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Kosice's Coat of Arms
 Košice, Slovakia

About Religious Life in Košice

Kosice has a religious history that might be traced to almost 400 years ago, although the appearances of a scattered Jew here or there, cannot be considered a community.  It wasn't until the 1830s and onward, that the community was allowed to settle and grow.  So as not to repeat that development, see the sub-section, The History of the Jewish Community, in the  Kosice pages (as translated from the Hebrew) in Encyclopedia of  Jewish Communities: Slovakia.

In part of the aforementioned section, here are a few lines to be expanded upon, regarding Rabbi
Salomon (Shaul, in Hebrew) BRACH:
"...  In 1923, after the death of the Rabbi Yitzhak Zvi JUNGREIS, Rabbi Shaul BRACH was elected head of the community. He was born in Nitra (q.v.), became one of the distinguished rabbis in Slovakia, and was elected Chief Orthodox Rabbi of Kosice. Divrei Shaul, and Likutei Shaul, and other titles are among his most important works. Rabbi Shaul BRACH also headed the Yeshiva of Kosice, which was at the height of its development during his time. Then it had about 300 students, and gained the status of an institution of higher learning by the government of Czechoslovakia. Except for directing the yeshiva, Rabbi BRACH was also the head of the Shas and Mishnayot societies, from which generated some talented scholars. Many of the rabbis of this generation were his disciples...."

Brought to this webmaster's attention by Motti GOLDBERGER, whose ancestors lived in Kosice, is a 395 page book written in Hebrew by Yisrael EHRLICH in 1976, and available to download from Hebrewbooks.org, Shaul Bechir H-shem ('שאול בחיר ה), this is a book about the rabbi's life and memories, and there is a section on the history of Kosice, starting on p. 327 of the same book, entitled Divrei Yemay Kassoy (דברי ימי קאשוי), and subtitled, Memories of Jewish Life in Kosice.  In the latter are sections in which surviving families have memorialized their ancestors who died in Kosice and possibly other places. The last section of the book has a list of 346 names of distinguished men whose names should not be forgotten (pp. 390-395).  Madeleine Isenberg transcribed the list from Hebrew into their original spelling, as much as could be determined.

Rabbi Salamon (Shaul) BRACH, was the son of Eliezer and Lieba, was born in Nitra, Slovakia, (29 Shevat 5625) 25 February 1865. He served as chief rabbi in three places, known today as Nagykaroly, Romania, and two places in Slovakia, Veľký Meder and Kosice. From his tombstone in Kosice's cemetery his epitaph indicates that he "ran a yeshiva and raised worthy students from 1892 until 1940, the year he died. He wrote books, some of which were printed and some as manuscripts. He died (26 Shevat 5700) 5 February 1940. He was succeeded by Rabbi Raphael BLUM, a native of Kosice, who had been a student in his Yeshiva.

Rabbi BLUM eventually immigrated to the USA and according to his obituary by Chris McKenna, 17 December 2010, in the Times-Herald Record, here is an excerpt:

"...Rabbi Rafael Blum, who ran a rabbinical college in Bedford Hills called Ohel Schmuel of Kashau, is said to have died yesterday morning at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan at age 95. His body was brought to Bedford Hills to be buried at the Cemetery of Congregation Kashau as soon as possible, following Jewish tradition. ...

Blum, who led the Kashau Hasidic sect named for the place in Hungary where he came from, helped rebuild the ultra-Orthodox community after the Holocaust and was one of the last surviving rabbis from that era...Jakobowitz said."

21st Century

As of November 2013, when this webmaster visited Kosice, it had no local rabbi. The last rabbi was Rabbi Josef STEINER, himself a Holocaust survivor. He has retired and now lives in Israel. If a rabbi is needed, the closest is the rabbi in Bratislava, Slovakia. (A section about "Jewish Kosice" has more about Rabbi STEINER and the Jewish community in this Travel.Spectator.sk page, even if it is somewhat out of date.)

Jana and Tomas Tesser showed me around the Jewish area, and I ventured some photography with them and alone.  Views of the exteriors of the synagogues can be seen in the Town Views so will not be redisplayed here. Services are still held on Shabbat in a room that is part of the old Zvonarska Synagogue. 

The synagogue itself is need of repairs so services are not held there.  Entrance is not from from Zvonarska street, but rather from the heavily gated entrance on Krmnova.  Sadly, as in so many places in Europe, entrance to Jewish sites are similarly protected.similarly protected.

Visitors, often long-term medical students from Israel, lead the services. One of these students told me he travels back to Israel periodically and returns with a supply of kosher meat that sustains him for about two months.

The community has a Jewish center, with a small restaurant that provides a lunch-time kosher meal for all those who require it.


PrayerPlace
Place of Prayer in Zvonarska Synagogue
(For those who would not eat in an establishment unless there is a mashgiach, all that can be said is that the observant Israelis vouch for its kashruth, but they cannot be there because of their studies.)  On Shabbat, all those who attend the services, are welcomes to join for a small meal of "cholent" in the adjoining Jewish Community Center's restaurant, that is not open to the public on Shabbat, and was prepared prior to Shabbat by the students.

But while the community is small, it is friendly and welcoming to foreigners who grace their services.

Personally, I owe a debt of gratitude to Drs. Jana and Tomas TESSER, who made my very brief stay in Kosice warm and memorable and literally opened doors for me.


Gates
Gated entrance to Jewish Community Center.  Key required to open, or guard may let you in.
rest_sign

Upstairs entrance to Kosher Restaurant.  Billboard posts upcoming events of Jewish interest.

Restaurant hours indicate it is open during lunch-time hours of 11:30 AM - 2:00 PM.

While Saturday is not indicated as being open, because it is not open to the public, it is definitely "Never on Sunday."

Tessers@daycarecaneter
Drs. Jana and Tamas Tesser at lower floor entrance to Jewish Community's Day Care Center.  Plaque on the wall says in Slovak and English:
"The Day Care Center has been reconstructed with financial assistance from Conference of Jewish Material Claims against Germany and Foundation Ezra,
Kosice, August 2000
"
Aron_PSyn
The Holy Ark in the Pushkinova Synagogue



BackWall_PSyn


The entrance to the main sanctuary, or the back of the sanctuary in the Pushkinova Synagogue.  Plaque at the center top in Hebrew indicates that this synagogue was used to round up and concentrate the Jews of Kosice from where they were sent to concentration camps in 1940.

An effort will be made to transcribe these plaques in the future.


HiddenMessage
A hidden spot behind a wooden chair located at the the front of the synagogue, to the left of the Holy Ark. Opening it, a note was scribbled in Hungarian, dated 21 April 1944, "We are here and we don't know where they are taking us." Found by Rabbi Josef Steiner.

Update June 2017:

Regarding the memorial plaques in the Pushkinova Synagogue, Peter Absolon of Kosice undertook to photograph and together we recorded the names on these 166 plaques, many of whom were Holocaust martyrs who had no normal burial place or tombstone in a cemetery.  These may be accessed at JewishGen's Memorial Plaques Database where the image of each plaque can also be seen.  Peter Absolon now currently provides genealogy services for those who might need these.

Update September 2018:

Beit Tahara Plaque

The Beit Tahara ("House of Purification") is where the deceased are ritually prepared for burial by washing, dressing in shrouds, and placing within coffins. At the top of the plaque, surrounding the Magen David, the words translates to:

This place was established and sanctified for the cemetery in the year 5649 (=1889) and expanded in 5694 (1934).

These are the names of those who donated for the building of the fence and the expansion of the cemetery.

The first five names, written horizontally are the officers of Kosice's Chevra Kadisha (burial society) at that time:

  • Nathan LUSTIG, President
  • Samu WEISZ, Vice President
  • Mor FRIEDMAN, Gabai "Curator"
  • Henrik REISZ, Gabai "Curator"
  • Mihaly GERÖ, Gabai "Curator"

Note that of the 29 names listed in Latin letters and Hebrew, only one woman's name appears at the bottom left, that of Olga née ENGEL BODOR.

Peter Absolon and Madeleine Isenberg collaborated in extracting the names and these will be part of JewishGen's Memorial Plaques Database


Update May 2019:

Communal Seder 2019

Report from Peter Absolon:

"A communal seder was held in the Hotel Ambassador at Hlavna [Main] Street. Rabbi STIEFEL (Chabad rabbi) [seated] is based in Piestany, but he often travels to Kosice and other places with his numerous family. The second one (liberal rabbi) was Misha KAPUSTIN, Ukrainian guy who lives in Bratislava and also travels around. It is cheaper to bring someone for holidays than pay full time rabbi. Given that there is always problem with minyan outside school year when Israeli students are back home, it is better solution."





 Compiled by  
Madeleine Isenberg 
Originally created
10 September 2014
Updated: 13 June 2019
 
Copyright © 2014-2019
Madeleine R. Isenberg
All rights reserved.

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