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Jewish Journal

The Jewish traits in Cieszyn Silesia

Pavel Pustelnik

July 15, 2012 | 1:54 pm

Coming back to the places where you were born and looking for the old-new places. The feeling of adventure, the need to discover. This year, holidays have culminated in Silesia, and Cieszyn, Poland.

The first stop is Skoczów (read: Scotch-oof). It is a small town that right now has nothing to do with Jews, and if you talk to young people in the centre they would not remember anything, however digging a bit deeper is always useful. There have been Jews in the area, so there must be some traits. The first is to be found while browsing the Internet. There used to be a synagogue. The place is just a stone’s throw from the current market square and has a slow place where today an awkward festival of regional cuisine has been taking place. No need to ask about kosher or vegetarian catering. But there is judaica! A bit hidden, as if the town’s authorities felt obliged to commemorate the place but not in a way that it is very visible. In Skoczów there has been a synagogue. Built in 1853, a small building, centrally located. It has been catering the needs of the Jewish community whose roots are dated in 1700. They were related to the synagogue in Cieszyn, which is about 15 kilometres from Skoczów. The community did not have their own cemetery and therefore the links with the bigger town were pretty strong. In 1856 the town was inhabited by almost 600 Jews. The numbers did not change much until 1914 and the Jewish population would make around 15% of the citizens. After World War I there were not more than 70 Jews living in Skoczow. The WWII meant a total destruction of the community. The synagogue has been burned and all the Jews were transported to the Nazi camps. What remains today is just a stone monument covered by a large tree. It was built in 1994 and in Polish and Hebrew commemorates the fact that there has been a synagogue in that place. What do people say? “Jews? Yes, they have been here before the war. They would make Christians pay a lot for what they were selling”. Judging by the age of the person I talked to, she could not remember that, but apparently the myths are doing well in the area.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Jews visiting Central & Eastern Europe frequently come with stereotypes and prejudices about the region.  In particular, group heritage and education tours for young Jews...

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