Bratislava Before the Holocaust
During the 18th century the Jewish community in Bratislava operated a Cheder (Jewish primary school) as well as a talmud torah (after hours supplementary religious school). At the behest of the community elder, Shimon Michael, a beit midrash (religious study hall) was created as well. Emperor Franz Joseph II called for the formalization of Jewish primary education and in 1783 the first Jewish primary school was opened, it taught religious studies and secular subjects in German. There are no mentions of this school following the Emperor’s death.
At the beginning of the 19th century there were several private Jewish primary schools operating in Bratislava. A short while later all these institutions were closed, following an edict by Rabbi Moses Sofer (The Chatam Sofer). Children of affluent families continued to study with private tutors in the privacy of their own homes. In 1820 a group of liberal families initiated the foundation of a modern Jewish primary school which held four classes. Boys and girls studied together in mixed classes, and the subjects taught included both religious and secular subjects; classes were held in German. The school evoked resistance on the part of rabbis and the Orthodox community. However, despite the resistance the school continued its operation, becoming famous for its high level of instruction, and the number of students enrolled increased progressively. In 1830 the Austro-Hungarian Emperor visited the school during his visit to Bratislava. He was favorably impressed with the level of instruction and increased the school’s standing to that of an advanced primary school. In time, a kindergarten was established next to the school. During the 1848 pogrom the school was looted and set on fire. Following these events classed were held in private houses and later on in a building rented for that purpose.
In the 1870s the Orthodox community in the city opened a primary school which incorporated both religious and secular subjects. In 1899 the school was moved to a new building, which also contained a talmud torah, and held some 200 students. In the 1880s the Orthodox community established a high school for boys, with three classes, where the language of instruction was German. Several years later a high school for girls was also established. The Orthodox community founded several cheders as well as two talmud torahs.
In 1893 a new Neolog primary school was built on Turnergasse Street (subsequently renamed Zochova Street). The school also contained a gymnasium, the language of instruction was German, and the high standard of education provided gave the school a reputation across all of Austro-Hungary. In the 1930s some 280 students attended the Neolog school, 150 girls and 130 boys, who studied in mixed classes.
At the beginning of the 18th century a yeshiva and a beit midrash were established in the city. Some one hundred years later, under the leadership of Rabbi Moses Sofer, the Pressburg Yeshiva became one of the most prominent centers for rabbinical studies in Europe. In 1875 the yeshiva Yesodi HaTorah was established alongside the Pressburg Yeshiva as a preparatory institution with a four-year program of studies. The city was also home to Torah study groups aimed at the Jewish public at large, and Jewish institutions supported the yeshiva and the talmud torah. Each Jewish institution maintained its own beit midrash, and lessons were given by Rabbis and renowned religious scholars. The Yeshodi HaTorah Yeshiva closed when the Jews of Bratislava were deported in 1942.
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