Jews in Slovakia

by Martin Hegedus from The Central Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Slovakia

The majority of Jews live in Bratislava (Jewish population around 800) and in Kosice (around 700) but also in Presov, Nove Zamky, Komarno , Dunajska Streda, Galanta , Nitra, Trnava and other towns.

We are the smallest holocaust-surviving community in the Europe and today we have less than four thousand people, mostly in older age. But many younger people have rediscovered their Jewish origins and through them we can see the most visible remains of the Jewish past. Religious observance is increasing and even some children of mixed marriages are returning to the community and studying Judaism. The Union of Jewish Youth is pretty active in Slovakia. In 1996 was established the Institut of Jewish Studies in Bratislava.

Slovakia has many interesting sites of Jewish interest. One of them is the undeground mausoleum in Bratislava which contains the resting places of many rabbis, includes Chatam Sofer who founded a rabbinical seminary with excelent reputation in Europe. We have around 200 synagogues and 620 cemeteries around the country. Those symbols of Jewish life are under construction or totally devastated. During the period of communism era (1948-89) there wasn't any real signs of organized Jewish life and the situation was similar to others communities of Central and Eastern Europe controlled directly by state. People who wanted to lead Jewish lives and freedom mostly left for Israel or the United States. For many years there has been no religious leadership. Jewish religious services are now held regularly at two synagogues in Bratislava with rabbi Myers from USA and in Kosice with rabbi Goldstein from Israel and sometimes in a number of other places. Kosher meat is produced locally.

Anti-Semitism, long concealed beneath the surface, has re-emerged as a serious problem. Most likely could be found camouflaged in written or visual propaganda aiming at the re-establishment of the Slovak wartime fascist state and its leading personalities. There were also many war criminals, who were involved in Slovak State machinery against Jews who escaped from Slovakia and from justice. The principal re-establishement is organized by them or publicly financed by cultural foundation Matica slovenska.