By Lydia O’Kane & Linda Bordoni
“There was hardly a Jewish family that didn't lose anyone during the war. Literally, most of the Jewish community was wiped out,” Borský told Lydia O’Kane as they stood in Rybné Square a couple of days before the Pope’s visit to the Jewish Community of Bratislava.
“Before the war, there were 137,000 Jews living in this country. 105,000 perished during the Shoah. So, this is a dramatic and traumatic experience,” he explained adding that it was followed by the Communist regime, post-war immigration, and so on.
So, he said, the community today is a small one, with only a couple of thousand people.
However, Borský who is the Secretary of the Commission for Dialogue between the Central Union of Jewish Religious Communities and the Catholic Church, as well as being the Director of the Jewish Museum and Heritage Foundation, says that in the past five years a very important journey of dialogue with the Catholic Church has been taking place.
An important journey
“In 2017 we went to Rome with a delegation of three Slavic archbishops and leaders of the Jewish community, including two Rabbis, during which we had an audience with Pope Francis and a meeting with the Chief Rabbi of Rome,” he said, describing it as “a very important experience for us, and after coming back, we really felt that we should continue with these important contacts.”
Borský explained that two commissions have been established to nurture dialogue between the Jewish community, the Bishops Conference and the Catholic Church. He also said other initiatives include several important educational programmes, conferences and seminars, as well as the publication of major Jewish-Christian documents.
“I manage the Jewish Community Museum in the Synagogue and we can see that we have a very good attendance from Catholic education programmes from schools, so I would say that in the past five years we have done a tremendous job!” he said
Borský described Rybné Square, the venue chosen for the meeting between Pope Francis and Bratislava's Jewish Community on the second day of the Apostolic Visit, as “one of the most romantic and most significant places for the Jewish community in Slovakia.” He said that until 1969 it was the site where the Neolog Synagogue stood only to be demolished by the Communist regime in order to build a bridge. This, he explained, “was probably a communist anti-Semitic attitude to wipe out traces of the Jewish community.”
But Borský said that even back in the ‘90s the site has become important for Jews in the country as it is the place chosen to build a central monument to commemorate Martyrs of the Shoah in Slovakia as well as being the venue where the Jewish community meets annually with the Chief Rabbi of Bratislava to light the Hanukkah symbol of Jewish presence in the city.
The importance of inter-faith dialogue
Concluding, Borský expressed his deep belief that dialogue between faiths “is the key to our future on this planet.”
“We see there is a mission led by Our Father in Heaven to speak with our Christian friends, and with people with open hearts, and really do the will of Our Father.”