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Signs Of Slovakia’s Jewish Past And Present

Signs Of Slovakia’s Jewish Past And Present

The tourist above in the center of Bratislava, capital of Slovakia, isn’t taking a picture of the historic, two-spired synagogue that dominated the area since its construction a century ago.

She’s photographing a replica.

As part of a civic project funded by the city and initiated by the Israeli Chamber of Commerce, the empty shell of a synagogue went up recently in Fish Square on the spot where the original Moorish building, torn down five decades ago, once stood.

Bratislava, where several hundred Jews live today, was for centuries an important center of Jewish life, home of the 18th-century scholar known as the Chatam Sofar, whose grave continues to serve as a pilgrimage site.

One functioning synagogue is still open in Bratislava.

The replica is part of a long-term “Lost City” project to revive the historic area. It’s the latest sign of Jewish life in the city, formerly known as Pressburg, and in the country that formerly was part of Czechoslovakia.

A Jewish museum recently opened in the women’s gallery of the city’s actual synagogue. On display are Judaica items owned by the Jewish community or donated by members.

“It tells a story, our story, that dates back centuries,” Maros Borsky, vice president of the Jewish community, told JTA.

Earlier this month, an inter-religious dialogue between young Jewish and Muslim students took place, under the auspices of the Austria-based Muslim Jewish Conference.

And a Slovak-minted euro coin marking the 250th anniversary of the birth of the Chatam Sofer appeared last month. The silver, 10-euro coin bears a portrait of the rabbi, his name written in Hebrew, a picture of a menorah and Torah scroll, and a panorama of Bratslava’s Jewish Quarter, which was razed in the 1960s to make way for a bridge and major highway.

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