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Translation of the
Sena chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Slovakia
Translation of the
Edited by Yehoshua Robert Buchler and Ruth Shashak
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem, 2003
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem, 2003
Project Coordinator and Translator
Our sincere appreciation to Yad Vashem
This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot Slovakia: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Slovakia,
Edited by Yehoshua Robert Buchler and Ruth Shashak, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem.
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(Hungarian: Szina) A village in the district of Kosice, in the of Abov Region, in eastern Slovakia
A settlement on the border of Hungary, first mentioned in 1249, as the property of noblemen. In the 14th century Sena was permitted to hold market and fair days and in the 16th century received rights of a city and district assemblies were held there. In the 17th century Turks invaded there, plundering them many times, and burned many homes. Most of the Sena inhabitants were Hungarian, and Slovaks were in the minority, most of them Catholics like the rest. They made their living by agriculture and working on estates. In the 19th century, several factories were established for the production of agricultural products, however, its agricultural character was unchanged. Even in the period of the Czechoslovak Republic there were no significant changes. In November 1938, Sena was annexed to Hungary. In January 1945, at the time of its liberation, much destruction had taken place.
History of the Community
It seems that the first Jews to settle in Sena arrived about the middle of the 18th century, from observation of the tombstones that were erected dating from the years 1749-1764, in the local cemetery that appears to have served all Jews of the district. In the 1768 list of taxpayers, three heads of households are noted as Jews, who lived in the homes of the noblemen and paid them 9 Florins tax. The Sena Jews made their living from peddling and visited the town markets in the Abauj region. The number of Jews in the town grew gradually, and according to local tradition, in the second half of the 18th century, a Jewish community (kehila) was established to which Jews in neighboring villages also joined. In the 1880s in Sena, a synagogue was established with a section for women, and at its entrance a study hall (bet-midrash). Even before that, in the middle of the 18th century, Sena had a ritual bath (mikvah) and a burial society (chevra kadisha). The kehila employed a ritual slaughterer (shochet), who also served as a teacher and the leader of prayer services.
Throughout the 19th century, the Sena kehila grew and in the middle of the century, a rabbi led it, who also served Jews in 13 neighboring settlements. The kehila maintained a Talmud Torah and elementary school in which dozens of children from the whole area learned. With the split of the Hungarian communities, the Sena kehila joined with the orthodox communities. During the years 1885-1894, the head of the rabbinate was Rabbi Shimon EHRENFELD, grandson of the Chasam Sofer, a superb orator, who afterward moved to the rabbinate in Michalovce (q.v.) and was considered one of the important rabbis of the country. During his leadership, Sena reached the pinnacle of its growth, to almost 300 people. At the beginning of the 20th century, there was an increasing trend among the young people in particular, to move to the larger cities, and the kehila began to diminish in size.
After World War I, the Sena kehila still counted 230 members, including the neighboring settlements. David RONAI was its leader, and in the 1920s, Rabbi Tuvia Yisrael SCHWEIGER was the head of the rabbinate. In 1922, the kehila's budget was 6,000 Kronen, with 50 heads of households paying the community taxes and employing three workers. The kehila engaged in social welfare as well as the chevra kadisha and charitable organizations. In 1923, the kehila's rules were renewed and approved. The kehila had a synagogue, cemetery, ritual bath with an apartment for the shochet, and a classroom that served for religious instruction. In 1929, the old synagogue was refurbished and enlarged and next to it were a community center and an apartment for the rabbi. In the 1920s, a branch of the National Jewish Party was established. In the elections of 1928, the party received 40 votes for the local council.
Jews of Sena made a living from trade and agriculture. They owned four grocery shops, a tavern, a butcher shop, warehouse for wood and building materials, a leather shop, an alcohol production plant and a flour mill. Among the Jews were three owners of large agricultural farms, and farmers who farmed smaller fields, two merchants who sold agricultural products, two shoemakers and a doctor the regional doctor, Sr. Samuel JONAP.
Leopold RÉTHY, born in Sena in 1852, was a world-renowned ear-nose-and-throat doctor, who was also a professor in the University of Vienna.
The Holocaust Period
After Sena's annexation to Hungary, the authorities pursued the Jews. Gradually their work permits were taken away from them and they had to rely on assistance from the social welfare institutions in Kosice (q.v.). In 1941 many men were drafted for the work force and sent to forced labor. After the Germans conquered Hungary on 19 March 1944, only 80 Jews remained in the town. On April 18 1944, the Hungarian gendarmerie rounded up the Jews next to the synagogue. From there, they were taken to the the Kosice ghetto and joined the transport that left on 16 May 1944 for Auschwitz. Among the deportees was Rabbi Tuvia Yisrael SCHWEIGER and his family.
After the war, just a few survivors of the camps returned to Sena, but shortly after they all moved to Kosice. The synagogue was destroyed during the war. The cemetery was neglected and some of the tombstones were destroyed.
Barca is a village near Sena. At the end of the 18th century, a Jewish community was established there that was associated with the rabbinate of Sena. After World War I, 120 Jews lived there. The community had a synagogue, cemetery, and ritual bath, and employed a shochet, who also served as a teacher of religion and leader of prayers. The Jews of Barca were deported the second half of the month of May 1944 via Kosice to Auschwitz.
Moreshet Archive Givat Chaviva, A/1024.
Cohen, Yeshivot Hungaria (Hungarian Yeshivas), Vol. 2, p.39.
Bárkány-Dojč, pp. 397-400
MHJ, vols. VII, XVI
Schweitzer, p. 47
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