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Slovakia Celebrates Jewish Culture with Launch of Hebrew Poetry Book

July 7, 2003
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An 11th-century Jewish poet-philosopher, a Slovak professor and a London rabbi may appear at first glance to have little in common.

But this unlikely alliance could help revive Jewish life in Slovakia and broaden understanding of Judaism in the country.

Late last month, Slovak Jewish representatives and local politicians gathered in a public library in the city of Kosice, Slovakia, to celebrate the launch of a book, “The Crown of the Kingdom,” by 11th-century Spanish poet and philosopher Rabbi Solomon ben Judah ibn Gabirol.

The event drew wide publicity in Slovakia because it represented the first time a classic Hebrew work has been translated into the Slovak language.

The launch was a proud moment for Maria Micaninova, an associate professor at the Pavol Jozef Safarik University in Kosice, who started working on the book several years ago after developing an interest in Jewish philosophy of the Middle Ages. She was encouraged and helped in her endeavors by the former rabbi of Kosice, Dov Goldstein, who now lives in Israel.

Micaninova believes that the poetic masterpiece could break down barriers between the Jewish community and the wider population.

“I am very pleased that I could do something for the Slovak people, especially for students at Slovak universities because there are no works in the Slovak language on Jewish philosophy.

“The idea is to bring with this translation the idea of tolerance and understanding.”

A key player in the project was London Rabbi Herschel Gluck, a regular visitor to Slovakia, who provided the bulk of the funding through the A.Y. Gluck Charitable Trust.

He is hopeful that the publication of the book will help to restore a sense of vitality to Slovakia’s wider Jewish community, which was battered and all but destroyed during the Nazi and Communist eras.

“Ibn Gabirol was a profound thinker and kabbalist. He takes some of the most profound, mystical ideas and expresses them through scripture in a manner that anyone can understand and identify with,” said Gluck, whose grandfather hailed from Slovakia.

An initial print run of 1,000 copies has been published, and there are plans for a series of translations of other Jewish classics.

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