Crane falls at Jewish construction site in western Russia

(JTA) — A massive crane crashed down at a site where construction workers are building Russia’s westernmost synagogue and one of the country’s largest Jewish community complexes.

The 450-feet yellow crane crashed down last week on the site in Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave located northeast of Poland, as a result of safety violations by the contractor, a municipal spokesperson told the news site New Kaliningrad.

No one was hurt in the incident except the crane operator, who was in the cab at the time of the accident. He sustained minor injuries. The crane fell across the intended construction area and breached a perimeter wall to crash down on an adjacent sidewalk. The crane cab was completely overturned.

The crane was being used to prepare the ground for construction following the local Jewish community’s successful legal battle against city authorities for rights to build the synagogue there. Following several appeals, the local Jewish community obtained the final approval on June 1.

Before the accident, construction was scheduled to be completed in October 2017 with the inauguration of a house of prayer, with a capacity of 2,000 people, located inside the Jewish complex.

Alexander Boroda, a Chabad rabbi who is the president of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, said the complex will be large enough to be considered a Jewish “quarter.” He added that it will be the first time such a quarter, made up of several buildings and institutions, will open outside Moscow.

“Until today, this Jewish Quarter design was something we could see only in Moscow, in the Marina Roscha area,” he told the Russian-language Jewish news site MK Israel in reference to an area in the capital’s north. The Marina Roscha complex includes Russia’s largest Jewish museum, the headquarters of the Chabad movement, kosher shops, a food factory and a Jewish publishing house, as well as a Jewish library, recreation center for children and Jewish welfare offices.

“This approach is nothing innovative,” Boroda added. “The Jews traditionally settled near the synagogues, and located next to the synagogues are always objects of Jewish infrastructure. We sincerely hope that the construction of the Jewish Quarter in Kaliningrad will be another powerful infrastructure project for our community.”

The project, whose cost is estimated at several millions of dollars, was realized through an agreement between Boroda’s Chabad-affiliated body and the Russian Jewish Congress – two groups that have had a tenuous relationship, but that have increasingly cooperated in recent years. Much of the funding was donated by Vladimir Katsman, a local Jewish philanthropist.

The Jewish community of Konigsberg, the German-language name for Kaliningrad, was formed in 1671, and by 1756 it numbered 307 Jews. The first synagogue was built outside the city in 1680. The Great Synagogue of Konigsberg was burned down in 1938 during the Nazi-orchestrated Kristallnacht pogroms.

The new synagogue’s façade will be built to echo the façade of that building.

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