Jewish souvenirs in Trani, Italy

Jewish souvenirs in Trani, Italy

JEWISH HERITAGE EUROPE



Check out the rich resources on www.jewish-heritage-europe.eu -- an online clearing house for news and information on Jewish heritage that I coordinate as a project of the Rothschild Foundation Europe




Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Slovakia -- My Ruthless Cosmopolitan column about Slovakia




In Slovakia, being strategic about preserving Jewish heritage
Maros Borsky, vice president of the Bratislava Jewish community, standing in the Orthodox synagogue in Zilina, Slovakia. The shul is one of the sites on his Slovak Jewish Heritage Route.  (Ruth Elen Gruber)
Maros Borsky, vice president of the Bratislava Jewish community, standing in the Orthodox synagogue in Zilina, Slovakia. The shul is one of the sites on his Slovak Jewish Heritage Route. (Ruth Ellen Gruber)

RUTHLESS COSMOPOLITAN

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (JTA) -- In 1989, on the eve of the fall of communism, the American poet Jerome Rothenberg published a powerful series of poems called "Khurbn" that dealt with the impact of the Holocaust on Eastern Europe.

In one section, he recorded conversations he had had in Poland with local people who had little recollection of the flourishing pre-war Jewish presence.

"Were there once Jews here?" the poem goes. "Yes, they told us, yes they were sure there were, though there was no one here who could remember. What was a Jew like? they asked.



"No one is certain still if they exist."


I often think of this poem when I travel to far-flung places in Eastern and Central Europe, and it was certainly on my mind on a trip to Slovakia this August.



That's because yes, there are still Jews here, and the post-Communist revival has reinvigorated Jewish communities in the region.



But also, despite this, numbers are still so small that even in many places where Jews once made up large parts of the population, Jewish history and heritage have been, or run the risk of being, forgotten.



"Look," my friend Maros Borsky reminded me in Bratislava. "Kids who were born after 1989 don't even remember communism."


Borsky is trying to do something about this -- which is why I was in Slovakia.


Read the entire story here.

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