«Jewish Observer»
JEWISH UKRAINE
13/32
July 2002
5762 Av

INVITATION TO JEWISH KERCH
VALENTINA POLYAKOVA
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Kerch is famous for its particular landscape characteristic of Eastern Crimea as well as for its monuments of archeology, history of architecture. UNESCO has taken under its protection Demetra's burial vault dating the I century A.D, the capital of Bospor kingdom Panthikapei located on Mitridat mountain, the necropolis of I-IV centuries, excavations of ancient cities: Mirmekiy, Nymphey, Tiritaki, Parpheniy, Porphmiy, Iluratat. Fame also goes to monuments of funeral cultural of the IV century B.C. - Tsarsky and Melek-Chesmensky barrows. Gold decorations from non-plundered barrows Kul-Oba and "Three brothers" laid the basis for a collection of antiquity in Saint-Petersburg's Hermitage. The only remaining monument of Byzantine architecture in Northern Black Sea coast is the church of Beheading St. John Forerunner built in the X century and turned into a mosque in the XII - XIV centuries.

Monuments of World War II are numerous, most famous of them are Adzhimushkai and Starokarantin quarries.

A located in the Kerch suburb private museum of Petr Pavlovich Averbakh is interesting for a rare collection of arms and equipment of Russian and Soviet battleships.

Members of the Jewish community, guests from other cities and countries eagerly go on an excursion "Jewish Kerch" during which they can discover unknown pages of the Kerch history. Kerch is one of a few cities of diaspora where over two thousands years monuments of Jewish history and religion have been kept intact. The central part of the city can boast of a prayer house of craftsmen built in 1869. At present this building houses closely cooperating Charitable Jewish foundation "Khesed Malka", the Jewish community "Gesher", Community of progressive Judaism, children's Sunday school.

A part of the wall of an Old or, as it also was called, Chief Jewish synagogue is preserved on the slope of Mitridat Mountain.

The modern interior of the central Lenin street looks nice with an old arch of M. Rubanchik, a renowned Kerch photographer of the early XX century, winner of many all-Russian and international contests. A former house of Shieldkredt, a famous Kerch photographer, found its new life in the same street. Time has failed to do anything to the building of a former woman's gymnasium where Sofia Ginzburg, an active participant of the "Narodnaya Volya" organization, took her studies. You have an opportunity to visit a Jewish cemetery founded in the XVIII century, which was under use right up to World War II. In April 2002 they discovered here rare in this region tombstones in the form of an open book and fragments of marble tombstones with epitaphs in Hebrew. Time is implacable and spared only a small part of the cemetery with scattered fragments of destroyed monuments.

A mighty Khazar kaganat which state religion was Judaism (Kerch in the XVI-X centuries was the residence of a tudun - a Khazar ruler of Eastern Crimea) left us only tombstones with Jewish symbolism kept in a lapidary of the Kerch state historic cultural preserve. A Turkish fortress Enikale ("New fortress"), built in 1700-1709 and restored as a monument of the fortification architecture, housed a synagogue closed down in 1923.

Kerch is abundant in historic places where Jews used to fight and toil leaving a good memory about them. They searched oil on the Kerch peninsula, clandestinely published and distributed the social-democratic newspaper "Yuzhny Kurier", projected and built new ships at the "Zaliv" plant, constructed the Voikov plant and a garment factory, mastered new manufactures.

You will have a chance to visit "Jewish Kerch" if you turn to the Museum of Kerch Jews of "Khesed Malka".

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