Bardejov, Bikur Cholim Synagogue
The Bikur Cholim synagogue was established 1929 by the Chevra Bikur Cholim, a Jewish charitable association. Located in the historical center and thus an integral part of the city’s UNESCO World Heritage site, it is a simple building whose street façade features two tall, pointed Gothic windows and a Hebrew inscription with the name of the association. Thanks to decades of care and maintenance by the late Mr. Maximilián Špíra, the sanctuary, with its original furnishings and Torah scroll is fully intact, making it one of the best-preserved synagogues in Slovakia. Hundreds of old Hebrew books remain stored in the rear part of the building where there once was a study room. Though no longer used as a Jewish house of worship, it is maintained by the Federation of Jewish Communities in the Slovak Republic and remains a priceless cultural and historical monument, a silent memorial to a once flourishing community.
Bardejov was a free royal town, and because of this status Jews were barred from settling here for centuries. An organized Jewish community was established only in the early 1800s. The community constructed a large Jewish communal compound situated outside the town walls. This included the Old Synagogue, the beit midrash (Torah study house) and the mikvah (ritual bath). The Jewish community was strictly Orthodox and included many followers of the Hassidic movement. It chose its rabbis from the prominent Halberstamm Hassidic dynasty. In 1940 some 2,441 Jews lived in Bardejov, making up nearly 29 percent of the local population. The town had two synagogues, a mikvah, two Jewish schools, five prayer halls, five charitable associations and two printing houses. The Jewish community was devastated in the Holocaust, but a small remnant still continued here after the war. No Jews live in Bardejov today.