GALANTA , town in N.W. Slovakia. Until 1992 Czechoslovak Republic, since Slovak Republic. Jews started to settle in Galanta by the end of the 17th century. The earliest document is from 1729, when Count Ferdinand Eszterhazy granted the Jewish community a room for prayer and ground for a cemetery. In 1830, 556 Jews lived in Galanta (31.2% of the total); in 1840 there were 430; and in 1850 there were 670 Jews in the town. In 1880 they numbered 714 (32.8%) and in 1900 there were 937. The second Czechoslovak census of 1930 reported 1,274 Jews.
The first rabbi was Wolf Duces (1757), during whose leadership the first synagogue was built. In 1760 the Jewish community of west Slovakia protested against Empress *Maria Teresa's Toleration Tax (Toleranz Steuer) that Jews were forced to pay. The community benefited from the legislation of Emperor Josef ii (1780–90), which permitted Jews to engage in agriculture and a variety of commercial activities. At that time, the community had a talmud torah, a mikveh, and a cemetery. In the mid-1860s a yeshivah was established, which became renowned not only in Hungary but also abroad, and students flocked there from many European countries. It was recognized by the Czechoslovak authorities as an institute of higher education. In 1889 Samuel Neufeld opened a printing shop that produced rabbinical literature, including two printings of the Talmud. The shop existed under a variety of names until 1944. During the Spring of Nations, the Magyar national movement was supported by many local Jews. In 1918 Galanta, along with many other cities in Slovakia, was subjected to pogroms and looting of Jewish property.
After the Hungarian Jewish Congress of 1868, the Galanta Jewish community chose the Orthodox path. In 1891 a major dispute erupted over who should inherit the rabbinical seat. This led to a rift within the Jewish community and the establishment of two Orthodox congregations. The community split in 1893; the authorities made an uncharacteristic decision and recognized both congregations. Each chose its own rabbi, had a synagogue, a talmud torah, and other religious institutions. The dispute drew attention in Hungary and abroad, and received international press coverage. The Czechoslovak authorities also recognized both congregations. It was uncommon to have two Orthodox congregations in a single community.
Between the wars, Jewish communal life thrived in Galanta. Agudat Israel was the main political force there, but the Zionist movement existed as well. The Galanta Jewish community was renowned for the religious-folkloric celebration of the (alleged) birth and death of Moses, on the seventh of Adar. The ceremony is still observed today.
The Award of Vienna, October 2, 1938, assigned southern Slovakia to Hungary, including Galanta. The anti-Jewish legislation in Hungary was applied to the conquered territories. By the beginning of 1940, Jews – including those of Galanta – were recruited to special forced labor army units (munkaszolgalat), where many perished. On March 19, German troops occupied Hungary; shortly thereafter, they began to deport Jews to Auschwitz. In May 1944, the Jews of Galanta and its environs were assembled in the Kurzweil brick factory in *Nove Zamky. About 1,560 were deported on June 26, 1944; several survived.
In 1947 there were 272 Jews in Galanta. The Jewish community repaired one of the synagogues and the mikveh, and a kosher public kitchen provided meals until the survivors could adjust themselves. The ḥevra kaddisha was revived, and regular prayers resumed. In March 1985 the ancient small synagogue was torn down under the pretext that the space was needed for an apartment building. The congregation was given an apartment in which to hold its services. This, too, was replaced with another building in September 1983.
In 1947, upon their return from the concentration camps, members of the community founded a successful carpentry cooperative which, at its peak, had 250 workers. The communist regime, which followed the February 1948 coup d'état, nationalized the factory, and the Jews lost all their investment, including the money and the tools invested by the jdc. For years after the migration of 1948–49, Galanta served the Jews of southern Slovakia as a meeting point to celebrate the seventh of Adar as well as for bar-mitzvahs for youngsters from the entire region. The community was still active in 2005.
R. Iltis (ed.), Die aussaeen unter Traenen… (1959), 142–5. add. bibliography: E. Bàrkàny and L. Dojč, Židovské náboženské obce na Slovensku (1991), 139–44.
[Sarlota Rachmuth-Gerstl /
Yeshayahu Jelinek (2nd ed.)]