The majority of Slovak Jews live in Bratislava, the capital, but there are also Jewish communities in Košice, Presov, Piestany, Nowy Zamky, and other towns. Today, there are an estimated 3,000 Jews in Slovakia but as in many communities, there is a disproportionate number of elderly people. In recent years, however, many younger people have rediscovered their Jewish origins, injecting new life into the remnant of Slovak Jewry.
For close to a millennium, Slovakia was an integral part of Hungary, and the history of its Jewish community is tied to that of Hungarian Jewry. Before World War II, Bratislava (also known as Pressburg) was a great center of Jewish learning, and its yeshiva was among the most celebrated in all of Europe. Slovak Jewry included Chassidim, proponents of religious Orthodoxy, and Neolog reformer. Slovak Jews have been strongly influenced by Hungarian (and, to a lesser extent, German) culture, and many, particularly in southern Slovakia, are native Hungarian speakers.
On the eve of the dissolution of independent Czechoslovakia in 1939, there were some 150,000 Jews in Slovakia (nearly twice the number of those in the neighboring Czech lands). The government of newly-independent Slovakia, which was in effect a German satellite, orchestrated the deportation of Slovak Jews to German death camps in Poland (paying the Germans 500 marks per heard for the privilege), and in Hungarian–occupied south Slovakia, the Hungarian authorities played a similar role. Only 25,000 Slovak Jews survived the Holocaust, and many of these elected to emigrate immediately after the war, in part due to the hostile attitude of much of Slovak society to Jewish returnees. This phenomenon was compounded by the Communist government’s hostility to Zionism and religious life. Although the Jewish community was reestablished, it quickly shrank due to aging, emigration, and assimilation.
The freedom that followed the collapse of Communism opened new, hitherto unimagined, avenues of expression for Slovak Jews. However, antisemitism, long concealed beneath the surface, re-emerged as a serious problem. Certain newspapers engaged in antisemitic polemics, and elements within the Slovak Roman Catholic Church, as well as within nationalist political parties, defamed Jews. Several Jewish cemeteries have been desecrated. There has been a tendency to minimize the Slovak role in the destruction of Jews and to rehabilitate the memory of Father Josef Tiso, the country’s murderous wartime leader, with a number of monuments erected in his memory.
The Federation of Jewish Communities in Slovakia is the major communal organization. It is the umbrella organization for all Jewish communities in Slovakia.
Federation of Jewish Communities in Slovakia (Ustredny zvaz Zidovskych nabozenskych obci)
Bratislava 811 03 Slovak Republic
Tel: +421 2 5441 8357/2167
Fax: +421 7 531 1106
Talmud Torah programs are run in Bratislava and in Košice. Chabad of Slovakia runs The Jewish Education Center of Slovakia, with a number of educational programs including the Lauder Gan Menachem Kindergarten in Bratislava and adult education classes.
There are synagogues in a number of Slovak towns. The only remaining synagogue in Bratislava is the Heydukova Street Synagogue, which was completed in 1926. It and the synagogue in Košice are used regularly for services. Religious observance is increasing, as even some children of mixed marriages are returning to the community and studying Judaism.
Various Jewish organizations in Slovakia organize events: The Summer and Winter Maccabi Games (a sport event attended every year by about 200 Jews), Moadon Camps for Children (summer camps attended by dozens of children every year. Members of the ATID club are young families with small children. A well accepted Jewish kindergarten is currently in Bratislava, but there is a popular kids club in Košice too.Branches of international Jewish organizations exist in Slovakia, such as Maccabi and B’nai B’rith, which has lodges in Bratislava and in Košice.
Israeland Slovakia enjoy full diplomatic relations, which were established in 1993, and Israel is represented by its ambassador in Vienna. Until 1991, aliyah from Slovakia was subsumed under Czechoslovakia.
Slovakiahas many sites of Jewish interest, including numerous synagogues (more than 100) and burial grounds in various states of disrepair. Some synagogues have been restored and are used for various cultural purposes. Among the most outstanding sites is the underground mausoleum in Bratislava, which contains the resting places of 18 renowned rabbis. These include Moshe Sofer Schreiber, known as the Chatam Sofer, who lived in the 19th century and was a radical opponent of the Enlightenment. In part, thanks to his efforts, Bratislava became the intellectual heart of Austro-Hungarian Orthodox Jewry, and children from throughout the Empire were sent to its great yeshiva.
Kosher meat is produced locally, and there are kosher restaurants in Bratislava and Košice.
+421 254 413 824
For up-to-date information on Kosher restaurants and locations, please see the Shamash Kosher Database
Most of Slovakia’s youth live in Bratislava and Košice. The Lauder Foundation and the JDC are active in sponsoring cultural activities geared toward young people. The Slovakian Union of Jewish Youth, which is affiliated with the European Union of Jewish Students, organizes events for students.