Position Paper on the Restoration and Preservation of the Jewish Community Properties of Bardejov

The Bardejov Jewish Preservation Committee was founded in 2006 for the purpose of preserving the Jewish community properties in Bardejov, Slovakia, a home to Jewish communities since the 1700s. By preserving Bardejov’s rich Jewish heritage, we are joining organizations worldwide in preserving and commemorating the vanishing Jewish communities of Eastern and Central Europe.

Slovakia Today

Slovakia is no longer governed by a Socialist regime that lacks the will or resources to maintain Jewish sites. As a member of both the European Union and the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research, it acknowledges the contributions by Jewish individuals and communities to its history and culture through the ongoing restitution, restoration, and preservation of Jewish properties. By pursuing such efforts—even in towns and cities such as Bardejov, where there are no longer Jews—Slovakia adds its voice to those nations that by honoring their Jewish heritage are part of the global struggle against anti-Semitism. 

The Bardejov Jewish Preservation Committee will work with established Slovakian organizations to accomplish the preservation and restoration of the following Jewish properties in Bardejov:

The Jewish Cemetery

As a direct result of our efforts and contribution to the funding, the Bardejov Jewish cemetery has been restored. In conjunction with the Heritage Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Cemetaries, the overgrown grounds were cleared making the cemetery accessible. All 1228 tombstones were photographed and cataloged. The fallen stones were raised and secured with new concrete foundations. Recently, an attractive, new fence was installed around the cemetery. Having been cataloged and numbered the gravesites are now easily located by visitors. Names of those interred in the cemetery and photographs of tombstones can be viewed on our website (click on “Cemetery.”)

Chevra Bikur Cholim Synagogue

The committee is interested in the restoration of this synagogue so that it is officially recognized as an example of a well-preserved, pre-war synagogue by the Slovakian government and Jewish organizations such as the Slovak Jewish Heritage Center. We will explore with other interested parties the creation of a museum commemorating Bardejov’s Jewish history in the upstairs gallery, as we have seen in other synagogues/museums (e.g., the Orthodox Synagogue in Prešov). In the summer of 2010 plans were made to repair the roof and do other structural repairs. The work is being done by UZZNO and the Monument Board of Slovakia.

The Jewish Suburbia

Our position on the Jewish Surburbia—the historic 19th-century Jewish quarter comprised of the Old Synagogue, beit midrash, and mikvah—is in keeping with UNESCO’s inclusion of the compound in its nomination of Bardejov as a World Heritage Site due to “its cultural and historical significance.” The restoration and preservation of the Jewish Suburbia should complement that of the town’s historic center, which is perfectly preserved.

A historic depiction of Jewish communal life dating from the 19th century, the Suburbia should be restored and preserved in its entirety in recognition of, and as a memorial to, the Jewish communities that contributed to Bardejov’s social, economic, and cultural prosperity throughout its history. The Old Synagogue is especially noteworthy; it has been characterized by one scholar as “one of the most valuable pieces of synagogue architecture in Slovakia.”

The committee considers the current usage of the Suburbia—the rental of the buildings and grounds to a building supply company—a sign of great disrespect to its religious significance, to the memory of the thousands of Bardejov Jews who perished in the Holocaust, and to their descendants now living primarily in the United States, Europe, Israel, Canada, and Australia. The committee seeks an immediate resolution to the profoundly disturbing emotional effects of this occupation by the supply company on the Holocaust survivors, families, and friends of Bardejov, and proposes the following steps:

  • Clean-up the compound to make it accessible to visitors.
  • Publicize the recent inclusion (2010) of the Jewish Suburbia on the Slovak Jewish Heritage Route.

The committee will work with the appropriate Slovakian organizations—and all interested parties—to ensure that these steps are completed and will collaborate with these organizations to determine how to restore and preserve the compound for long-term usage.

Chevra Mishnayot Synagogue 

The committee is also aware there was a third synagogue in Bardejov, Chevra Mishnayot Synagogue, on Stocklova Street. The building was repurposed in the 1960s to become a secondary school of commerce. There is no plaque of identification on the building to indicate its important role in the Jewish history of Bardejov.

The committee will work in a spirit of respect and collegiality with Slovakia’s officials to achieve the best outcome for all concerned and to meet the civic, religious, and moral mandates for the restoration and preservation of Bardejov’s Jewish properties.

Emil Fish

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Bardejov Jewish Preservation Committee, 905 S. Fair Oaks Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91105, USA
Tel 626-773-8801 Fax 626-773-8825, Email: info@bardejov.org

Copyright © 2011 Bardejov Jewish Preservation Committee
Photos by Rivka and Ben-Zion Dorfman; Synagoga Slovakia; HFPJC; BJPC
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