Sunday, August 14, 2011

Slovakia -- Liptovsky Mikulas Synagogue (including video)

Liptovsky Mikulas synagogue. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

The magnificent neoclassical (former) synagogue in Liptovsky Mikulas, at the edge of the Tatra Mountains, was one of the highlights during  my five days this month following the Slovak Route of Jewish Heritage -- a  project  devised by my friend Maros Borsky, the leading expert on Jewish heritage in Slovakia. The author of the book Synagogue Architecture in Slovakia, Maros founded and directs the Slovak Jewish Heritage Center. You can see earlier posts on the trip HERE and HERE and HERE .

Interior. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

Built in 1846, the synagogue is now surrounded by parking lots, modern construction and a very, very few lingering old houses. The synagogue was partially restored in the 1990s for use as an exhibition hall. Only traces remain of the sumptuous interior decoration, including an elaborate Ark, designed by my architectura hero -- the prolific Hungarian synagogue architect Lipot Baumhorn, who renovated the building in 1904-1906 after it was gutted by fire.  My long chapter on Baumhorn in my 1994 book Upon the Doorposts of Thy House was, I believe, the first lengthy treatment of him and his work in English -- and it still may be so, though I understand a student in Budapest is now doing her PhD on Baumhorn.

While I was researching that book, I brought my mother, the artist Shirley Moskowitz, with me on one trip. She did a series of monotype prints of Jewish heritage sites we saw -- including the Ark of the synagogue in Liptovsky Mikulas.
(c) The Estate of Shirley Moskowitz

While in the synagogue, Rabbi Andrew Goldstein and his wife, Sharon, recited and sang prayers associated with synagogues in an informal commemorative service for the building and its community. It was a beautiful and moving experience.

Liptovsky Mikulas was the first city in then-Hungary to elect a Jewish mayor; Isaac Diner, elected in 1865, was the first of several Jews to serve in the post.

Click HERE for information about travel and tourism in Slovakia.

No comments:

Post a Comment