In December 2018, we had the pleasure of welcoming a group of young professionals from JEC MEOR Manhattan for a beautiful tour of the Jewish heritage in Bardejov. They were the very first group of their kind to visit the town— American young adults who have no ancestry connection to the town. The tour was organized by JRoots, which have taken thousands of people on various Jewish Heritage journeys throughout the world, and we were honored to welcome their co-founder, Tzvi Sperber, as well as Rabbi Shmuel Lynn and Rabbi Yoni Spinka from MEOR.
The group was amazed by the tour. They were astonished by the knowledge and information that BJPC’s staff provided and by their passion for the Jewish cause. These young people showed great interest, and the dynamic rhythm of the tour and passionate explanations helped them forget the cold weather. Indeed, as expressed by JRoot leader Tzvi Sperber: “Bardejov gives a different aspect to both our Holocaust education and our possibility to delve deeper into Jewish heritage”.
The organizers of the tour expressed their will to return to Bardejov and extend their stay to explore other Jewish sites in Eastern Slovakia.
Here are a few comments from the group’s participants:
“The shuls we visited gave context to the destruction we witnessed in Poland, reminding us that life and light brimmed in these places now dark.”
“I have to be honest: when I learned we were going to Bardejov, Slovakia I was a little bit confused. I had never heard of the town, but from what I had seen of Tzvi I assumed there was some nugget of history that would be special. But I was completely blown away at what we saw. Seeing the shul, meeting Pavol (Hudak), and learning about the story there moved me to tears, both from joy and sadness. It’s too easy on a trip to Eastern Europe to lose faith in humanity, but it is people like Pavol and the rest of the committee members we met who tirelessly work to actualize the words “Never Forget” that help to remind us of the inextinguishable flame of human goodness. When I posted on social media about the experience a friend of mine from Texas messaged me saying that her family was from Bardejov; it really drove home that there are so many stories of the holocaust we have never heard of that are much closer to us than we could ever imagine. Visiting was a privilege I will never forget about”
“Though the town of Bardejov is not a typical destination on such Holocaust trips, it is a noteworthy example of the diversity of Jewish life in Eastern Europe that flourished for centuries before the Holocaust took place. As evidenced by the town’s Main Square and its several abandoned synagogues, Bardejov thrived in no small part because of its Jewish population. This legacy must be preserved and taught.”
Here is a photo gallery of the event by photographer Michaela Zolakova.