Northwood Ark emeritus rabbi reunites with former student in Slovakia

They both attended the inaugural service at the restored Trencin Synagogue


(l-r) Rabbi Misha Kapustin, Rabbi Andrew Goldstein and his wife Sharon reuniting at the newly restored Trencin Synagogue in Slovakia (Photo: courtesy of Reform Judaism)

In a heartwarming international reunion, a UK rabbi has joined a former rabbinical student to celebrate the inaugural service at a newly restored synagogue in Slovakia.

Rabbi Andrew Goldstein, emeritus rabbi at The Ark Synagogue, Northwood, travelled to the city of Trencin, where Rabbi Misha Kapustin is the rabbi of the shul.

Rabbi Goldstein, who played a pivotal role in Rabbi Kapustin’s rabbinical journey by ordaining him at the Leo Baeck College, shared a profound connection with him as Rabbi Kapustin later took on the role of student rabbi at The Ark.

Speaking to the JC about the occasion at Trencin Synagogue, Rabbi Goldstein said: “The event itself was very significant as it was the first service in the almost restored synagogue and therefore very special.”

He added: “There was a crowd of 250 people at least,100 Jewish and the rest non-Jewish. The Israeli ambassador came, as well as others from local Slovak communities. It was an event that united different communities.”

The reunion was not just a meeting of religious leaders but also a celebration of generational continuity, as Hannah, Rabbi Kapustin’s daughter, celebrated her bat mitzvah.

Reflecting on the emotional reunion, Rabbi Kapustin said: “It was a very moving and meaningful moment for me and my family.

“To have Hannah's bat mitzvah in a newly restored synagogue in Trencin filled with people was a fascinating experience for all of us.

"We were very glad that my teacher, colleague and friend Rabbi Dr. Andrew Goldstein and his wife Sharon joined us and shared the joy with us.”

Rabbi Kapustin is from Ukraine and arrived in the UK to learn under Rabbi Goldstein when he was 18.

He went on to become a rabbi in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv followed by Crimea. But he had to flee the peninsula with his family in 2014 as a result of the war against Russia.

Rabbi Goldstein, who has been regularly visiting Bratislava’s Jewish community for over 10 years, wanted to restart a Reform community out there and advocated for Rabbi Kapustin to lead the congregation.

Historically, Jews have significantly contributed to Trencin since the 14th century.

A wooden synagogue was built on the site in 1781, replaced in 1913 by a building which mixed Byzantine and Art Nouveau styles.

World War Two devastated both Trencin’s Jewish community and the synagogue, which was repaired and reopened by Holocaust survivors between 1945 and 1948.

When the socialist regime was in power between 1948 and 1989, they set up a clothing warehouse on its premises and much of the original aesthetic was destroyed.

In 1993, the building came under the management of the Central Union of Jewish Religious Communities in the Slovak Republic, and in 2018, it was returned to Trencin’s Jewish community, but was used less and less due to its deteriorating condition.

The synagogue has now been revived to stand as the town’s centrepiece as Trencin gears up to be honoured as the City of European Culture in 2026.

According to the 2021 census of Slovakia, the Jewish community had just over 2,000 members, which is about 0.04% of the total population of Slovakia.

Before World War Two, it numbered over 135,000. The vast majority of Jews were murdered during the Holocaust.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive