Friday, June 1, 2012

Monday, April 5, 2010

Bardejov Jewish Suburbia Becomes Part of Slovak Jewish Heritage Trail

A conference was held in Bardejov last month to commemorate the inclusion of the Bardejov Jewish Suburbia and the Bikkur Cholim synagogue into the Slovak Jewish Heritage Route. The conference was organized by Pavol and Peter Hudak. This effort is the latest by the father and son team to educate the people and community leaders of the area about the history and culture of the former Jewish community of Bardejov. The Bardejov Jewish Preservation Committee is hopeful that the event is another step towards reaching our goal of having the suburbia vacated, restored, and transformed into a monument honoring the memory of the Jews of Bardejov and surrounding areas who perished during the Holocaust. We recently interviewed Peter Hudak regarding this event.

What is the Slovak Jewish Heritage Route and what is Bardejov's association with it?

The Slovak Jewish Heritage Route is the Slovak partner of the European Jewish Heritage Routes which together are a complex project that includes research, education , and promotional activities aimed at advocating for and preserving the Jewish heritage of Slovakia. The Jewish Suburbia on Mlynska Street together with the synagogue Chevra Bikkur Cholim on Klastorska Street compose two of the twenty-five stations that form the Slovak Jewish Heritage Route. The addition of the Jewish Suburbia and the Bikkur Cholim now make Bardejov an important part of the route.

Please tell us about the conference you sponsored.

The conference regarding Jewish heritage in Bardejov and in Slovakia was the common project of the Slovak Jewish Heritage Center, the Bardejov Jewish Preservation Committee, and the Saris Museum. The main goal was to increase awareness about the Jewish heritage and history of Bardejov. the most important part was Dr. Maros Borsky's presentation about the long term strategy for preserving the Jewish heritage in Slovakia and the potential to integrate the Jewish sites into a program for education and tourism. All the lectures tried to encourage the involvement of the public in the preservation of Jewish heritage in Bardejov.

Who attended the conference?

We invited all the people who we believe recognize and value the Jewish heritage of Bardejov and can help extend awareness of this subject to the general public. We were satisfied because most of the visitors were local teachers, professionals in the culture fields, members of the media, and members of the city government and management. Some of the prominent attendees included the mayor of Bardejov, Dr. Boris Hanuscak, Rabbi Jossi Steiner, and especially, the young people!

What were the topics of conversation?

There were three interesting topics. First, the Jewish cultural heritage of Slovakia was presented by Dr. Maros Borksy. Second, the architectural monuments of Jewish culture in Bardejov, presented by Peter Hudak. Finally, the history of the Bardejov Jewish community from the middle ages to the Nazi era was presented by Pavol Hudak.

To what degree are the people of Bardejov gaining an understanding of the Jewish history of the town?

In my opinion, the people of Bardejov are very interested in the Jewish culture and history. The problem is the educational system of the Slovak Republic. The pupils receive minimal education about the minorities including the Jews. Unfortunately, students have no ideas about the Jewish past before the war so they cannot fully appreciate the values and complex culture of the Jewish minority of Slovakia. A lot of people would like to know more but they do not know how or where to find the information. We are trying to give them a chance to learn some fragment from the Jewish past of our town. We are also trying to show that the violence and destruction of the Nazi era was just the surface of the tragedy. The extended tragedy was that a once vibrant, productive, and deeply rooted culture was destroyed.

We have prepared events like the European Day of Jewish Culture, Rudolf Lowy's memorial day, the ceremonies in remembrance of the anniversary of the deportations, and other activities which should increase the interest of people about the history of the Jewish community and religious sites.

Were any conclusions made about the future of the Bardejov Jewish Suburbia?

The answer is not simple. We need to wait and see how the authorities will consider our efforts. They have to understand that the public has an interest in preserving the Jewish Suburbia. The main effort is to bring life to this site. We will create other events with the support of the people of Bardejov. We believe that the authorities will recognize the value of one of the most significant Jewish monuments in Central Europe.

We have presented all the architectural monuments of Jewish culture in Bardejov paying special attention to the Jewish Suburbia. In my lecture, I presented the historical development, architecture, and status of the buildings in the whole complex. At the end of the conference, the Old Synagogue was opened for visitors and they could see the interior. I hope that they Will help the Bardejov Jewish Preservation Committee i the goal of preserving the Jewish Suburbia.

Are there any other comments you would like to make:

I would like to thank all the people of Bardejov who honor the memory of the Jewish community and support the effort to create a monument.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Interview with Pavol and Peter Hudak

Pavol Hudak and his son Peter both have a passionate interest in the history of the Jews of Bardejov and their fate. They have conducted research and created several public educational presentations on the subject. Peter is currently doing graduate work on the history of the Jews of Bardejov. We recently interviewed them about their interests in Bardejov’s Jewish heritage.

Pavol, please tell us about your background and how you became interested in Bardejov’s Jewish history.

I was born in Presov in 1957 and grew up there. Prešov is the third-largest city in the country and it is the seat of the administrative Prešov Region. In 1982 I completed my university studies in Košice and a year later moved to Bardejov where I still live today.I was curious about Peter’s research about the fate of Jews from Bardejov. How it is possible that people forgot a community which was here for about three hundred years? How to did we come to allow the expulsion of thousands of people from the country? Why weren‘t we interested in what happened to them? Why weren‘t we interested in those who survived? I wanted to find out the truth. Who was responsible for this? How can someone have so much hate? When I had the opportunity to learn about a few survivors I realized that behind each numbers is the tragic destiny of man. I recognized that we must speak and write. We must not allow such a thing to be repeated.

Peter, please tell us about your background and how you became interested in the Jews and Jewish history of Bardejov.

I was born in 1985 in Bardejov where I grew up and still live. During my childhood I used to walk around the Jewish Suburbia and every time I was in this place I experienced difficult emotions. First it was only a vague feeling and I did not know what it was. Later, I began to ask myself questions. Who were the Jews of Bardejov? Where are they? What happened to them? As someone who loves history I gradually discovered what a strong, independent and interesting Jewish community once lived here. I was astonished and horrified at the same time. How is it possible that we have forgotten about so many people? I began to study about these issues. During the last three years I have met or contacted many good people who, despite not knowing us, opened their hearts and minds to me and my father. They wanted us to know about their pasts. Their interest and cooperation confirmed to my father and me the value of our work. The motivation comes as well from my parents who supported me and taught me from childhood to honor truth and justice.

Peter, where are you studying and what are your academic goals?

I am in my final year of study in the field of history at Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra (250 miles from Bardejov). I am conducting long-term historical research on the history of Bardejov´s Jewish community and focusing on the 20th century. I have written some studies and articles and am planning on writing a book on this subject.

Describe your plans to educate the people of Slovakia about Bardejov’s Jewish heritage.

Our goal is to present the Jewish past of our town as an important part of Bardejov‘s history. We try to educate and make people sufficiently informed. We write articles about Jewish history in local newspapers and also collaborate with local television and radio stations regarding the presentation of regional Jewish history and culture. At the present time, our main effort is the organization of events (i.e. The European Day of Jewish Culture and The Memorial Day of Rudolf Lowy.) These events attract the attention of residents. As you know, awareness is based on education. In addition to the work that we do, we will strive to teach children in schools and create a textbook about the Jews of Bardejov. Equally important is gathering personal accounts, especially video testimonies. We believe that these materials will be used in the creation of memorial sites in the Jewish community.

Is there anything else you would like to say?

If we want to erect a special monument, we need to educate the public as to who the Jews of Bardejov were. It is important to show the points in our history when there was normal and kindly relationships. That is the reason why we are looking at the period of prewar Czechoslovakia. Only after we have created an understanding of the history of Jewish life in Bardejov can discuss the Shoah. We are collecting any historical documents, photographs and other materials, that could shed light on Bardejov’s Jewish community. Every memory of a survivor, older person (or information from their families) is as valuable as gold. These memories can be about everyday lives, school, friends, the town of Bardejov or the Shoah. Because our work is like putting together a puzzle, it is necessary to have all the fragments. We are grateful for any advice or information. Please contact us anytime.

Name: Pavol Hudák, Ing.
Address: Sázavského 15
085 01 Bardejov
Cell. Number: 00 421 905 346 791
Phone Number/ Fax: 00 421 54 474 8098

Name: Peter Hudák, Bc.
Address: Sázavského 15
085 Bardejov
Cell. Number: 00 421 908 841 027

Monday, November 16, 2009

Emil A. Fish Appointed to U.S. Commission

On November 10, The White House announced Bardejov Jewish Preservation Committee founder, Emil A. Fish's appointment to the United States Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad.

The commission's purpose is to protect and preserve monuments and historic buildings in Eastern and Central Europe that are associated with the heritage of U.S. citizens, particularly endangered properties, and obtain, in cooperation with the Department of State, assurances from the governments of the region that the properties will be protected and preserved.

In addition the commission also seeks the preservation of similar types of properties, including related archival material. It additionally encourages and facilitates private and foreign government restoration and preservation projects.

The commission has agreements with twenty-eight countries including Slovakia. It is our hope that we can,working with the commission and the government of Slovakia, make further progress preserving the Jewish religious sites in Bardejov and create and appropriate monument commemorating the town's lost Jewish community.

More information about the United States Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad can be found on its web site:

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

European Day of Jewish Culture Observed in Bardejov

On September 6, 2009, cities and towns across Europe commemorated the history and culture of their local Jewish communities. In Bardejov, at least 213 people attended lectures and displays presented at the Bikkur Cholim synagogue. The recently cleaned and painted shul was decorated with photographs of Bardejov's former Jewish residents. Posters explaining the town's Jewish history were also on display. Lectures were given by Peter Hudak and Cyril Bogal. In addition, local residents recalled their memories of the vanished Jewish community. Attendance was much higher than expected and most guests had to stand outside of the building during the talks.

Peter Hudak and his father, Pavol Hudak organized the days presentations. Peter is a graduate student who is studying and documenting Bardejov's Jewish history. Pavol has had a long time interest in documenting and preserving the Jewish culture of his native town. Cyril Bogol is the caretaker and protector of the Bikkur Cholim synagogue.

The Day's events were documented by local newspapers and television stations. A statement by teh Bardejov Jewish Preservation Committee was read in the Slovak language.