We approach restoration from two primary angles that are equally important. Firstly, we attempt to revive the Stories of Jewish BardejovSecondly, we work to repair and restore spaces of cultural and religious significance to the Jewish community who once lived in Bardejov.


Since the deportation and destruction of the Jewish population of Bardejov during World War II, the stories of these citizens have been lost. It is our goal to resuscitate their stories and give proper credit to the legacy they left in Bardejov and the surrounding area.

We do this by collecting family histories from around the world, doing our own diligent research on the subject, and piecing together what we can about the past. One of our major projects includes a Memorial Book dedicated to the history of Bardejov and its Jewish inhabitants.

These stories are then infused back into the spaces and places that have undergone restoration. This helps return traces of the vitality and meaning to these sites. See our Cemetery restoration project below for a keen example. 


Because the Jewish population was, for many years, a substantial and important part of Bardejov society, there are many locations within the city that have significance for Jewish heritage. 

However, many of these spaces have not been occupied or maintained by Jews since the second World War. Thus, they have either fallen into disrepair, or their meaning as a site of Jewish culture has been either diminished or erased entirely.

We have already successfully restored multiple sites in Bardejovincluding the Old Synagogue and the Jewish Cemetery, and we continue to work to return the historical integrity of other sites such as the Beit Hamidrash and the Mikvah in the Jewish Suburbia. 

You can read more about these projects by exploring below.


The historic Jewish quarter—Jewish Suburbia (in Slovak, židovské suburbium)—an example of Bardejov’s historic Jewish communal life, was built in the early 19th century according to Talmudic guidelines and includes:  

A Jewish slaughter house once stood nearby on the spot which is now occupied by a supermarket.

UNESCO included the compound in its nomination of Bardejov as a World Heritage Site due to “its cultural and historical significance.”

The Old Synagogue has been restored and was opened to the public in July 2017. The Beith Hamidrash, has recently been vacated and is in the planning process towards restoration and the establishment of a Cultural-Educational Center and Museum.

The Mikvah, which until recently served as a building supply store, is now closed. We hope that the Mikvah will also be restored in the near future so that the Jewish Suburbia can be preserved in its entirety in recognition of, and as a memorial to, the Jewish communities that contributed to Bardejov’s social, economic, and cultural life throughout its history.

The impressive Bardejov Holocaust Memorialadjacent to the Jewish Suburbia, was dedicated in an official ceremony in June 2014 and is open to the public.

New street sign to the Jewish Suburbia Complex in Bardejov, September 2022


The largest and most famous of the pre-World War II synagogues in Bardejov is the Old Synagogue. Begun in 1829 and completed in 1836, it is the oldest building of the Jewish Suburbia. Reflecting architectural features of the Baroque and Neo-Classical styles, it is one of two remaining nine-bay synagogues in Slovakia (along with the synagogue in Stupava) and is considered one of the most valuable examples of synagogue architecture in the country.

The Old Synagogue had been in great disrepair and used as a storage place for the merchandize of a plumbing and hardware business until it was empties in 2010. At that time some structure repairs to the roof and windows were performed as well as minor restoration of the ceilings.

In November 2014, the EEA and Norway Grants awarded 617,000 Euros to UZZNO for the restoration of the Old Synagogue in the Suburbia.

Restoration works began in the spring of 2015 and progressed rapidly. The Synagogue was officially opened to the public on June 2017.



by Vita in Suburbium


by Jewish heritage Europe

by Židovské suburbium Bardejov

by Vita in Suburbium

by Židovské suburbium Bardejov


The Beit Hamidrash building, which was built in the late 19th century, served as a place for Torah study and as a prayer hall. Until a few years ago, the beautifully ornamented building was used as a storage facility for the building supply company that occupied the Suburbia. Discussions were underway between the City of Bardejov, the Bardejov Jewish Preservation Committee, local Bardejov advocates, and the Central Union of Jewish Communities in Slovakia (UZZNO) to vacate the Beit Hamidrash and create a museum dedicated to Bardejov’s Jewish history.

As a result of the ongoing cooperation with UZZNO, Beit Hamidrash was vacated in June 2016 and restoration work began at the end of 2022. The construction concluded at the beginning of 2024, and now we are proceeding with the planning of a local Jewish Heritage Museum as part of the development of the Jewish Suburbia as an educational and cultural center.


Photos Courtesy of Miroslav Lissy and Milo Olejar



The Mikvah—ritual bath—dates from the late 19th century and is the front building of the Jewish Suburbia complex facing Dlhý Rad Street. It was previously used as a hardware store by the same company that occupied the Beit Hamidrash. Its exterior was renovated in 2009 by the tenant. A Holocaust memorial plaque was placed on the Mikvah’s façade in 1992.

Discussions were underway between the City of Bardejov, the Bardejov Jewish Preservation Committee, local Bardejov advocates, and the Central Union of Jewish Communities in Slovakia (UZZNO) to vacate the Mikvah and the Suburbia’s grounds and restore the complex in its entirety so that, together with the Holocaust Memorial built to honor Bardejov’s lost Jewish community, and the newly renovated Beit Hamidrash, these buildings can become a cultural and educational center for both Jews and non-Jews. The Mikvah was vacated in 2021.


Chevra Bikur Cholim Synagogue is an example of a well-preserved prewar synagogue. Its interior furnishings are fully intact. The synagogue was established in 1929 by the Chevra Bikur Cholim, a Jewish charitable association. It is located in the city center on Klastorska Street, near the market square.  The eastern façade of this simple building faces the street. A pair of pointed windows marks the sanctuary. To the right of the façade is a gateway with a smaller pointed window above. The interior, while narrow, extends toward the back of the lot and leads to a backyard.

During the Nazi occupation, a Christian woman, Mrs. Maria Koperniechova, lived in the synagogue. She bricked up the windows to hide the synagogue’s appearance and refused entry to soldiers. Today, Chevra Bikur Cholim is Bardejov’s only synagogue that was not violated and that remained fully intact during the war, including its prayer books and other Jewish artifacts. After the war and up until his death in 2005, Mr. Meyer Špíra, one of the last Jewish residents of Bardejov, maintained the building and prayed in its sanctuary. Thanks to his efforts, the synagogue’s interior is considered one of the best preserved in Slovakia.

During the Memorial Gathering in 2012, the Bardejov Jewish Preservation Committee recognized Meyer Špíra posthumously for his work in maintaining and caring for the synagogue. The Committee also recognized Mrs. Koperniechova with a “Righteous of Bardejov” award for saving the synagogue during the Nazi occupation. The synagogue is currently maintained by the Central Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Slovakia (ÚZŽNO).  


Bardejov’s isolated, urban Jewish cemetery is located on a hillside directly off a public road with adjacent commercial and residential properties. The decorative, wrought-iron fence encloses 1,288 gravestones from the18th– to 20th-century. The stones are constructed from marble, granite, limestone, sandstone, and other materials and are either finely smoothed and inscribed or carved with relief decoration.


Phase 1: Prior to August 2005, the grounds were overgrown and inaccessible. Every gravestone was in disrepair. In August 2005, Phase 1 of the restoration – clearing the grounds and make them accessible- began.

Phase 2: By 2008, new concrete foundations were laid; many of the 1,288 stones were straightened, re-cemented, or re-erected, including some stones in the Ohel; the graves and headstones were photographed and cataloged by the Heritage Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries (HFPJC) and were posted on our Matzevah Database and Matzevah Photo Gallery. A Matzevah Index document was also created (please do not reproduce).

Phase 3: In 2009, a new fence was erected around the entire perimeter of the cemetery, replacing the former, unsightly concrete, metal, and brick one. The new black wrought-iron fence features decorative Star of David motifs in the center of each section. The cemetery is maintained regularly. A resident of Bardejov has a key and opens it to visitors upon request.


Entrance is located on Ľudovíta Štúra street across the street from AUTOUMYVAREŇ A LPG

Chevra Mishnayot Synagogue was built in 1905 by the Jewish community’s Mishnah study association. It is located on Stocklova Street, in the city center on the other side of the market square. The building was repurposed in the 1960s as a secondary school of commerce. It was later occupied by a bakery, then served as an office building, and now houses various establishments such as a hair salon and a health food store. In 2016 the exterior of the building was repainted. There is no plaque identifying the building’s important role in Bardejov’s Jewish history. Click here to read more about the building’s history.


Early History: The well-preserved, historic town of Bardejov, formerly Bártfa (Bartfeld in German and Yiddish) was settled in the early Middle Ages along an ancient trade route between the Baltic and the Black Seas. Throughout the 13th and 14th centuries, Bardejov was one of the leading towns in Hungary. By the 15th century, it was at the height of its economic development, due primarily to the manufacturing and trade of linen. With a population of approximately 3,000, it registered more than 50 guilds. By the 16th century, architectural developments had further enhanced the town, including the completion of a parish church and a town hall in the center of the main square. During this period, Bardejov made significant advances in culture and education, including the construction of a Latin public school, a public library, and printing houses. In the mid-1700s, the mineral springs in the area—known for their healing properties since the 13th century—were developed into the Bardejov Spa. Over the centuries, the spa was expanded and modernized and by the end of the 19th century it had become one of the most renowned in Europe. 

The presence of Jews in Bardejov dates from the early Middle Ages. Expelled from Bardejov in 1631, Jews from Galicia resettled there in the mid-18th century. These descendants of the Galician Hasidic dynasty founded by Rabbi Chaim Halberstam lived northeast of the marketplace and worked initially as farmers in nearby villages. By 1806, they began to establish community buildings. Eventually they built a thriving, self-contained complex north of the town center, which is known today as the Jewish Suburbia. It was outside the city walls, where Jews were allowed to live. 

In 1869, after some restrictions against the Jews were lifted, the Jewish population grew to 1,011 (out of a total population of 5,307). At that time, Jews were not restricted to live only in the Suburbia area. Most were store owners, businessmen, and artisans. The Jewish community contributed to the overall economy of the town—including the development of Bardejov as a health resort—and to its distinguished printing history.

By 1900, Bardejov’s Jews had established a Hebrew printing press, becoming one of the last centers of Hebrew printing to be established in Europe before the Holocaust. From 1900 to 1938, two Hebrew presses printed over 100 volumes. Nearly all were rabbinic or Hasidic texts, reflecting the town’s cultural and religious distinction as the seat of one branch of the Halberstam Hasidic dynasty.

By 1919, Bardejov’s Jewish population had reached 2,119, with 40 settlements surrounding the Jewish quarter and united under the local rabbinate. Although by the 1940s Jewish children attended public schools and there were a large number of Jewish municipal council members, most of Bardejov’s Jews maintained an Orthodox way of life, praying in numerous synagogues established in the town.

In 1940, laws against Jews were enforced. Many of the town’s Jews had been pushed out of their businesses by the Slovakian state; Jews from the surrounding areas were brought to Bardejov. The 1942 mandatory census of the Jews, “Supis Zidov,” lists 3,589 Jews in the Bardejov region, of which 2,498 lived in the City of Bardejov. Their deportation began in March 25. On May 15, 1942, about 2,500 Jews were deported from Bardejov’s train station to concentration camps. A few Jews with “valuable professions” stayed, but by September 1944 they, too, were either deported or fled.  

After liberation by the Soviet army in January 1945, seven Jews emerged from their hiding place in a wine cellar of a store in the main square. Some Jews returned from the Polish forests. The town became a center for refugees and for immigration to Palestine. In 1947, there were about 380 Jews in Bardejov, including 80 children; almost all of them left by 1959. In 2005, the last Jew living in Bardejov, Meir Spira A”H, died.

After more than 260 years of continuous Jewish presence, no Jews live in Bardejov today.



First evidence of Jewish presence in Bardejov area.
Hungarian forces defeated at the Battle of Mohács. Jews expelled from all major towns in geographic area of modern Slovakia.
The first Jews recorded as living in the town of Bardejov are a goldsmith and a wagoner.
Jews are expelled from Bardejov.
Two Jewish families live in Bardejov.
Austria annexes Polish Galicia and inherits its large Jewish population. In the ensuing decades, many Galician Jews settle in Bardejov.
Habsburg Emperor Joseph II issues Edict of Tolerance, which grants Jews religious freedom, the right to attend public schools and universities, and to engage in previously closed occupations. The Edict also eliminates onerous taxes and restrictions on Jews.
42 Jews live in 15 houses behind the city walls. They operate a school, house of prayer, and poor house.
Jews are required to adopt fixed German surnames and to keep vital records (birth, marriage, and death) in official registries.
Date of oldest legible headstone in Bardejov’s Jewish cemetery. It belongs to Menashe son of Rafael.
Bardejov’s Jewish Community is officially founded. The nearby villages of Zborov and Kurima also establish communities; Raslavice and Lukov soon follow suit.
Bardejov’s Chevra Kadisha Jewish burial society is officially established.
The Old Synagogue is established just outside Bardejov’s city walls. The stone structure becomes part of a large Jewish Suburbia compound, which later also includes a study hall (Beit HaMidrash) and ritual bath (Mikvah).
Prohibition against Jews living in “royal cities,” including Bardejov, is lifted.
480 Jews live in Bardejov.
Austro-Hungarian Empire adopts Act of Jewish Emancipation.
Jewish Congress in Pest culminates in schism of Hungarian Jewry.
Moshe Halberstam becomes rabbi of Bardejov and establishes a seven-decade family dynasty whose rabbinic authority encompasses many nearby villages.
Bardejov Spa, developed and operated by Jews, is visited by Austrian Empress Elizabeth (“Sissi,” wife of Franz Joseph I).
1,710 Jews live in Bardejov. Two Hebrew printing presses, M. Blayer and M. Ch. Horovitz, are established. Over the next four decades, they publish some one hundred rabbinic or Hassidic texts.
Bardejov’s town council approves expanded eruv network, enabling Sabbath-observant Jews in and near Bardejov to carry certain objects on the Sabbath. The original eruv was set up a few years earlier.
The Mishnah Study Association founds the Chevra Mishnayot Synagogue on Stocklova Street.
The first Czechoslovakian Republic. Bardejov’s Jews assume prominent civic leadership positions, own 90 percent of Bardejov’s businesses, and increasingly enter the liberal professions. Jews form voluntary associations dedicated to religious and charitable work, and various cultural, social, educational, sports, and Zionist activities.
2,119 Jews live in Bardejov. They make up one-third of the town’s total population. Nearly three dozen nearby towns and villages are under the auspices of Bardejov’s rabbinate.
A charitable association that aids the sick and needy founds the Chevra Bikur Cholim Synagogue on Klastorska Street.
2,264 Jews live in Bardejov.
Hitler’s Nazi army invades the Czech Sudetenland. Josef Tiso establishes an autonomous Slovakian government.
Slovakia is forced to cede territory to Hungary. The new autonomous Slovak state makes an aborted effort to deport destitute and foreign Jews. 308 deported Jews return to Bardejov after the operation is declared unlawful.
A nominally independent Slovak Republic, that in fact is a puppet state of Nazi Germany, is established.
The new republic enacts first significant anti-Jewish decrees. Jews are defined by religious and racial criteria. Quotas limit the number of Jews in certain professions, such as law and medicine, and Jews are dismissed from the Civil Service.
Quotas restrict the number of Jewish students in public schools. Jews are later forbidden from attending public schools altogether. “Trustees” are appointed to oversee major industrial and commercial enterprises of Jews as part of process of eliminating Jews from the economy.
World War II begins. Bardejov is used as a staging area for the German invasion of Poland. Local Jewish stores are looted. New legislation prevents Jews from obtaining passports or driving motor vehicles.
Jews who emigrate forced to leave assets behind.
First Aryanization Law enacted. Jewish businesses must “voluntarily” take on an Aryan partner. Jews limited to forty percent of business profits. The “voluntary” aspect of Aryanization is soon abolished.
Jews must complete two months of labor in lieu of regular army service. Jews are completely excluded from regular army service with the creation of segregated labor units in 1941.
“Negotiations” in Salzburg, Austria enhance the power of radicals, such as Vojtech (Bela) Tuka and Alexander (Sano) Mach, within the Slovak regime.
New laws prohibit ritual slaughter and ban Jewish students from public schools. Jews’ business liquor licenses are annulled, prompting the closure of 19 local liquor businesses. Strict new banking rules require Jews to deposit their savings and jewelry in blocked bank accounts.
New laws limit the employment of Jews.
Second Aryanization Law enacted, extending the program to all Jewish assets, business and private. The Central Economic Office, led by Augustin Moravek, is authorized to mass liquidate Jewish enterprises as part of a systematic plan to eliminate Jews from the economy and to redistribute their assets to non-Jews.
Unemployed Jewish men aged 18–60 drafted to special work centers for forced labor service.
A massive Jewish Codex with 270 individual provisions is enacted as the regime’s comprehensive “solution to Jewish issues.” The Codex is propagandized as a European-wide model for solving “the Jewish Problem.” The Codex defines the concept of race, requires Jews to wear visible labels in public, denies Jews rights of privacy and freedom of movement. The Codex bans religious practices, prohibits school attendance, and reaffirms the accelerated Aryanization policies of the Central Economic Office. A few individual Jews procure exemptions from the strictures of the Codex.
Mandatory registration of Jews. The “Supis Zidov” census enumerates some 4,477 Jews in the Bardejov area.
Young Jewish women are the first from the Bardejov area slated for deportation. Many elude the deportation by artificially contracting symptoms of typhoid as part of a ruse engineered by Refuel Rudolf Löwy, the longtime leader of Bardejov’s Jewish community.
Four-hundred-thirteen young Jewish adults are deported from Bardejov to Poprad. From there, most are deported to Auschwitz.
The Slovak Assembly adopts a Constitutional law legalizing the mass deportation of Jews. On May 15–16, 2,401 Jews from Bardejov and vicinity are loaded unto trains and transported to transit ghettos in Konskowola, Rejowiec, and Opole Lubelskie in Poland. Many die in these ghettos, or in the Sobibor or Majdanek extermination camps, or in camps such as Auschwitz, Treblinka, Belzec, Buchenwald, Dachau, Gross-Rosen, and Mauthausen.
Hundreds of Jews from Bardejov are rounded up and deported to the concentration center in Zilina, Slovakia. The first wave of mass deportations ends on October 8.
Only 386 Jews remain in the Bardejov district.
The Slovak National Uprising triggers harsh reprisals by German troops, which occupy Bardejov.
German troops direct a second wave of deportations. Approximately 12,000 Jews are gathered in labor camps at Sered and deported to concentration camps in Auschwitz and Theresienstadt. Soviet troops reach the Slovak border. Jews still in Bardejov hide or flee to western Slovakia.
Soviet troops liberate Bardejov the night of January 19–20. Seven Jews emerge from hiding places in cellars beneath Bardejov’s main town square. Jews gradually return to Bardejov from concentration camps, hiding places, and the resistance movement. Bardejov becomes a center for immigration to Israel.
384 Jews, including 79 children, live in Bardejov. Local Jews are attacked. The police does little to protect them.
Communists take power in “victorious February” and declare Czechoslovakia a “people’s democracy.” Israel’s establishment as an independent state is celebrated at the Chevra Bikur Cholim Synagogue. Approximately 250 Jews live in Bardejov.
The Communist government bars emigration from Czechoslovakia. Jews desiring to emigrate are stuck.
Circa 1963
Chevra Mishnayot Synagogue on Stocklova Street is converted into a business school.
“The Prague Spring,” shortly crushed by Soviet troops, introduces short-lived political reforms. During the brief thaw, many Jews leave the country or reestablish contact with Jewish relatives around the world.
A hardware and plumbing supply business is established in the Jewish Suburbia. The Old Synagogue is used to warehouse supplies, the Beit HaMidrash operates as a store, and pipes, metal, and large tools are stored on the Suburbia’s grounds.
The “Velvet Revolution” leads to the establishment of a free, democratic Czechoslovakia, with the first free elections since 1946.
Czechoslovak President Václav Havel visits the Jewish Suburbia and declares it a national monument and memorial to Bardejov’s slain Jews.
Circa 1992
The neo-classical portico entrance of the Old Synagogue collapses.
Czechoslovakia splits into the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic (Slovakia). The new Slovak government transfers Jewish communal property ownership and control to a restructured UZZNO, the Central Union of Jewish Religious Communities of the Slovak Republic.
Jewish owners of private properties confiscated under the anti-Semitic laws of 1939-45 are given a ten-year window to apply for restitution.
Bardejov is named a UNESCO World Heritage Site with the city’s historical core and the Jewish Suburbia both officially designated as world cultural treasures deserving preservation and free access.
The Slovak and United States governments agree to protect and preserve cultural properties in Slovakia, including many formerly owned by Jewish communities.
The last Jew to live in Bardejov, Mayer Spira, dies. Emil A. Fish, a child survivor born in Bardejov, returns to Bardejov after 56 years. He brings his family. He subsequently establishes the Bardejov Jewish Preservation Committee (BJPC) as a non-profit organization and begins restoration of Bardejov’s Jewish cemetery. The newly preserved headstones are catalogued and published on BJPC’s website.
The BJPC sponsors a reunion trip to Bardejov. Survivors and their families meet with Bardejov’s mayor, tour the Jewish Suburbia, the restored cemetery, and the Bikur Cholim Synagogue. The effort raises awareness and promotes the restoration of the Jewish Suburbia.
Against the objections of the BJPC, the hardware business transforms the Suburbia’s Mikvah into a hardware store and office building by providing it with a new roof, windows and doors and painting over the original patina and Hebrew lettering.
Local activists and historians Peter and Pavol Hudák arrange a commemoration of the 130th anniversary of Refuel Rudolf Löwy’s birth in front of his former house on the Town Square and mark the 67th anniversary of the first deportations of Jewish girls from Bardejov with a candlelight ceremony in front of the Jewish Suburbia’s Mikvah building.
Bardejov joins the annual European Day of Jewish Culture. The Bikur Cholim Synagogue is opened to the public.
The hardware store tenant vacates the Old Synagogue and restoration work begins on the building. The hardware store’s operations are moved to the Mikvah and Beit HaMidrash buildings.
A second European Day of Jewish Culture is celebrated in the Bikur Cholim Synagogue with presentations on local Jewish artists and Bardejov’s Jewish cemetery.
Representing the United States Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, Emil Fish leads a BJPC delegation to a meeting with Bardejov’s mayor, representatives from UZZNO, and representatives of Slovakia’s Monument Board, to discuss the future of the Jewish Suburbia and plans for a Holocaust memorial in Bardejov. The city allots municipal land next to the Jewish Suburbia for a proposed Holocaust memorial to victims from the Bardejov area.
On May 15, the BJPC organizes a major commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of the mass deportation of Bardejov’s Jews. The commemoration is highlighted by a 400–600 people strong Solidarity March from Bardejov’s train station to the historical town center. Among the participants are 131 Bardejovers, including ten Holocaust survivors, and their descendants. Local government officials, clergy, residents, and student groups welcome the guests and join them in public activities.
On March 25, construction begins of the Holocaust Memorial, including exterior walls evoking Jews’ former residences and decorative fencing around the site.
On June 24, Bardejov’s Holocaust Memorial is dedicated, accompanied by the publication of this book. The Memorial includes a Memorial Wall inscribed with all individual Jews from Bardejov and vicinity who perished in the Holocaust, five history tablets, a donor tablet, a central monument, and interior landscaping.

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