Exactly thirty years after Midreshet Yerushalayim was founded in 1991, its thriving Kiev community is making history as it prepares to move into the first Conservative synagogue building in the FSU in October 2021.
In 2020, the Schechter Institutes purchased an architectural gem on the edge of Kiev’s historic neighborhood, Podil. “It is very poetic that our permanent home will be located in an area once filled with Jewish life,” says Rabbi Stamov, spiritual leader of Kehillat Masoret. The new premises, dating back to the time of the Tsars, cover two floors of over 900 sq. m. (close to 10,000 sq. ft.) and is five times the size of the community’s current location.
Initially, the Kehillah will concentrate its activities on the second floor with a sanctuary, office space, a large kitchen and classrooms. This newest of Schechter campuses was made possible through the generosity of Saul and Mary Sanders, Howard and Diane Wohl and anonymous donors, and the professional expertise of Midreshet Yerushalayim Director Rabbi Irena Gritsevskaya in purchasing the property.
Rabbi Reuven Stamov, 47, together with his indefatigable partner and wife, Mihal, are building a vibrant community in the Ukrainian capital. Known as the singing rabbi, Reuven, a Schechter rabbinical graduate, arrived with his family of two daughters (now three) in Kiev in March 2012. “We started from scratch. It was the Stamovs and a few other curious souls. Then I started to play my guitar… and things started happening,” Reuven remembers with a smile.
Kehillat Masoret’s first address was a rental of 70 sq. mt. – two small rooms and a bathroom. Out of this modest beginning evolved a flourishing Jewish community of more than 80 families, necessitating moves to larger premises every few years.
Last year’s pandemic saw numbers rise, with new people participating in programs and Kabbalat Shabbat services via Zoom from Russia, Europe and Israel. Most exciting is a nascent community forming in Dnipro, Ukraine’s fourth largest city, where a group of young Jewish professionals, looking for an open and inclusive Judaism, approached Stamov.
More space translates into more programming. In September 2021, Kehillat Masoret inaugurated ‘Smart J’, a popular afternoon program for kids in the FSU created and partially funded by Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs. “Our hallways and classrooms are filled with youngsters breathing in Hebrew, Jewish History, English and more in such creative ways,” says Reuven.
2022 will mark a decade for Kehillat Masoret. Rabbi Stamov already has big plans for the new campus, including a TALI pre-school, mikveh, and a Student Residency and Rabbinic Preparatory Program to nurture a cadre of future Jewish leaders for Ukraine. A tall order to fill, but Reuven has always set his sights high.