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YEAR OF JEWISH CULTURE
– 100 YEARS OF THE JEWISH
MUSEUM IN PRAGUE
The Jewish Museum in Prague is celebrating its centenary in 2006. To mark this occasion, we intend to hold a year-long, nationwide project entitled “Year of Jewish Culture – 100 Years of the Jewish Museum in Prague”. We have called on cultural institutions, artists, Jewish communities and public officials in the Czech Republic, as well as embassies and Culture Centres abroad to support this project.
The Jewish Museum’s own projects will form the basis for this centenary project. This institution is not only the most visited museum in the Czech Republic but also, to a certain extent, a symbol that personifies the modern history of the Jews in Bohemia and Moravia from the period of emancipation until the present. Theatre, museum, gallery, film and music shows, prepared separately or in association with the Jewish Museum, will follow on from the latter’s projects, which will include special exhibitions, lectures, seminars, literary and music programmes. The various events will feature the work of Czech and international artists whose common denominator is Jewish art and culture. A cultural programme on Jewish topics will be held in various places across the Czech Republic each week throughout the year to mark the centenary and, at the same time, to draw attention to the contribution of Jewish culture and Jewish values in a Czech and international context. More than a hundred institutions will be involved in the Year of Jewish Culture in the Czech Republic.
Conceived as a year of Jewish culture, the centenary celebrations in their entirety will make it possible to realize the specific nature of the Jewish cultural heritage, as well as its traditional connection with Czech culture and the Czech environment. The centenary will offer a unique opportunity to bring Jewish culture closer to the Czech public. We believe that the project events and activities will significantly enrich the cultural life of the Czech Republic in 2006.
The centenary celebrations will be held under the auspices of the Minister of Culture Vítězslav Jandák, the Presi-dent of the Czech Chamber of Deputies Lubomír Zaorálek, the President of the Czech Senate Přemysl Sobotka, the Mayor of Prague Pavel Bém and the former President of the Czech Republic Václav Havel.
MICHAEL BIELICKÝ: THIS YEAR IN JERUSALEM
As part of the Jewish Presence in Contemporary Visual Arts series, media artist Michael Bielicky’s telematic installation bringing together Prague and Jerusalem opened in the Robert Guttmann Gallery on 16 November. The title of the installation, This Year in Jerusalem, is a paraphrase of the traditional Jewish phrase L’Shana Haba’ah b’Yerushalayim (Next Year in Jerusalem), which expresses the centuries-long wish of Diaspora Jews for the reunification of their homeland. This installation enabled viewers in Prague to be virtually transported to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, which was viewed through a web camera and streamed via a high-speed Internet connection into the Robert Guttmann Gallery. Using a motion capture tracking system,viewers could cross the bound-aries between the two cities without having to overcome any geographical distance. This installation sought to re-animate the relationship between Israel and the Diaspora by bridging the two cities, one in the heart of Europe and the other in the very heart of the Holy Land. Curated by Michaela Hájková, it was on view until 15 January 2006.
This Year in Jerusalem was accompanied by a multimedia publication which features the most important projects of Michael Bielicky, Professor at the Prague Academy of Fine Arts. The publication of this DVD was made possible with kind support from the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic.
The installation launched the Jewish Museum’s centenary celebrations and also appeared on its website www.jewishmuseum.cz/thisyearinjerusalem via a live feed.
Two special accompanying events were held for the above project. On 21 November the Spanish Synagogue hosted a concert by the US composer Robert J. Gluck, who performed his own compositions for electronically expanded shofar, solo piano pieces (Akeda by Ofer ben-Amots and Epitaph by Tzvi Avni), a live electronic interpretation of a 1969 work by Miles Davis, and a composition for piano and computer, Nocturne/Doubles, by Benjamin Broe-ning. This concert offered a unique showcase for this significant contem-porary music theorist, composer and interpreter of electro-acoustic music. On 14 December, the Robert Guttmann Gallery hosted an untraditional literary evening at which the US writer Joshua Cohen read from his new book The Quorum (recently published in Prague by Twisted Spoon Press). This reading was made possible through a grant from the U.S. Embassy, Prague.
EDUCATION AND CULTURE CENTRE
As part of the My Encounters with Jewishness series, the Jewish Museum’s Education and Culture Centre hosted a lecture in October by sociologist Dr. Jiřina Šiklová, and a lecture in November by the Deputy Chairman of the Czech Senate Dr. Petr Pithart.
November saw the opening of the exhibition Memories of a Jewish Family from Loštice and its Surroundings, which documents the Jewish history and culture of Loštice, Mohelnic and Úsov. There was also a presentation of Dr. Richard Seemann’s new book Half-Time War and an evening with the writer Arnošt Goldflam, whose book of short stories Destinies and Their Master was recently published by Sefer. Excerpts from the book were read by the author with musical accompaniment by the Brno-based group HaChucpa. In addition, there was a screening of My Architect, a documentary about the world-famous architect of Jewish descent Louis Kahn, which was made by his son Nathaniel in 2004.
In December, the Education and Culture Centre hosted a presentation of two publications: Master of Dialogue Milan Machovec, a collection of memories of one of the leading Czech phi-losophers of the 20th century, and Czechs, Germans, Jews? The National Identity of the Jews in Bohemia, 1918-1938 by Dr. Kateřina Čapková of the Terezín Initiative Institute.
ANNOUNCEMENT OF RESTITUTION APPLICATION
On 6 April 2005, in accordance with the terms for the assertion of restitution claims with respect to items in the Museum’s collections that were unlawfully taken during the period of Nazi occupation, the Museum’s board decided to restitute 31 artworks to two legitimate restitution applicants. Mostly works by Bohemian and French artists from the first third of the twentieth century, these items, until 1941, were part of the Prague collection of Dr. Emil Freund (1886-1942) who, on 21 October 1941, was deported to the ghetto at Lodz, where he perished on 13 September 1942. Although Dr. Freund died without a wife or children, a restitution claim with respect to the artworks which he left behind and which are currently in the Museum’s collections, has been put forward by three descendants of one of his sisters who are now permanent residents of the USA. Under the afore-mentioned decision, the Museum’s board acknowl-edged the legitimacy of the claims of two of the three restitution applicants. The board further stated that the third restitution applicant or his heirs have not yet fully supported their claim for the restitution of the artworks in question, and that it has called upon them to rectify the formal shortcomings of their application as soon as possible. Recognizing that the claims of the other two applicants are duly supported, the board has decided that the items that are the subject of the claim shall be returned to the applicants after the elapse of one year from the day on which this decision was announced, provided that a duly supported restitu-tion claim is not put forward by another legitimate applicant within the protection period of one year.
A detailed list of artworks that are the subject of a restitution claim is available on the Museum’s website here.
The Jewish Museum recently received a gift of textiles produced by the Arnold Kraus Textile Factory in Hronov, including a set of 19 tablecloths, a fabric swatch and two of the factory owner’s personal documents.
The donation was made by Alice Palmer, the granddaughter of Arnold Kraus. In 1939, Arnold Kraus’s son Frank took the firm’s product samples with him to the USA, where he subsequently remained; he was the only one in his family who survived the war. After his death, his family decided to donate these items to the Jewish Museum in Prague.
These items constitute important evidence both of the various “routes to survival” and of the pre-war Jewish textile factory in Hronov.
DICTIONARY OF JUDAICA PUBLISHED IN ENGLISH
The Jewish Museum has just published an English version of its dictionary of Judaica which came out earlier in 2005. This is a guide to Jewish ritual objects that are used in the synagogue and in the household. Intended for historians of art, ethnologists, antiquaries and the general public, it also features other objects connected with the life of the Jewish community, associations, guilds and individuals.
The main part of the dictionary comprises 149 entries with cross-references and brief descriptions of the symbols that appear on ritual objects and on tombstones. The inclusion of interconnected groups of entries makes it easy to place each item in its proper context. The books also includes a calendar of Jewish festivals, a glossary of terms and an index. The individual entries are accompanied by over 200 illustrations based on original items from the Jewish Museum’s collections. The book has been put together by a group of authors and is illustrated by Hana Pavlátová. It is 142 pages in length.
This new publication on Hebrew abbreviations in dedicatory inscriptions is the result of epigraphic research into the Jewish Museum’s textile collections which was begun in 2000 by the authors Iveta Cermanová and Michaela Scheibová. This work deals with the important subject of Jewish literature and epigraphy, which has not previously been researched in the above context, and provides a range of valuable information on Hebrew inscriptions. The introduction comprises a paper on Hebrew abbreviations in dedicatory inscriptions on synagogue textiles. This is followed by an extensive lexicon of abbreviations encountered by the authors in their research into the Jewish Museum’s textiles. The abbreviations are provided with their Hebrew spelled-out forms, as well as translations into Czech and English. There is also an overview of the Jewish calendar and a select bibliography. The book contains 80 full-colour illustrations and is 167 pages in length.
TRAVELLING EXHIBITIONS OF THE JEWISH MUSEUM IN PRAGUE
“History of the Jews in Bohemia and Moravia” and “Jewish Customs and Traditions”. Exhibition in the Museum of the Bohemian Forest, Tachov, 6 October – 29 November 2005.
“History of the Jews in Bohemia and Mora-via” and “Jewish Customs and Traditions”. Exhibition in the Museum of Prostějov, 12 October – 13 November 2005.
- American Israel Public Affairs Com-mittee (AIPAC) delegation
- Participants of the Claims Conference in Prague
- Israeli Ambassador to the Czech Republic Arie Arazi