STA, 4 July 2022 - The eastern-most Slovenian town of Lendava and the Jewish Association of Slovenia have signed an agreement under which the association, only recently established and recognised as a congregation by the state, will use the only fully preserved Jewish cemetery in the country. The move is understood as a unique symbol of reviving Jewish tradition.
Located in the village Dolga Vas near Lendava, the cemetery (Židovsko pokopališče v Dolgi Vasi) has been neatly maintained through the years, even though burials there were rare after World War II. Since then, only a few Holocaust survivors have been laid to rest there, the last one in 1997.
Lendava's acting Mayor Ivan Koncut said that up until 1944, Prekmurje was home to three well-organised Jewish communities that were of great importance to the region. In Lendava, the community was an integral part of a varied and heterogeneous population, he said.
However, the community was nearly wiped out at the end of World War II, when a large part of the community was interned by the Nazis, while others fled. Only few survivors returned.
Koncut noted that it took decades of silence before the first attempts to revive the Jewish heritage in the area started in the 1990s.
"Dedicated exhibitions, the permanent museum collection, the remodelled synagogue, memorial events, cooperation with Jewish communities and organisations dedicated to preservation of Jewish heritage ... Stolpersteine, these are acts that gradually but persistently strengthen the awareness about the importance of the Jewish community that we lost," Koncut said.
Elie Rosen, the head of the Austrian Jewish community in Graz, as well as of the newly formed Slovenian Jewish Association, said today was a good day for the Jewish community and a sign that it was still alive in this part of Slovenia.
He warned that symbolic actions, such as laying of Stolpersteine, brass cubes in memory of Holocaust victims, was not enough. More is needed to improve the lives of Jews and everybody else in Slovenia. He believes the agreement he and Koncut signed today is one such step toward a better future.
Rosen said it was the wish for continuity that led him and other community members to persuade Rabbi Ariel Yitzhak Haddad, who has been active in Slovenia for over two decades, to take over as the head rabbi of the community, which was officially recognised a congregation in May. In November 2021, the community opened its only current place of worship in a residential building in Ljubljana.
Before the agreement was signed today, Stolpersteine were laid in Lendava in front of the former homes of three Jewish families. A concert will take place in the former Lendava synagogue, now a museum, in the evening.