Memorial Synagogue at Poklonnaya Gora
Community-based National Museum
Organized an international visioning and planning process for a national synagogue and heritage museum in post-Soviet Moscow.
Seeking to establish and assert a Jewish presence in post-Soviet society, in 1997 the Russian Jewish Congress (RJC) – at the invitation of the Mayor of Moscow – determined to match the existing church and mosque in Moscow’s sacred victory park on Poklonnaya Gora (bowing hill) with a new synagogue. To reclaim a heritage so long denied, the organizers committed to include a Holocaust & Jewish heritage museum as part of the project. There were no Jewish or Holocaust museums within the Russian Federation, and no examples of active synagogue-museum hybrids in any country.
Businessman and philanthropist Vladimir Gusinsky, as the RJC’s first President, envisioned, led and funded much of the project, with the involvement and inspiration of Moscow Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt. The planning committee, comprising RJC leadership and other community stakeholders and experts, traveled to Jewish and Holocaust-oriented museums and sites around the world, gathering insight as well as support. The committee coordinated closely with the Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, and also met and consulted with leaders in the field, including Steven Spielberg and his Shoah Foundation, and Elie Wiesel.
The professional direction and coordination were provided by YGS Co-Founder Michael Steiner, in his capacity as CEO of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) in Moscow-Russia.
The opening ceremony was attended by then-President Boris Yeltsin of Russia and top international political and community leaders. Millions of Russians, many of them schoolchildren and mostly non-Jews, have since visited the complex.
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