Ukrainian court nixes controversial Jewish heritage projects in Lviv

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — A Ukrainian supreme court forbade the Municipality of Lviv from going ahead with controversial plans for commemorating Jewish heritage sites.

The Supreme Economic Court of Ukraine issued its ruling Wednesday against the city’s plans to design and build projects that would commemorate three Jewish sites instead of restoring them.


In 2010, the city announced an international competition for architects interested in designing projects that would commemorate Lviv’s old Jewish quarter; the city’s 14th-century Jewish cemetery — which is now being used as a market — and a former Nazi camp.

But the plan was opposed by the Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union and the Golden Rose Synagogue of Lviv, because “it was meant to cover up and commemorate the Jewish past instead of restoring its ruins and celebrating Jewish life here and now,” Meylakh Sheykhet, director of the union’s Ukraine office, told JTA Friday.

In its ruling, the court found the city’s plan did not conform to international preservation standards.

Following unproductive negotiations with city officials, the union filed this year for an injunction to stop the city’s plan. In March, a regional court ruled in favor of the union’s motion but the city appealed. On Wednesday, the supreme court upheld the lower court’s ruling and rejected the city’s appeal.

“The city’s plans conformed neither with international standards for heritage preservation nor with Ukrainian law and government resolutions on this matter,” Sheykhet said. He also said the city was not interested in restoring heritage sites in the Jewish quarter, because this would come at the expense of restaurants and other business operating on what used to be synagogues.

The ruling Wednesday represented “a new era for the resolution of the complex issues surrounding the proper preservation of the Jewish heritage sites that sustained severe damage by totalitarian regimes,” Sheykhet said.

He added the ruling shows that “Ukraine changed and it will never return to what it was before Maidan,” the Ukrainian word designating the revolution that erupted in November against former president Viktor Yanukovyich over his alleged corruption and perceived allegiance to Russia.