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NEWSLETTER 2007/3

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The main event at the Museum between July and September was the exhibition ‘Hope is on the next page’, which was on view at the Robert Guttmann Gallery. Dedicated to the 100-year history of the Museum's library, this show followed on from the Jewish Museum in Prague’s centenary celebrations in 2006. This and other events that the Museum either organized or was involved in are detailed below.
 
EXHIBITIONS
‘Hope Is on the Next Page’. 100 Years of the Library of the Jewish Museum in Prague at the Robert Guttmann Gallery

The exhibition that opened at the Robert Guttmann Gallery on the 8th of August was the first to chart in detail the history of the Museum’s library. On display were previously unseen archive records on the library’s history and period photographs of its key figures, Tobias Jakobovits and Otto Muneles, along with the latter’s chair and hat which are now in the Museum’s collections. There was also information about the Library of the Prague Jewish Religious Community (whose card catalogue was on view) and the Central Library in Terezín. Visitors were also able to check out the Museum's automated library system (Aleph), in which its books, magazines and articles are now catalogued. The electronic catalogue can be accessed online.
The story of the Museum’s library begins in 1858 with the founding of the Library of the Prague Jewish Religious Community, which opened in 1874 under the supervision of Nathan Grün. This now constitutes the historic core of the Museum’s book collection. The Jewish Museum in Prague was founded in 1906 in connection with the clearance of the Prague ghetto, and books formed an integral part of its collections. Only a fragment of the library holdings of the pre-war museum, however, have been preserved. During the Second World War, the Central Jewish Museum (1942–1945) acquired about 46,000 books and sheet music from the abolished Jewish communities, as well as a part of the Central Library in Terezín. Following the Museum’s nationalization during the Communist regime, the library came under strict supervision. A collection of forbidden books had to be put together during the period after the Soviet occupation in August 1968. Fortunately for the Museum, it was able to keep this material and to return it to its collections after 1989. After the Museum’s collections had been returned to the Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic in October 1994, the library became an independent department. New depositories were built for it and the catalogued book collections became fully accessible to the public. In addition, the Museum opened a study room with a reference library and an air-conditioned research area for the study of old texts, as well as a reference centre (also with a reference library) for the general public. With as many as 135,000 volumes, the library is now a fully functional and modern institution with a comprehensive collection of Judaica and Hebraica from Bohemia.
This exhibition also celebrated the key figures that shaped the form of the library over the years. These include Salomon Hugo Lieben, who met the librarian of the Prague Jewish Community, Tobias Jakobovits in the Central Jewish Museum. Together with M. Woskin-Nahartabi, who later became a member of the Talmudkommando (a group of experts cataloguing Hebrew printed books) in Terezín, Jakobovits catalogued items that were shipped to the Museum. The Talmudkommando was led by Lieben’s former colleague from the Prague Burial Society, Otto Muneles, who became the head of the Museum’s library after the war.
The show was accompanied by a series of guided tours (given by the curator Michal Bušek) and a catalogue which can be purchased in the Museum’s stores or online at www.jewishmuseum.cz.
 
 
 
Crayon in the Museum
A selection of children’s drawings were on display in the Museum’s Education and Culture Centre in Prague during the summer as part of the civic association Barevný svět dětí’s exhibition Crayon in the Museum. The drawings were made after a visit to the Museum and had as their theme Noah’s Ark and the Flood.
 
 
 
 
Exhibition on Jewish Education at the Lauder Schools
A new travelling exhibition, Jewish Education, opened at the Lauder Jewish Community Schools in Prague on the 3rd of September. This took place on the schools’ tenth anniversary, which was attended by a number of important guests, including Petr Pithart (Vice President of the Senate), Dana Kuchtová (former Minister of Education), Džamila Stehlíková (Minister for Human Rights and National Minorities) and George Bán (Executive Director & CEO of the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation). The 17 panels on display trace the long history of Jewish education from biblical times to the present, highlighting the various kinds of Jewish schools, the main periods of Jewish education and some of the leading figures involved. This show is based on an exhibition that the Museum presented last year at the Pedagogical Museum of J. A. Comenius in Prague.
 
 
Travelling exhibitions Neighbours Who Disappeared and Anne Frank: A Story for Today in Kolín
Two of the Education and Culture Centre’s travelling exhibitions Neighbours Who Disappeared and Anne Frank: A Story for Today opened at Kolín Synagogue on the 9th of September. The opening was part of a ceremonial event for the 65th anniversary of the deportation of more than a thousand Jews from Kolín to the Terezín concentration camp. The director of the Education and Culture Centre Vladimír Hanzel spoke on behalf of the Museum.
 
 
The Art of Remaining Upright
The 10th of September saw the opening in the Education and Culture Centre of an exhibition of colourful collages and oil paintings by the U.S. based artist Jana Zimmer. Entitled The Art of Remaining Upright, this show dealt in a sensitive and creative way with the experiences of the artist's Czech parents during the Second World War.
 
 
NEWS FROM THE EDUCATION AND CULTURE CENTRE
International conference:
 
City – Identity – Memory

A Czech-Slovak-Polish conference, entitled City – Identity – Memory was held in Prague on the 6th and 7th of September. This involved the participation of the Faculty of Humanities at Charles University in Prague, the Museum’s Education and Culture Centre and the Polish Society of Urban Ethnology. Among the presentations at the Education and Culture Centre was a lecture entitled Bratislava, the Jewish Community and Memory, which was given by Peter Salner, chairman of the Jewish community in Bratislava and member of the Ethnology Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences in Bratislava.
 
Seminar: Jews, History and Culture
As part of the project We Are All People, the Education and Culture Centre in association with the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) prepared a seminar entitled Jews, History and Culture on the 10th and 11th of September. This event was intended for voluntary Christian lecturers who are involved in the above project and are active in schools or religious congregations. Providing education in the history of anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, this project also seeks to contribute to the elimination of anti-Judaist teaching in Christian churches. The in-troduction to the seminar also outlined the Jewish religion, history and traditions. The current relationship between Judaism and Christianity was the focus of a lecture by Vladimír Sadek. Much attention was also paid to the issue of prejudice and to ways of dealing with it. Miloš Pojar, the current Chairman of the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research (appointed by the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs), gave a presentation on present-day Israel, which met with a great response.
 
 
Refurbished workshop at the Education and Culture Centre in Prague
The Education and Culture Centre in Prague has newly refurbished and streamlined its workshop space for its many interactive projects and seminars. New lighting has been installed and the facilities have been completely overhauled to provide greater comfort for visitors and lecturers. The workshop also has a new carpet and has been repainted in cheerful, warm colours to create a pleasant atmosphere and to promote creativity and playfulness in children.
 
 
Education and Culture Centre in Brno
In September the Brno Office of the Museum’s Education and Culture Centre expanded its range of educational programmes for schools and special interest groups to include a guided tour of the Jewish cemetery in Brno. In association with the Jewish Community of Brno, it hosted a Maccabi programme on the 16th of September, with particular focus on active sports and featuring a meeting with associates and founding members of the Brno-based Maccabi sports club. This event accompanied the current exhibition History of Jewish Sport in the Czechoslovak Republic, which deals with the Maccabi organization, the Jewish sports club Hagibor – Prague and the Scout movement.
 
 
EUROPEAN DAY OF JEWISH CULTURE
Once again this year, the first Sunday of September was designated as the European Day of Jewish Culture by the European Asso- ciation for the Preservation and Promotion of Jewish Culture and Heritage. On this day, Jewish organizations in 30 countries across Europe held exhibitions, lectures, concerts and open days with the aim of bringing Jewish culture to the general public. In the Czech Republic, the event involved the participation of Jewish organizations from Prague, Liberec, Děčín, Jičín, Teplice and Hořice. The Jewish Museum in Prague provided free access to the 17th–19th century Jewish cemetery in the Žižkov district of Prague, where the prominent rabbi Ezechiel Landau is buried.
 
 
SNEAK PREVIEW OF THE FILM HOUSE OF LIFE AT PONREPO CINEMA
On the 17th of September there was a sneak preview of the US documentary film House of Life: The Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague at Ponrepo Cinema in Prague. This documentary is a collaboration of filmmaker Allan Miller and artist Mark Podwal, who also wrote the script. It was also supported by the efforts of the Jewish Museum in Prague.
The film focuses on the history of the Old Jewish Cemetery and its close connection with Prague's Jewish community. It also shows the cemetery as it is today, vividly depicting tombstones at various times of the day and in all the seasons. The history of the cemetery is interspersed with shots of tombstone restorers, people looking after the trees and visitors to the Jewish Museum.
Guests at the sneak preview had the opportunity to meet the filmmakers Allan Miller and Mark Podwal and to take part in a Q & A session.
 
 
CHANGES TO THE MAISEL SYNAGOGUE AND EXHIBITION
The Jewish Museum has opened a second escape route from the Maisel Synagogue with a view to ensuring a prompt and safe evacuation where necessary. The new route is situated where there was formerly a display cabinet. The exhibition space has expanded following the changes and an extra display cabinet has been added. The relocated cabinet contains a selection of the earliest silver ritual items from the Museum’s collections – featuring, in particular, the Torah crown that the Old-New Synagogue in Prague received from the Chief Rabbi Ezekiel Landau (1713–1793). This item is on loan from the Jewish Community in Prague. The new cabinet displays a synagogue curtain that was donated to the Old-New Synagogue by the Tausk family in 1673. In the Museum’s collections, this is one of the few items in whose inscription the name of the embroider appears, hence its uniqueness. It was made by Berl, son of Eizak Hayyat (‘the tailor’), whose embroidered inscription ‘May the work of my hands be praised’ and signature appear in the ornamental frieze.
 
 
PROMOTIONAL CAMPAIGN OF THE JEWISH MUSEUM
The Museum expanded its promotional campaign for the main tourist season from April to September with a series of eye-catching posters on trams, in metro stations and in the lobby of the main railway station. These posters and advertisement spots combine in a novel way the traditional Jewish symbols – the Star of David and the Menorah – into a smiling face.
 
 
NEW CURTAIN IN THE HIGH SYNAGOGUE
On the 7th of September a new curtain was ceremoniously hung in the Renaissance-style High Synagogue, one of the Prague Jewish community's houses of prayer where regular services are held. The Jewish Museum often lends items from its collections to Jewish communities in the Czech Republic for liturgical purposes. Due to the uniqueness and age of its historical textiles, however, the Museum’s textile restorers have now set about making new items for use in synagogues. When staff were sorting damaged prayer shawls (tallitot) to be discarded and buried, the head of the Collections Department Eva Kosáková came up with the idea of making a curtain from the material and of reusing it for ritual purposes. The inscription on the curtain reads: ‘The holy robe shall be returned to its place’ and contains the date 767 according to the minor era (which is 2007 C. E.) as a chronogram. The new curtain has a traditional composition featuring columns with capitals in the shape of the Jewish hat that appears in the emblem of the Prague Jewish Community. The central field is sewn together from 12 squares, symbolizing the twelve tribes of Israel; above it are six squares with fringes (tzitziot), symbolizing the six million victims of the Shoah. This item is also important as it is the first curtain since the Second World War to be made and donated for ritual purposes by a private person in the Czech lands. It may be hoped that this will encourage people to donate other items for such purposes and that in the future the Museum’s historical textiles will be used only for special occasions.
 
 
PROMINENT VISITS
July
Czech Minister of Culture Václav Jehlička
 

 

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