Prešov, Jewish community compound

The Orthodox Jewish compound is centered around its magnificent synagogue, whose size and grandeur recall the prosperity of the community it served. This imposing building was constructed by the Košice-based company Kollacsek & Wirth in 1897-1898. The synagogue is still active as a house of worship. A permanent Judaica exhibition is installed in the former women’s gallery. This priceless collection was originally assembled by the first Jewish museum in Slovakia, established in Prešov in 1928. The collection survived the war and was deposited at the State Jewish Museum in Prague until 1993, when it returned to Prešov. In addition to the synagogue, other buildings of the compound include a Hassidic beit midrash (study house), school, and rabbinate and community offices. In the center of courtyard stands a Holocaust memorial.

Prešov was a free royal town, and because of this status Jews were barred from settling here for many centuries. Instead, they lived in the nearby village of Šebeš-Kelemeš (today Ľubotice) and from there commuted to Prešov for business. The first Jew to live legally in Prešov was an influential merchant, Mark Holländer, who managed to settle in the city despite strong local resistance. It was Holländer who built the Neptune Fountain on the Main Square. In 1830 his son Leo, an ardent advocate of Jewish emancipation, became the first president of Prešov’s Jewish community. After 1871, the Jewish community split into two separate communities, one Neolog and one Orthodox. In 1940, some 4,308 Jews lived in Prešov, forming 17.6 percent of the entire population. The former Neolog synagogue (Konštantínova Street) is extant and used as a shop. There are three Jewish cemeteries in Prešov. Today the local Jewish community numbers about 50 members.


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