The Federation of Jewish Communities of Ukraine opened two new synagogues in Ukrainian penitentiaries last month, one in Kharkov and one in Vinnitsa. The facilities will also serve as Jewish centers allowing inmates to come in contact with their heritage and learn more.
Over 200 Jews are estimated to be currently held in Ukrainian prisons, while about seven facilities already have a Jewish center in one form or other, said rabbi Zeev Vinogradov from Dnepr, one of the project’s coordinators.
“In order to open a synagogue in prison we need two things: good will on behalf of the administration and a Jewish activist among the inmates, who will be eager to learn and participate. Than we can accomplish a lot and we get really positive results. As, for example, in Vinnitsa, where the new synagogue opened as a separate building and will be overseen by local Jewish organizations,” Rabbi Vinogradov said in an interview to local media.
The preparations for opening the synagogue in the Vinnitsa prison took several months, during which the building was renovated and stocked with furniture, books, a TV and DVD player for audio and video recordings on various topics in Jewish tradition and culture. Vladimir Pedko, an inmate, who has been interested in Jewish tradition for a long time, was the initiator of the project there, Rabbi Vinogradov said.