heritage," and drew about 20 people, most of whom are in some way stakeholders in the future of the area. This discussion was seen as an important step forward for a area with a contested history, and where there has been a lack of clear process in planning efforts.

Later this fall (October 29-31) The Center for Urban History will also host an exhibition about historic Jewish L'viv (also known as Polish
and Austrian Lemberg) and an international conference "Urban Jewish Heritage and History in East Central Europe."

Participants in last week's discussion included a representative of the city administration; Jewish activist Meylakh Shekhet, who heads the "Yevreiske Vidrodzhennia" (Jewish Revival & Rekindling the Jewish Flame), a Jewish cultural organization housed in premises adjacent to the historic Golden Rose (or TaZ) Synagogue; and Yuri Lukomski, the local archaeologist now at work excavating lots in the area. There were also several writers, artists, and museum experts present.

Importantly, the meeting also drew the local developer who recently purchased a property north of the former synagogue with the intent of constructing a hotel. That project and its impact on the
archaeological record and on the overall appearance of the neighborhood has been the cause of great concern. It is hoped that public interest – locally and internationally – in the fate of the
district will convince the developer to cooperate with local historians, archaeologists and preservationists to create a project appropriate for the location.

The Center for Urban History provides a "neutral" space in L'viv where complex and often conflicting attitudes towards the city and its history can be explored. While there was no specific goal for the discussion, and no specific results came of it, the organizers and participants believe it is an important stage in developing a consistent and open process. . Tarik Amar, Academic Director of the Center, reports that there are plans to form a group of those interested in Jewish heritage to continue these discussions.

I will be reporting more about Jewish L'viv in upcoming posts.

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