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THE RABBI AND THE EMPEROR

In the summer of 1913, the last

Habsburg Emperor made a state visit

to Pressburg – later, after The Treaty

of Versailles, renamed Bratislava.

One photograph shows his open carriage

stopped in front of the Pressburg Yeshiva,

whose students came from every part

of the Empire. Franz Josef leans forward

to speak to Rabbi Akiva Sofer,

whose great grandfather founded the school –

two dynasties talking briefly together.

 

During the rule of the Communist Party

most of the erstwhile Jewish quarter was razed

to build a four lane bridge across the Danube.

After independence a memorial

to Slovakia’s murdered Jews was placed

on the site of a shul. The word ‘Remember’,

in Hebrew and Slovak, is engraved

into the black marble plinth. Often

little stones are placed haphazardly

on the marble as is the Jewish custom

and tradition: pebbles of mourning,

of safekeeping of souls, of memory.

 

In the streets and the squares were unremarked

small stones – where the Rabbi was waiting,

where the carriage wheels turned.

 

 

 

 

 

© Copyright David Selzer
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