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Choral synagogue, Kiev. Modern view

What was built by Jews in Kiev?

Hard to imagine Kiev city tour without visiting such key places as Bessarabian market, the Kiev Choral Synagogue, Kyiv Polytechnic Institute…There are so much to tell about Jewish heritage in Kiev.

Your Kiev Guide is going to tell You more information about one of  outstanding Jews who has radically changed Kiev’s appearance – Brodsky family.

“Sugar kings” – story of the famous Jews in Kiev

Brodsky family is still known as sugar kings in Ukraine and outside it. Living in the second half XIX – at the beginning XX centuries Brodsky were very powerful dynasty that was the owner of a sugar refinery.

Their stock began with Meir Schor (Mark Brodsky) who moved to the near territory of Kiev in XIX century. He left large amount of money to his five sons, but only one of them Israel Brodsky invested it in a sugar business. Thanks to him many factories were erected and lately modernized, and many local hospitals (one of them was Jewish hospital) and trade school were constructed.

Grain elevator on the Postal sq. Kiev, 1930
Grain elevator on the Postal sq. Kiev, 1930

In 1885 free of charge Jewish hospital with 100 beds was opened by the generous hand of a sugar businessman. The hospital worked not only in the inpatient day regimen absolutely free of charge, but also provided free medication for outpatient patients. About 150,000 rubles were invested in the construction. By 1908, the number of beds for patients had grown to 200, and since relatively recently, the Brodsky clinic has become a Kyiv clinical regional hospital.

Jewish hospital built by Brodsky in 1885, Kiev
Jewish hospital built by Brodsky in 1885, Kiev

Tsar Alexander II, imposing sugar on tea with a silver spoon, could not help but notice the contribution of Israel Brodsky to the development of the country’s economy. In gratitude, he granted Brodsky the title of Commerce Counselor. This meant that the hereditary right of the honorary citizenship was transferred to his children.

In September 1888, Israel Markovich Brodsky died. His affairs went to his sons. Solomon did business in Odessa, and Lazar and Leo in Kiev.

Lazar Brodsky - Kiev sugar king
Lazar Brodsky – Kiev sugar king

Lately his son Lazar continued family’s business, and gained the position of the major Jew in Kiev. He practically developed not only sugar refining, but flour-milling, brewing, distillation, timber and paper industries. Besides, he was a sponsor of building women gymnasium on Podil (one of the business district in Kiev), university clinics, the main building of Kiev polytechnic institute, Jewish school, the Kiev Choral Synagogue. And what is more Lazar Brodsky even financed Kiev council when there was deficiency in city’s budget. In such a way famous Bessarabian market was built.

Ironically, the sugar king died of diabetes.

Kyiv Polytechnic Institute. Donated by L.Brodsky
Kyiv Polytechnic Institute. Donated by L.Brodsky

According to the results of the World Paris Exhibition in 1900, he, as well as Lev Brodsky and their colleague, sugar maker Nikolai Tereshchenko, were awarded the Order of the Legion of Honor, both Brodsky were awarded the title of Commerce Counselor. Lazar Brodsky was also awarded the Order of Honor – the Cross of St. Vladimir.

The daughter of Lazar Izrailevich Valentina in exile was married to the famous artist of Jewish origin Marc Chagall.

Valentyna Brodsky and Chagall
Valentyna Brodsky and Chagall

After Lazar’s death his brother Lev took sugar business into his hands. He could even supply Asian, especially Persian markets with Ukrainian products. As his brother Lev Brodsky was Maecenas, he gave money to hospitals, gardens, museums and orphanages. He spent in Paris his last period of life. And, unfortunately, with his death business and industry empire of Brodsky came to the end.

Learn more about Jewish roots in Kiev here.

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