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Eugeny Kotlyar: The Light of Revival – Stained Glass Design for Restituted Synagogues of Ukraine

March 28, 2024 @ 12:00 pm - June 16, 2024 @ 6:00 pm

Image: Eugeny Kotlyar, Holy Places of the Land of Israel. Stained-glass project for the eastern wall of the prayer hall of the Kyiv Podil synagogue, 2002. Paper, ink, pencil, watercolor, whitewash.


The Ukrainian Institute or America is pleased to present The Light of Revival: Stained Glass Design for Restituted Synagogues of Ukraine, a special exhibition showcasing designs for three sets of stained-glass windows, designed by Eugeny Kotlyar and partially implemented in Ukrainian synagogues in the period from 1995 to 2005, influencing a broader perspective on the revival of Ukrainian synagogues after Ukraine’s independence.

Two early works shown here were the first samples of stained-glass designs for modern Ukrainian synagogues, which set a new trend. The first of them—the stained-glass windows for the Kharkiv Choral Synagogue (1995) demonstrates the theme of Jewish Holidays. The second project—an ensemble of stained-glass windows for the Kyiv synagogue in Podil (2002)—focuses on Holy Places of the Land of Israel and the Tribes of Israel. And, the third work—Jerusalem and the Tribes of Israel is a part of the original design of the Torah Ark itself in the Galitska synagogue in Kyiv (2005). In Kotlyar’s artistic vision, the stained-glass window projects light, turns the metaphysical into the physical, materializes the speculative image, and, ultimately, fills prayer with color and light.

Kotlyar began creating these stained glass windows in 1993 for a course project while a student at the Kharkiv Art and Industrial Institute, amidst a cultural and community movement in Ukraine to restore houses of worship that were desecrated and often destroyed by years of Soviet rule. “Many of the sacred buildings, churches, synagogues were appropriated for swimming pools, for storage facilities, or if they were lucky, for archives for workers clubs … As a result, many of the synagogues were either destroyed or certainly the sacred art has been destroyed,” said Professor Magda Teter, chair of Shvidler Studies at Fordham University. Jewish architecture, including existing stained glass windows, were lost to pogroms such as Kristallnacht, where Nazis burned over 900 synagogues in a single night.

While academic and state institutions had a hand in restoring these houses of worship, the movement was also very much community led. “You can’t do it just as an artist or as an art student, you have to have a larger support,” Teter said. She noted that in Kharkiv, where Kotlyar was based as a student, there was a large community of 40,000 Jews who were also involved in the push to reclaim and restore these synagogues.

The exhibit aims to be thoroughly historic as well as artistic, sharing with the visitor not only Kotlyar’s designs, but also the history of reclamation, restoration and return to roots for Jews in Ukraine at the turn of the century. Kotlyar remarks on the exhibition, first installed at Fordham University: “Displayed here are historical photos and designs of synagogues, sketches of stained glass windows, as well as photographs of completed works. Together, as artistic images in connection with a larger historical context, and from a broad perspective you can see … the first samples of stained glass designs from modern Ukrainian synagogues.”

Eugeny Kotlyar is a professor at the Department of Art History and the chair of the Department of Monumental Paintings at the Kharkiv State Academy of Design and Arts (KSADA). He is also a curator of the Center for Eastern Studies of KSADA and the chair of the Academic Board of the Ukrainian Association for Jewish Studies (UAJS). His research focuses on Jewish art, Jewish heritage in Ukraine, synagogue decorations, and Kharkiv Jewish local lore. Trained as an artist and art historian, Kotlyar designed stained-glass windows for synagogues and Jewish community centers in many cities of Ukraine. In 2022-2023, he was a virtual fellow in the AAJR-Fordham-NYPL Ukrainian Fellowship Program.

The Light of Revival: Stained Glass Design for Restituted Synagogues of Ukraine was conceived and curated by Dr. Magda Teter, the Shvidler Chair in Judaic Studies, Center for Jewish Studies, Fordham University. This exhibition was on view in the Henry S. Miller Judaica Research Room at the Walsh Family Library at Fordham University from September 10 to December 8, 2023.

The Ukrainian Institute of America is deeply grateful to Dr. Teter for her scholarship, generosity and collaboration in having this exhibition installed within its halls.

A fully-illustrated catalog including critical historical perspectives and Eugeny Kotlyar’s projects is forthcoming, published by Fordham University.


Exhibition hours: Thursday to Sunday, 12–6pm, or by appointment. Please consult the UIA website for opening hours in effect, as there are occasional closures.

 For further infomation: Please contact Andrew Horodysky at (212) 288-8660 or andrew@ukrainianinstitute.org.

Eugeny Kotlyar: The Light of Revival – Stained Glass Design for Restituted Synagogues of Ukraine


March 28, 2024 @ 12:00 pm
June 16, 2024 @ 6:00 pm
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