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Nove Mesto Nad Vahom

NOVE MESTO NAD VAHOM (Slovak, Nové Mesto nad Váhom; Hung, Vágúhely), town in western Slovakia, since 1993 Slovak Republic. During the reign of King Luis the Great (1342–1382), Jews lived there, were expelled, and later permitted to return. In 1465 there were 10 Jews; the community was expelled again in 1514. In 1683, many Jews died in the Kuruc massacre in the Moravian city of *Uhersky Brod. The surviving 11 families received permission to settle in Nove Mesto and engage in trade and craft. They belonged to the Uhersky Brod congregation and were obliged to pay taxes. The community continued to grow, with more Moravian Jews arriving. They were subject to the "Familiants" law of the Emperor Charles VI (1711–1740), which permitted only one Jew per family to marry and limited the number of Jews in a city. The others immigrated to upper Hungary.

By 1735 there were 372 Jews in Nove Mesto. In 1780 they built their first synagogue. In 1785 there were 2,320 Jews; it was the second most important Jewish city in upper Hungary, after *Pressburg (Bratislava). In 1830 there were 2,495; in 1840 there were 2,050; in 1880 there were 1,850; and in 1910 they numbered 1,553. In 1930 there were 1,581; in 1940 the number fell to 1,209.

In 1754 the community hired its first rabbi, Moses Hamburger (1754–1764). In 1780 a talmud torah was opened. Following the order of Emperor Joseph II (1780–1790), a school was founded in 1783, with German as the language of instruction. During the Hapsburg Empire, the Jews lived undisturbed until the Spring of Nations (1848–49). In May 1848, a massive pogrom claimed many Jewish lives. During the Magyar war of independence, nine Jews enlisted in the Magyar army. Thus Jews clashed with the Slovak national interest, which wanted self-rule. A fire in 1856 destroyed a large part of Nove Mesto. In 1848 a primary school opened, still using German; in the 1860s it switched to Magyar. In 1856 Rabbi Joseph Weisze (1855–1897) founded a government-supported Jewish high school, the first of its kind in Jewish Hungary. When support was lost in 1919, the school was taken over by the authorities and it ceased to be Jewish. In 1860 a school for girls was established, operating until 1919.

After the 1868 Hungarian Jewish Congress many congregations split, but Nove Mesto continued its old tradition, called "Status Quo Ante." In 1921, several families established an Orthodox congregation. They hired a rabbi, built a synagogue, and founded a ḥevra kaddisha and a talmud torah. In 1928 Rabbi Lipmann Donath established a small yeshivah. The two rival congregations made peace in 1932.

During World War I dozens of Jews were recruited into the army. At the end of the war there was a wave of pogroms in Slovakia, and Nove Mesto was one of the hardest hit. Jews tried to defend themselves, using the rifles they had kept from the army; Hungarian soldiers came to their rescue. Nationalist and Catholic elements continued to persecute Jews. Pro-Czechoslovak and Social-Democratic figures protested, serving to calm the situation.

In the New Czechoslovak Republic, Jewish entrepreneurs helped industrialize Nove Mesto. They established food, metal, wood, and textile industries; Jewish physicians, lawyers, and teachers contributed to intellectual life, and Jews figured largely in retail and handicrafts. The Jewish party played an important role in local political life, and its members were regularly elected to the municipal council and as deputy mayor. The Zionist movement was well established.

With the support of the Third Reich, Slovakia proclaimed independence on March 14, 1939. A wave of antisemitism ensued, culminating in 1942 with the deportation of 1,300 of the city's 2,215 Jews to Sobibor and Treblinka. In August 1944 there was an anti-Nazi uprising in Slovakia in which Jewish youth participated, but the invading German army deported the surviving Jews to Auschwitz.

In 1947 there were 266 Jews in Nove Mesto; most emigrated. In 1965 there were 25. In 1975 the Communist authorities destroyed the ancient cemetery. The synagogue was destroyed during the war, and Jewish communal buildings were expropriated.


J.J.(L.) Greenwald (Grunwald), Mekorot le-Todedot Yisrael (1934), 53–72; L. Rothkirchen, in: Yad Vashem, Pinkas ha-Kehillot (1963), 35–39; Y. Toury, Mehumah u-Mevukhah be-Mahpekhat 1848 (1968), index; M. Lányi and B.H. Propperné, Szlovenskói Zsidó Hitközségek Története (1933), 279–80; E. Bàrkàny and L. Dojč, Židovské náboženské obce na Slovensku (1991), 225–32.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.