Sunday, August 7, 2011

Slovakia -- Following the Slovak Jewish Heritage Route

Brooding sky over Bratislava's main square. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

I arrived in Bratislava today, to spend the coming week going around the country on 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.

 I have been following the evolution of the Jewish Heritage Route from its very beginning. The Route now includes about 24 sites in all parts of Slovakia -- mainly synagogues and Jewish cemeteries. Each uses a common logo and each has a uniform plaque affixed to it, and each involves a partnership with a local body, such as a municipality, or a school, or local Jewish community, or another organization -- that, as a stakeholder, will work to make sure that the site is maintained and also used for educational purposes.

I have visited most of the sites in the past (and reported on some of them in this blog as well as in Jewish Heritage Travel and other writings).

Today we saw the modernist synagogue on Heydukova street, the only functioning synagogue to survive in the city. It was built in the 1920s for the Orthodox community and designed by Artur Szalatnai-Slatinský. It is a rather stark building, with seven pillars marking the street facade. The interior has some cubist elements and very interesting interior detail, including distinctive hanging lamps and a grille around the bimah that recalls gothic construction.

Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

Maros showed us the work being done in the women's section, where next year an exhibition of Bratislava Jewry will be installed.

We briefly visited the Museum of Jewish Culture, a branch of the Slovak National Museum that reopened in 2009 following the revamping of its original exhibition, which dated from 1993. Although I wish this institution well, I have to say that today's visit did nothing to dispel the disappointment I felt when I was here about a year ago.  The objects are arranged with little information about their history, provenance or significance. See my post from last September by clicking HERE.

Click HERE for information about travel and tourism in Slovakia.

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