MARIBOR, Slovenia (Oct. 26)
Five hundred years after Jews were expelled from what today is Slovenia, ceremonies were held here to rededicate the local synagogue.
A mezuzah was nailed to the synagogue door post during a small ceremony earlier this month that was held after a two-day international symposium titled, “Medieval Jewish Communities in Central Europe and their Cultural Heritage.”
“In the name of the Jewish community of Slovenia, I want to express thanks that we have lived to see this day and that we will work together with the city of Maribor and all people who are trying to preserve this synagogue as a living monument,” said Mladen Svarc, coordinator of the Slovenian Jewish community, which numbers less than 100.
With work still to be completed on the synagogue, the mezuzah was taken down after the blessing was recited.
“It’s just temporary and symbolic for now, as the synagogue is currently undergoing restoration, but we hope that when the work is complete, the mezuzah will be affixed here permanently,” said Washington-based lawyer Mark Cohen, who brought the mezuzah to Maribor, which is located near the northern border of this former Yugoslav republic.
Cohen, who taught law at Maribor University several years ago, brought the mezuzah on behalf of the United States Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, and Preserving Tolerance Inc., a private foundation.
The commission documents and preserves Jewish and other cultural heritage sites in Europe. Last year, in accordance with an agreement with the Slovenian government, it carried out a survey of all Jewish mounments in Slovenia.
The Maribor synagogue dates back to the 13th century and is one of the oldest buildings in the town.
Jews flourished in Maribor in the Middle Ages, and Maribor Rabbi Israel Isserlein was renowned throughout Central Europe in the 15th century.
Jews were expelled from Maribor in 1497, and the synagogue was turned into a church in 1501. In the 19th century it was used as a warehouse and later as a dwelling.
City officials want to restore the synagogue for use as a cultural center that would include an information center on local Jewish history.
The symposium was the first full-scale international conference on a Jewish topic to be held in the town and was considered a prestigious local event.
Scholars and experts from Slovenia, Israel, Italy, Germany, Austria, Hungary and the United States presented papers.
Few of the participants in the symposium were Jewish.