Once upon a time, some 110 years ago, fictional Jews were forced to leave Anatevka. On Tuesday, Jews started moving back in. A Ukrainian rabbi has built the town to house Jewish refugees from the war raging in Eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian forces and Ukrainian troops. Since the fighting began in 2014, an estimated one million people have been displaced, among them, several thousand Jews, most from the conflict-ridden Donetsk and Luhansk regions. On September 1, at the town’s opening ceremonies, 20 refugee families were handed keys to homes – wooden structures modeled after shtetl dwellings of yore. Rabbi Moshe Reuvain Azman, the creator of the town, plans to accommodate 500 residents eventually.
Located about 10 miles west of Kiev – in the territory of Sholem-Aleichem’s stories – the development stands adjacent to a long-standing village called Gnativka, the inspiration Azman has claimed for the name. Still, the marketing potential of the association with our beloved musical has not been lost on the rabbi, who is aiming to raise $6 million for houses, a school, and other amenities. And apparently Fiddler on the Roof is holy enough for the new Anatevka: a silhouette of a fiddler perches on the rooftop of a rendering of the synagogue on the project’s website. So far, though, no images of a pot, a pan, a broom, a hat.