of JEWISH CULTURE IN PRAGUE
A major cultural event took place in Prague in November 2000 - the first
Nine Gates Festival of Jewish Culture. It takes its name from
the well-known and identically titled book by Czech Jewish writer Jiří
Mordechaj Langer (1894 Prague - 1943 Tel Aviv).
The festival programme was wide-ranging in scope, featuring
numerous theatre, music and film presentations, exhibitions, literary
gatherings and seminars on Jewish issues, and involving the participation
of outstanding Czech and international artists and cultural figures.
The Jewish Museum in Prague was also involved in this event. The Spanish
Synagogue played host to a number of distinguished musicians and
the Education and Culture Centre featured several interesting lectures
on Jewish history (The Prague Jewish Town, Maharal) and on current issues
facing the Jewish community (modern anti-Semitism, Jewish education).
The director of the Jewish Museum, Dr. Leo Pavlát, gave
a talk in the Centre on The significance and objectives of the Ronald
S. Lauder Foundation. As is widely known, this Foundation provides
financial and organizational support for Jewish education in Central
and Eastern Europe. It has been active in the Czech Republic since 1994
and it is through its assistance that a Jewish kindergarten was opened
in Prague. The Foundation has also been involved in other educational
projects of the Prague Jewish community, most notably the establishment
of the Lauder Elementary School
Gur Aryeh and the Lauder High School Or Hadash. In
addition, it financially contributes to the activities of the Museum’s
Education and Culture Centre. Dr. Pavlát’s talk was supplemented by
a documentary film on the activities of the Foundation. This was followed
by a theatrical presentation of The Golem by children from
the Lauder kindergarten and elementary school (a play written and prepared
by Vida Neuwirthová).
on the confiscation of jewish property
of Jewish property in Nazi-occupied territory was one of the means by
which Jewish rights and freedoms were suppressed and by which Jews were
severed from political, economic and social life. Various issues relating
to this process and its consequences were addressed by an international
science conference on the Confiscation of Jewish property in Bohemia
and Moravia, which took place in the Education and Culture Centre
between 13-15 November 2000. The conference was organized by the Terezín
Initiative Institute in collaboration with the Jewish Museum in Prague.
Discussions were attended by representatives of science/research and
academic centres, Charles University, Masaryk University of Brno, museums
and other local and foreign institutions.
Lost Neighbours Project
long-term project Lost Neighbours was launched this year by
the Museum’s Education and Culture Centre under the auspices of the
Office of the President of the Czech Republic. Its aim is to make the
young generation aware of the fate of Shoah victims. Throughout the
year, young people met and spoke to people who lived through this tragedy.
These personal encounters and other findings formed the basis for literary
and documentary reports by students, which were compiled in a
single volume. This was presented at a discussion forum hosted by the
well-known Czech writer Arnošt Lustig, who himself had been through
the terrors of the concentration camps.
The project met with great interest among young people
and teachers. Those involved in the project were received by the Czech
President Václav Havel in November 2000.
items displayed in exhibitions of the Jewish Museum in Prague often
reflect the aspects or trends characteristic of a certain historical
stage in the development of the Jewish community. In this regard, objects
that reflect Jewish assimilation into the wider society are of particular
interest. Attempts at assimilation were first promoted in various European
countries from about the mid-18th century, but primarily in the 19th
century. Assimilation in the Czech Lands took a more pronounced form
in the first half of the 19th century. An important role in this was
played by the late 18th century reforms of Emperor Joseph II.
Initially, Jews adapted to the German environment, but
after the 1840s assimilation was directed more towards Czech society.
This development was linked, among other things, to the growing political,
cultural and social significance of the Czech people. Czech Jewish assimilation
was reflected primarily in social life, education and culture. Various
Czech-Jewish organizations were established from the 1870s, such as
the Association of Czech Academics-Jews, the Czech-Jewish National Association
and the Association of Czech Progressive Jews. Jewish children went
to Czech schools and the Czech language was used in services and in
prayer books, calendars and newspapers.
The assimilation process is reflected by many objects in
the Jewish Museum’s collections, such as a Torah mantle from 1918 which
comes from Sušice (see picture). This can be seen in the exhibition
The History of Jews from Emancipation to the Present which
is housed in the Spanish Synagogue. The donation inscription on the
mantle is in Czech with Hebrew letters. Such a combination is a very
rare feature, as inscriptions on liturgical objects and on tombstones
of assimilated Jews were usually only in Czech.
This mantle - like many other objects in the care of the
Jewish Museum in Prague - has its own special history. The embroidered
text on the mantle shows that it was donated by Herman and Kamila Barth.
When it was seen in the Spanish Synagogue exhibition by Mrs. Hana Grun,
who was on a recent visit from the US, she found out that her parents
were the donors.
The 9th Musica Iudaica International Musical Festival was held
in Prague between 2 November-19 December 2000. It took place under the
auspices of the Israeli Ambassador, Erella Harel. The festival included
a performance in the Spanish Synagogue by the distinguished American
cantor Ira S. Bigeleisen.
Synagogue in Liberec
A new synagogue was opened in Liberec at the beginning of November.
This was a unique event as it is the first new building of its kind
in the Czech Republic since the end of the Second World War.
The Jewish community of Liberec is one of the few communities
in Bohemia and Moravia that renewed their activities after the war and
have continued to the present day. The history of the Jewish settlement
in this area dates back to about the 14th
century, which was when the first Jewish families started to settle
here. A separate Jewish religious community was not established in Liberec
until 1872. An orthodox Talmudic reading-room was opened here after
the First World War. The Liberec Jewish community was dissolved during
the Nazi occupation.
The new synagogue was built on the site of the original
Neo-Renaissance synagogue which was destroyed by the Nazis in November
1938. The Jewish Museum in Prague contributed to the success of the
project by providing expert consultation with regards the design of
the interior and the restoration of the Torah ark .
of The Jewish Cemetery in Fibichova street
year, the Jewish Museum in Prague took charge of the administration
of another historic building of the Prague Jewish Community - the Jewish
cemetery in the Prague area of Žižkov in Fibichova Street. A number
of prominent Jewish figures are buried here, such
as the former Chief Rabbi of Prague and leading representative of the
Prague Yeshiva Ezechiel Landau (1713-1793), his pupil Eleazar Flekeles
(1754-1826), and the Chief Rabbi Solomon Yehudah Rapoport (1790-1867).
The Museum has prepared a detailed project covering essential
measures to be taken, namely the construction of a new enclosure (currently
being completed) and the maintenance of tombstones and the garden. It
is expected that this historic monument will be open to the public as
early as next year. Visits will be by arrangement.
Work of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis in Paris
A touring exhibition of the work of the Viennese Jewish painter Friedl
Dicker-Brandeis (1898 Vienna -1944 Auschwitz) opened in the Museé d’Art
et d’Histoire du Judaisme in Paris in November 2000. 8 artworks and
25 Terezín children’s drawings are on loan from the Jewish Museum in
Exhibitions on Jewish Themes - Dobruška
The town of Dobruška is situated in Bohemia to the north-east of Prague.
The first references to a Jewish presence here date back to the period
after the first expulsion of Bohemian Jews from the royal towns in 1543.
The Jewish population of Dobruška changed in the course of time and
its status was greatly influenced by the granting of equal rights to
Jews and the possibility of free movement in the second half of the
19th century. The 20th century witnessed a marked decrease in the local
Jewish population. While there were about 70 Jews in the mid-19th century,
by 1930 there were only 39. The Jewish community which was established
here in the 17th century was not restored after the Second World War.
The majority of the local Jewish population died in the Nazi concentration
camps. Survivors did not return to Dobruška.
Several sites of importance have been preserved from the
original Jewish ghetto (first recorded in 1721), in particular a Neo-Gothic
synagogue from the second half of the 19th century. This was built on
the site of two previous synagogues which were both destroyed by fire.
After the Second World War, the synagogue was sold to
the Czech Brethren Evangelical Church which since then has used it as
a house of prayer. The cemetery is another historic Jewish site in Dobruška,
the oldest tombstones dating back to the late 17th century. Also of
interest is the rabbi’s house, where an 18th century ritual bath (mikvah)
was recently discovered. The Museum of Dobruška, in collaboration with
the Jewish Museum in Prague, installed in the vestibule of this house
an exhibition on Jewish customs which also deals with the history of
the local Jewish community. As well as expert assistance, the Jewish
Museum provided the local museum with several items from its collections,
including articles that originate from Dobruška and its surroundings.
publication by the Jewish Museum in Prague
the publication of guides to the exhibitions in the Spanish and Klausen
synagogues and the Ceremonial Hall, the Jewish Museum has now come out
with another book - Prague Synagogues. All the historic buildings
in the Jewish Town have undergone gradual reconstruction since the establishment
of the Jewish Museum in Prague in October 1994. That was when the Museum
became responsible for the care of collection items that had been returned
by the state to the Federation of Jewish Communities and for the administration
of the historic synagogues that had been returned to the Jewish Community
of Prague. Many of these synagogues had waited years for restoration,
some were finally opened after years of forced closure.
The book Prague Synagogues deals with the history
and current state of seven of the most prominent synagogues in Prague.
It follows on from a similar publication of the early 1980s which has
been completely sold out. The new book features detailed architectural
and historical descriptions of these unique memorial buildings of Jewish
Prague and is supplemented by a wealth of photographic documentation.
The book takes you through seven centuries of Jewish history spotlighting
the legendary Old-New Synagogue (established c. 1270 and still
in use to this day); the Pinkas Synagogue (1535) of the Horovitz
family (converted to an impressive memorial to the nearly 80,000 victims
of the Nazi persecution of Bohemian and Moravian Jews); monuments from
the Golden Age of the Jewish Town, including the Renaissance High
Synagogue (1586) and the Maisel Synagogue (1592); and
what used to be the second main house of prayer of the Prague Jewish
community, the Baroque Klausen Synagogue (1694). There is also
a fascinating chapter with lavish photographs of the decorative Moorish
interiors of more recent buildings - the Spanish Synagogue
(1868) and the Jerusalem Synagogue (1906), the latter being
built in the New Town as a replacement for three synagogues that had
been demolished in Josefov.
The text is by Arno Pařík , the photographs by
Dana Cabanová and Petr Kliment. The book is in two
versions: one in Czech, English and German, the other in French, Spanish
and Italian. It is available on-line at http://www.jewishmuseum.cz
and may be ordered from the Jewish Museum in Prague, Jáchymova 3, 110
01 Prague 1, Czech Republic, e-mail: email@example.com or via the Internet
at http://www.jewishmuseum.cz. It is also being prepared as
following new souvenirs are on offer:
- bound collection of postcards featuring historic
buildings of the Jewish Museum in Prague
- jigsaw puzzle with pictures of the Old-New Synagogue,
the Spanish Synagogue and the tombstone of Rabbi Loew,
- a new set of postcards featuring historic sites
of the Jewish Museum in Prague,
- wooden pencils with decorative Torah pointers
- writing paper featuring a wedding contract (ketubbah),
- havdalah candlestick
- framed reproduction of the title page of the Tashlich
Book (Sefer Tashlich) from 1829
These and other souvenirs can be bought
in the Museum’s shops in the Spanish, Klausen and Maisel synagogues
or ordered from the Jewish Museum in Prague, Jáchymova 3, 110 01 Prague
1, Czech Republic, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Internet-http://www.jewishmuseum.cz.
The historic sites of the Jewish Museum were visited by Jicchak Navon,
President of the State of Israel in 1978-1983.
The Jewish Museum was visited by Queen Paola of Belgium, who was in
Prague on a state visit with her husband, King Albert III.
New Address of the Jewish Museum
The Jewish Museum in Prague is moving its offices
to a new address in February 2001: U Staré školy 1, 110 01 Prague 1,
Czech Republic, Phone: 0042/02/24819456, fax: 02/24819458. The precise
date of the move will be announced on the Internet and in the press.