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Painstaking renovation of 1840’s-built shul a team effort

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Remi Babin told TheJ.ca from the synagogue restoration site, “I only have one desire, and that is to see this project come true.” (Photo: Marla Osborn)

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This week we went to meet Remi, a passionate volunteer who tells us about his story, reveals his projects and his dreams.

An endearing personality who through his travels spreads words of freedom and tolerance Having left France for a few months, he arrived in Ukraine in order to fully support a project that is close to the hearts of many people here in Lviv: the renovation of the Jankel Jancer Synagogue, located at 3, Vuhilna Street (also known as the Jakub Glanzer Shul.)  

Rémi is 27 years old and explains he is from Bordeaux, the city of “good wine and chocolatines. I like sharing. Adventure. Things that come out of everyday life. I like curiosity. I like food too. I am a “bon vivant”, as they say in France. Good wine, good cheese, good cold cuts… And then I like to party. I consider myself a hedonistic ascetic. Enjoy everything but own nothing.”

He was glad to speak with us about his current project in a question and answer format:

Nice program, indeed. How did you get to be in Lviv and why?

I had decided to conclude my journey through Europe by going to see what is on the other side of the Shengen area. I discovered Lviv during a Klezmer music festival. The city impressed me with its facades dating from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, its alleys full of color and music.

I discovered an interesting country, and day by day I still discover amazing things about its culture, its mentality, its landscapes.

Then I met Sasha Nazar. Immediately we became like close friends. Sasha works for an organization caring for the Jewish community in Lviv and beyond he runs an old synagogue which is badly damaged and that he wants to renovate. He told me of his desire to bring it back to life. And today I only have one desire, and that is to see this project come true.

What more can you tell us about Sasha’s project?

We want to make the synagogue a cultural center open to all, concretely, in the center, those who wish to come and participate in activities such as dancing, singing, painting, music, theater. Concerts and plays will be organized there. It will be a place full of life, full of youth and creation.

Here everyone will be accepted, no matter your religion or your origin, here you will be able to express yourself freely and meet other cultures. Culture has never been so beautiful as when it draws on the intermingling of cultures and tolerance, in my opinion.

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Where did the idea of ​​creating a cultural center in a synagogue in Ukraine come from?

The fact that it happens in a Jewish synagogue is a strong symbol. The Jankel Jancer Synagogue is a place that saw and experienced the atrocities of racism during World War II (and is the only synagogue in Lviv that survived the Nazi occupation). For that reason we want in that place to create a place in which those who come will be able to experiment other ways of sharing, breaking down the boundaries of communities, It is to create a meeting place between different cultures, a place of peace and sharing.

The symbol is strong.

Yes, the symbol is strong and the project is beautiful. In this way, we tell people: your fear has no place.

Come share with us, why did you decide to help rebuild a synagogue? You are not Jewish though …

No… I’m not Jewish and yet I wanted to help Sasha with this project. The principle of tolerance, the principle of respect, reconciliation between people, whatever their origin, are important values ​​in my eyes. It is a project that will fight racism by sharing and not by violence or demagoguery.

At the same time, we participate in charitable projects: distributing food to those in need, accompanying the elderly. Charity and helping people in need remains our main goal. Besides the Cultural Center is a dream we believe in and we work hard to make it true.

Matthias Routenberg and Nino Andre Abidbol are part of the quartet working with the Jewish Cultural Society in Lviv to repair the 1840’s Baroque-style shul. (Photo: Marla Osborn)

What is your job at the Jankel Jancer Synagogue?

Our first concern remains to deal with the problems linked to humidity because it rots the bricks and cracks the walls widely and if we do nothing the synagogue will one day simply collapse.

Currently, we are in the process of restoring the ceiling of the great hall. It’s a vertiginous ceiling over 10 meters high – totally sumptuous, but partly destroyed. Once the moldings of the baseboards are finished, we hope to be able to fix them at the beginning of the year 2021 … We are a group of 4 people and we are trying to renovate a very damaged, very large place. For that reason we work slowly and unfortunately we can’t see too many results of our work.

It’s a huge project and we work ‘Step by step’. This year for instance we finished the renovation of the main door and we focalised on the ceiling. But next year, we hope to have more help, more volunteers in the way to achieve more small projects… and we continue to believe in it.

And then, Remi?

What I am currently experiencing has made me more responsible for the challenges that await me.

Taking care of others allows you to put your own life into perspective. I would like further to find a job in restaurant business and keep on traveling. I will continue my journey maybe here, maybe in France or elsewhere… or why not… In these complicated times, to realize one of my dreams, because you always have to have some dreams in your pocket: a house somewhere surrounded by valleys and big trees and become a shepherd and make good goat cheese.

Masha Estrina is a writer in Ukraine. She is deeply interested in telling the story of the culture, history, and modern life of the Jewish people in the country.

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Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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