Designs sought for Jewish Babi Yar memorial

The Jewish community of Ukraine has announced an international architectural contest for a memorial complex in Babi Yar.

After many years of speculation and argument, the community has been granted permission from the Kiev city administration to build a memorial in the ravine outside of Kiev where nearly 34,000 Jews were killed by Nazi gunmen and local collaborators, the majority of them in September 1941.

The land for the memorial was purchased by the Babi Yar Foundation, according to Yosef Akselrud, executive director of the United Jewish Community of Ukraine.

“Before this was done, numerous attempts to grab the land had been taken,” Akselrud told JTA. “We had to go to the court several times. After the last trial was won, we decided to build the memorial as soon as possible to prevent further trouble.”

Applications for participation in the contest will be accepted through late August. Five to seven semifinalists will be chosen to present their detailed projects by the beginning of next year. The winner, who will be awarded $50,000, is to be announced in February.

The first monument in Babi Yar was built in 1976 and dedicated to “Soviet soldiers killed by the German invaders.” In 1991, another monument in the form of a menorah was erected to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the massacre.

Art of the Scalpel

Archie Granot is very careful and precise when making incisions with his scalpel — yet he knows he’ll never be sued if he makes a mistake. As the world’s leading paper cut artist in the area of Judaica, the London native is among 30 artists from Israel and the United States whose work will be on display at Temple Isaiah’s 22nd annual Festival of Jewish Artisans on Nov. 16 and 17.

Granot, who resides in Jerusalem, discovered his talent for paper cutting — an ancient art form that involves snipping and layering multitextured paper to create designs — several years ago when his daughter came home with a menorah she made in school. Inspired, Granot made his first masterpiece, which he claims was a disaster. "I was lucky that my parents liked it because I might never have done another," said the artist with a laugh. He is currently touring the United States with his works.

Upon studying the art form, Granot, 65, decided to focus on Judaic life cycles. His work includes ketubbot, mezuzot and haggadot, among other traditional Jewish relics. "When I’d look at paper cuts around the world, Polish paper cuts were made in Poland, Moroccan [paper cuts] were made in Morocco, so it seemed right, as a Jew living in Jerusalem, to make Judaica," Granot said.

While most paper-cut artists work with a knife or scissors, Granot uses a scalpel, after recalling using the tool for dissection in his high school zoology class. The artist is a regular customer at the local medical supply store, as he goes through 30 or 40 scalpels in a short period of time. Thinking back to that science class long ago, Granot is thrilled to have found his passion with the use of the delicate tool. "It’s much more aesthetic cutting paper than dissecting," he said.

Archie Granot will conduct a paper-cutting workshop Sunday, Nov. 16. at Temple Isaiah’s Festival of Jewish Artisans, 10345 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. Other featured artists include silversmith Emil Shenfeld and jeweler Shula Baron. For more information, times and tickets, call (310) 277-2772.