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NEWSLETTER 2006/1

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Press conference in the Spanish Synagogue to mark the launch of <I>A Year of Jewish Culture – 100 Years of the Jewish Museum in Prague A YEAR OF JEWISH CULTURE – 100 YEARS OF THE JEWISH MUSEUM IN PRAGUE
The Jewish Museum in Prague is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2006. To mark this occasion, it has prepared – separately and in association with various partners – a range of programmes and events that highlight the Jewish cultural and artistic heritage and demonstrate its links with Czech culture. Cultural programmes related to the Museum’s centenary are being held across the Czech Republic each month.
 
The range of programmes in the first quarter was extremely diverse, including three concerts, 26 lectures, discussions and social events, 12 exhibitions, eight film screenings and 30 theatre productions. The most important of these are mentioned below.
 

CONCERTS
Gala concert marking the start of the Year of Jewish Culture. 
From the left: US ambassador William J. Cabaniss with his wife, Israeli ambassador Arie Arazi with his wife, Jewish Museum Director Leo Pavlát with his wife and Chairman of the Chamber of Deputies Lubomír Zaorálek A Year of Jewish Culture

On 1 February, a gala concert was held in the Spanish Synagogue to mark the launch of the year-long project a Year of Jewish Culture – 100 Years of the Jewish Museum in Prague. This was attended by key figures from Czech cultural and political life and representatives of embassies in the Czech Republic. The audience was welcomed by the Director of the Jewish Museum in Prague Leo Pavlát and also greeted by the Chairman of the Czech Senate Přemysl Sobotka. In addition, the Chairman of the Czech Chamber of Deputies Lubomír Zaorálek wished the project much success. Works by Gideon Klein, Hans Krása and Ervín Schulhoff were performed by the Schulhoff Quartet.
After the concert, the guests were invited to an informal meeting at the residence of the Mayor of Prague, Pavel Bém.
 

LECTURES AND DISCUSSIONS
Václav Havel in an informal discussion with members of the Prague Jewish community at the Spanish Synagogue My Encounters with Jewishness

On 11 January, as part of the lecture series My Encounters with Jewishness, the former president of the Czech Republic Václav Havel accepted an invitation from the Museum’s Education and Culture Centre. In the packed Spanish Synagogue, he began his presentation by recalling his family’s relations with Jews and later took questions from the audience. Among other things, he talked about his visits to Israel, his meetings with Simon Peres and his friendship with Madeleine Albright and Elie Wiesel. He also mentioned his relationship to Prague Jewish literature, particularly to Franz Kafka.
 

SOCIAL EVENTS
The Kocian Quartet performing at the commemorative evening to mark Holocaust Memorial Day Commemorative evening to mark Holocaust Memorial Day

On January 26, the Jewish Museum in Prague held a commemorative evening in the Spanish Synagogue on the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day (the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp in 1945). The Israeli Ambassador in Prague Arie Arazi gave the keynote speech, Michaela Vidláková spoke on behalf of Holocaust survivors, and the actress Vlasta Chramostová read Josef Škvorecký’s story Mr. Katz, the Teacher. To close, the Kocian Quartet performed compositions by Shostakovich and Brahms.
 
 
 

EXHIBITIONS
Installation of the exhibition <I>The Man who Never Gave Up</I> in the Robert Guttmann Gallery The Man who Never Gave Up. The Story of Josef Polák (1886-1945)

From 2 February through 19 March, the Robert Guttmann Gallery hosted an exhibition on Josef Polák – an important art historian, museum specialist and organizer of cultural life in pre-war Czechoslovakia who significantly influenced the form of the Jewish Museum in Prague.
Josef Polák was born in Prague in 1886. He studied law at Charles-Ferdinand University and attended the art history seminars of professors Chytil, Hostinský and Matějka, and also became involved in the Czech-Jewish movement. He was based in Slovakia during the First World War and after the establishment of Czechoslovakia in 1918. As director of the East Slovak Museum in Košice, he developed progressive and successful activities in the fields of museum management, art history, heritage protection and public education. Focusing his specialist work mainly on visual art, he put together many temporary exhibitions at the Košice museum and wrote a number of specialist studies. In November 1938, however, Polák had to leave Slovakia for political reasons. In Prague, he obtained a post at the State Institute of Photosurveying, where he was later dismissed on account of his Jewish descent. In 1942, he became the main curator of the Jewish Central Museum in Prague, where he organized several exhibitions and, under extremely difficult conditions, put together a collection-building concept and a system for sorting, describing and registering liturgical items, as well as setting out rules for the specialist care of artefacts. In August 1944, he was arrested by the Gestapo, which had learnt of his involvement in the resistance movement. He was deported to Auschwitz, where he disappeared without trace in January 1945.
Title page of the catalogue published for the Josef Polák exhibition Josef Polák was a tireless promoter of the ideals of Tomáš G. Masaryk, the first president of Czechoslovakia, for which he managed to rise above nationalities, languages, creeds and party allegiance. In the end, he risked his own life for his ideals. This exhibition aims to increase public awareness of Polák’s eventful life. An extensive, richly illustrated catalogue which charts his life has been prepared by the curator Magda Veselská.
On 16 February, the Jewish Museum in Prague, in association with the Praha–Cáchy/Achen Society, prepared a special programme to accompany the exhibition in the Marble Hall of Clam-Gallas Palace – a literary evening devoted to the life and work of Josef Polák, presented by Magda Veselská and Rudolf Kvíz and featuring a lute performance by Rudolf Měřinský. Those taking part in the programme were then invited to a Kosher wine tasting and had the opportunity to find out more about the output of the Czech winery Chrámce s.r.o.
The exhibition at the Robert Guttmann Gallery was co-organized by the East Slovak Museum in Košice. It was held under the auspices of the Association of Museums and Galleries in the Czech Republic, the Art History Society of the Czech Lands, and the Association of Museums in Slovakia.
 

FILMS
Festival of Israeli Films

The Embassy of Israel, in association with the National Film Archive and Ponrepo Cinema, prepared a festival of Israeli films as part of the Year of Jewish Culture project. Launched on 27 February, the festival featured five successful Israeli movies:
Halfon Hill (dir. by Assi Dayan, 1975), Yellow Asphalt (dir. by Danny Verete, 2000), Kippur (dir. by A. Gitai, 2000), Walk on Water (dir. by I. Heitmer, 2002) and The Summer of Aviya (dir. by E. Fox, 2003).
 
FESTIVALS
The Immediate Film Orchestra conducted by Varhan Orchestrovič Bauer (right) in concert at the One World Festival One World

To mark the Jewish Museum in Prague’s centenary, the One World Film Festival, which focuses on documentaries about human rights, included a screening of Odessa... Odessa! (dir. by M. Boganim, 2004), a film about the quest for home. This commemorative film follows the hardships of the Jewish community in the Ukrainian city of Odessa and looks at the fate of immigrants in the “Little Odessa” district of New York. The final sequence focuses on Odessa Jews in the town of Ashdod, Israel. The paradox of the search for the true home is summed up by one of the unnamed characters in the film: “In Odessa we were Jews, in Israel we are Russians again.”
On the same day the film was screened (7 March), a concert was held in the Marble Hall of Lucerna Palace by the Immediate Film Orchestra under the baton of Varhan Orchestrovič Bauer, which performed music from the film Holocaust.
 
Magdaléna Sidonová in Lenka Lagronová’s play <I>Etty Hillesum</I> at Divadlo Na zábradlí in Prague THEATRE
Etty Hillesum

On 12 March, a premiere of Lenka Lagronová’s play Etty Hillesum was held at the Prague theatre Divadlo Na zábradlí under the direction of Jan Nebeský. This play is based on the diary kept by Etty Hillesum, a 28-year-old Dutch student during the war. The production follows the protagonist’s inner struggle up to the point when she volunteers to work at Westerbork concentration camp. In September 1943, she was deported with her family to Auschwitz, where she died after three months.
 
 
TRAVELLING EXHIBITIONS
Long-lost Faces – Recollections of Holocaust victims in documents and photographs. Venue: Exhibition Hall, Czech Centre in Sofia, Bulgaria, 27 January – 28 February 2006
 
History of the Jews in Bohemia and Moravia and Jewish Customs and Traditions.
Venue: School of Commerce and Higher Technical School of Economics, Svitavy, 3 January – 31 January 2006
 
History of the Jews in Bohemia and Moravia and Jewish Customs and Traditions.
Venue: Regional Museum and Gallery, Jičín, 19 January – 26 February 2006
 
History of the Jews in Bohemia and Moravia and Jewish Customs and Traditions.
Venue: Aleš Hall, Prague – Suchdol, 26 February – 9 April 2006
 
History of the Jews in Bohemia and Moravia and Jewish Customs and Traditions.
Venue: Regional Museum in Most, 7 March – 30 April 2006
 
 
PROMINENT VISITS
January:
Israeli Ambassador in Prague Arie Arazi at Michael Bielicky’s exhibition This Time in Jerusalem at the Robert Guttmann Gallery

• Israeli Ambassador in Prague Arie Arazi and Director of the Israeli company Mallmedia Amos Rolnik
 
• Israeli Ambassador in Prague Arie Arazi at the Robert Guttmann Gallery
 
Czech Minister of Culture Vítězslav Jandák with Museum Director Leo Pavlát visiting the Old Jewish Cemetery • Czech Minister of Culture Vítězslav Jandák
 

February:

Participants of the 1st Forum of Directors of Jewish Federations, Communities and Organizations at the Old Jewish Cemetery

 
• Participants of the Conference 1st Forum of Directors of Jewish Federations, Communities and Organizations
 
A delegation of deputies from the Committee for Science, Education, Culture, Youth and Sport at the Jewish Museum’s paper and parchment restoration workshop • Members of the Czech Chamber of Deputies
 

 

 

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