The Bikur Cholim Synagogue is one of the best-preserved synagogues in Slovakia, which serves as a reminder of once large and developed Jewish community in Bardejov. Built in the 1920s, the synagogue still has the original inventory and impressive murals.

The organized Jewish community in Bardejov was created in the beginning of the 19th century, and its formation went hand in hand with the process of building a complex of buildings called the Jewish Suburbia behind the city walls. Most of the members of the strict orthodox congregation were the Hasidic Jews.

The Synagogue became the seat of the rabbinate in the first half of the 19th century, At the same time, the ban on Jewish settlements in towns was cancelled. This resulted in a rapid growth in the amount of members of the Jewish community in Bardejov. From 1860 to 1880, the number of Jews in Bardejov tripled to 1113 persons. The total number of Jews in the Bardejov rabbinate (which included surrounding villages) at that time was 1440 persons.

In 1895, there were 1650 Jews living in Bardejov. At the beginning of the 20th century, Jews comprised more than 30 % of the total number of Bardejov’s inhabitants. The Jewish community owned approximately 220 companies and 80 craft manufactures. Several generations of Bardejov’s rabbis belonged to the significant rabbi dynasty of Halberstamms.

The Bikur Cholim Synagogue (meaning “the virtue of visiting the sick”) on Kláštorská street in Bardejov’s town centre was built in 1929 by the Jewish association for the sick Chevra bikur cholim.

The building has two oblique gothic windows and a Hebrew inscription with the name of the Chevra bikur cholim association. It is built as part of the block of houses lining Kláštorská street, and its fronts facade is oriented eastwards, towards Jerusalem. The Synagogue also contains a community library (“beit midrash” in Hebrew), which has more than 700 books.

Nowadays, the Bikur Cholim Synagogue is in excellent condition thanks to the longstanding care of Maximilián Špíra, who was the last member of the Jewish community in Bardejov. The interior decorated with colorful murals and filled with almost complete original inventory is a silent yet powerful memorial dedicated to the history of Jews in Bardejov and their tragic elimination during the Holocaust.

At the beginning of the World War II, Jews used to comprise one third of the total population of Bardejov. Today, there are no Jews in Bardejov anymore. Despite of this, the eternal light still shines in the Bikur Cholim Synagogue.

The Synagogue is open to visitors. Visits have to be announced in advance.

Translated by:
Zuzana Šottová, M.A.

Sources:
bardejov.sk
slovak-jewish-heritage.org