The Jewish Museum in Prague (JMP), founded in 1906, celebrated its centennial last year. This important occasion in the history of the Museum has been celebrated on the basis of a wide-ranging concept with 2006 designated as a Year of Jewish Culture. The aim has been to present the Jewish cultural heritage with reference to its traditional links with Czech culture and the Czech environment, to provide the general public with insights into the Jewish past and present, and to feature Czech Jewish roots outside the Czech Republic .
A total of 135 institutions and organizations contributed to the celebrations. Some 260 events were held in more than 50 towns in the Czech Republic and abroad in 2006, and these were seen by as many as 100 000 visitors. The Year of Jewish Culture involved the participation of 17 different countries. A total of 11 publications were issued by the Jewish Museum in Prague for its centennial year.
The Year of Jewish Culture pointed out various aspects of Jewish culture and tradition in the Czech lands - from the outset through the difficult war and post-war years to the present day. The event included exhibitions about the various phases in the history of the Jewish Museum and about the people that contributed to the establishment and development of this institution. Contemporary artworks were showcased in exhibitions, multimedia displays, theatre shows, concerts, film screenings and festival projects. A whole range of discussions, lectures and screenings dealt with social, political and religious issues relating to anti-Semitism. International collaborations were an important contribution to the Year of Jewish Culture.
Below is a selection of noteworthy events from the broad and diverse range of programmes that were held throughout the year.
The exhibition “Images of the Prague Ghetto” at the City of Prague Museum featured unique images from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries with focus on the main monuments of Prague’s Jewish Town. As well as portraits of rabbis and families in the ghetto, it presented the most important monuments of the ghetto and the reconstruction projects that led to the founding of the Jewish Museum. The exhibition was held in association with the City District Prague 1.
One of the six exhibitions prepared by the JMP at the Robert Guttmann Gallery was the exhibition entitled “Defying the Beast - The Jewish Museum in Prague, 1906-1940”. Curator Magda Veselská focused on the beginnings of the Jewish Museum in Prague when the Museum managed to rescue items from synagogues that were demolished during the clearance of the Jewish ghetto in Prague’s Jewish Town and, in so doing, to lay the foundations for one of the first Jewish museums in Europe. The exhibition captured the development of the collections until the Second World War when the Museum contained a representative collection of Judaica and Hebraica from the territory of Prague and Bohemia. A number of items from the pre-war collection now comprise the most valuable part of the Jewish Museum in Prague’s collections.
The Museum’s exhibition “Jewish Education” at the Pedagogical Museum of J. A. Comenius in Prague dealt with the tradition and forms of Jewish education from biblical times to the present. The main focus was on the development and organization of traditional Jewish education in the period between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, the establishment of elementary Jewish schools in the nineteenth century and independent Jewish education in the twentieth century.
“Ark / Archa”, a video sculpture in the form of a gigantic ship was installed in Small Pinkas Street. This was specially created by Canadian artist Melissa Shiff for the Jewish Museum in Prague’s centennial celebrations. The ark motif is a metaphor for the Museum as an ark that has preserved the precious legacy of a thousand years of Jewish culture in the Czech lands. Ark also recalled the flood of 2002, which brought people together regardless of religion, race and origin. The space where Ark is situated is one of the few remaining authentic areas of the old Jewish Ghetto and has functioned for centuries as a borderline between different cultures, ethnic groups and religions.
As part of the Respect Festival, Prague’s Akropolis Palace hosted a concert by the world-famous clarinettist David Krakauer with Klezmer Madness and Canadian DJ Socalled. Krakauer, whose ancestors come from Poland, discovered his Jewish musical roots when he was growing up. Part of the New York klezmer revival, he was a member of The Klezmatics and has played with such legends as John Cage and John Zorn. He is also respected as a virtuoso classical musician.
The State Opera hosted the premiere of the music theatre piece “Hear Our Voice”. Based on a libretto by Tertia Sefton-Green, this comprised poems, diaries and letters written by children in Terezín during the Shoah. This new work was presented by students from London, Nürnberg and London under the baton of the internationally renowned conductor Peter Selwyn with the soprano Alison Buchanan and the Fürth Streichhölzer Youth Orchestra. This marked the culmination of a music education project co-organized by the Jewish Museum in Prague, the Hackney Music Development Trust (London) and the Internationales Kammermusic Festival (Nürnberg). This project used the arts to increase young people's awareness of the dangers of prejudice and persecution. The concert was accompanied by an international exhibition of visual art in Prague’s Jubilee Synagogue, which featured works by students involved in the project. The project “Hear Our Voice” was supported by the European Union programme Culture 2000.
Five film festivals were held as part of the Year of Jewish Culture project, including the “Festival of Israeli Films” in Ponrepo Cinema, which was organized by the Embassy of Israel, and “Polish Films on Jewish Topics” at the Polish Institute in Prague. “Febiofest” showed films dealing with Jewish topics at the Jewish Community in Prague and in the Liberec Synagogue. The “One World” Film Festival, which focuses on documentaries about human rights, held a concert by The Immediate Film Orchestra. “Moffom” (Music on Film – Film on Music) showed a number of documentaries on the Jewish musical tradition in the Spanish Synagogue and at the festival’s other venues. The highlight of this festival was a screening of the silent German film “Golem” with live musical accompaniment supervised by Canadian DJ and composer Socalled.
A plethora of fascinating projects came about as a result of international cooperation. The Embassy of Israel contributed to a number of events: organizing the “Festival of Israeli Films” in Ponrepo Cinema, supporting concerts (including performances by the Hradec Králové Philharmonic and the Adash Vocal Ensemble under the baton of Tomáš Novotný, and by the jazz bassist Avishai Cohen and his trio at the “Jazz Fest Brno” and in Prague’s Lucern Music Bar), presenting the exhibition “Children of the World Paint the Bible” at the “Prague Book World” and supporting Israeli poet Aaron Shabtai’s participation in the “Prague Writers’ Festival”. Divadlo Ponec began its dance season with the “Israeli Weekend” project and a presentation of contemporary dance from Israel. In partnership with ICEJ, the NBK Foundation organized an event for the holiday of Shavuot (commemorating the giving of the Torah) with a presentation in the Spanish Synagogue of a new Czech translation of the Hebrew Bible, which was attended by the Israeli Ambassador Arie Arazi. The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands supported a concert of music dating from the time of Anne Frank in the Spanish Synagogue. The Polish Institute hosted an exhibition dedicated to Bruno Schulz (1882-1942) with drawings, posters and photographs by leading Polish artists, and an exhibition of original drawings and reproductions of graphic work by Bruno Schulz entitled “In the Labyrinth of Bruno Schulz”. The Embassy of Argentina contributed to an exhibition of photography by the Argentine photographer and artist Rosa Revsin inspired by the poetry of Terezín children; entitled “I have not seen a butterfly around here…”, this show was held at the Education and Culture Centre. The Embassy of Argentina also contributed to an exhibition of photography by the Argentine Jewish photographer Pedro Roth; featuring the present-day Jewish community of Buenos Aires and Argentina, this show was hosted by the Brno City Museum. The Embassy of Canada was significantly involved in putting together two major projects by the Canadian multimedia artist Melissa Shiff in Prague – “Reframing Ritual: Postmodern Jewish Wedding” and the video installation “Ark / Archa”. The Embassy of the United States helped to bring about a concert by David Krakauer & Klezmer Madness for the “Respect Festival”. The Embassy of the Turkish Republic supported a concert by the Yinon Muallem Ensemble from Turkey, which appeared at Divadlo Archa. The Austrian Cultural Forum in Prague contributed to an exhibition of Jewish German-language writers from Moravia in the Boskovice District Museum; entitled “Wervehte Spuren”, this show was prepared by the Munich-based Adalbert Stifter Association in partnership with the Centre for Research into Moravian German Literature at the Department of German studies, Philosophy Faculty, Palacky University in Olomouc. Actively involved in the Year of Jewish Culture project abroad, the Czech centres in Stockholm, Budapest, Paris, Warsaw and Dresden organized several exhibitions and concerts.
A broad range of premieres and repeat performances of plays took place as part of the Year of Jewish Culture. These included “Hole in the Wall”, based on stories by Edgar Keret, which was staged at Divadlo Minor; Arnošt Goldflam’s “Ladies’ Cloakroom” as performed by Klicperovo divadlo of Hradec Králové at Prague’s Divadlo v Dlouhé; Divadlo Na zábradlí’s production of “Allen Stewart Konigsberg” and a play based on Etta Hillesum’s diary entitled “A Life Cut Short”, directed by J. Nebeský. The Dora Wassermann Yiddish Theatre from Canada appeared at the Jewish Community in Prague and the Prague Theatre Festival of the German Language organized several events focusing on Jewish authors.
The Education and Culture Centre of the Jewish Museum in Prague was the main venue for lectures and discussions as part of the Year of Jewish Culture project. It prepared, for example, a series of discussions entitled “Culture without Borders – Jewish Culture is a Part of European Identity” and the lecture series “Prague Jewish Architecture”. The Prague City Library hosted the lecture series “History of Jewish Prague”. In September, the Jewish Museum in Prague opened the Brno office of its Education and Culture Centre – its first office outside Prague: the Brno Education and Culture Centre. The official discussion meeting “My Encounters with Jewishness” was held in the Spanish Synagogue with the former President of the Czech Republic, Václav Havel.
The Year of Jewish Culture in Kutná Hora offered a wide range of programmes over the course of several months, including: a presentation of a book on the Jews of Kutná Hora; a klezmer concert by Trombenik and Eljazzer, a lecture panel with a video screening and a viewing of photographic documentation in memory of the architect, set designer and theatre poster designer František Zelenka, who perished in a concentration camp; the exhibition “Long-lost Faces”; a lecture on the Jewish monuments of the Kutná Hora district, a seminar on Jewish customs and traditions; a lecture on the history of Jewish entrepreneurship in the Kutná Hora district; a special gathering to commemorate the Jewish community of Kutná Hora with Holocaust survivors and their descendants and a memorial event in memory of the Holocaust victims.
Two parallel groups of events were organized as part of the Year of Jewish Culture in Brno. The first was based on negotiations and an agreement between the Jewish Museum in Prague and the Jewish Community in Brno on the founding of the Brno office of the JMP’s Education and Culture Centre. The Jewish Community in Brno provided and reconstructed rooms in its building at Kpt. Jaroše Street 3, while the JMP supplied the necessary facilities and technical equipment. Opening in September, the new office soon found a large audience among school children and the general public. Its long-term aim is to systematically and comprehensively acquaint the general public in Brno with Jewish culture and history and to prevent anti-Semitism by creating greater awareness. The JMP staff at the Brno office will be preparing and developing educational and cultural programmes on Jewish topics in the years to come.
The second group of events in the Year of Jewish Culture in Brno was based on an initiative of the National Theatre and its director Zdeněk Prokeš, along with events organized by the Jewish Community in Brno. This extensive project, entitled “Days of Jewish Culture in Brno 2006”, was held between March and the end of November 2006. The National Theatre in Brno used this opportunity to prepare new productions – a ballet production of Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” with a libretto based on the Holocaust and Felix Porges’ “Czech Cabaret in Terezín”.The Days of Jewish Culture in Brno project also involved the participation of other theatres in Brno – HaDivadlo, Divadlo Husa na provázku and Divadlo U stolu. Jiří Mahen Library presented the exhibition “The Jewish Community of Brno – Past and Present” and organized several accompanying lectures.
The intense programme of the Year of Jewish Culture that embraced various artistic disciplines and dealt with historic as well as social themes is difficult to contain. The Jewish Museum in Prague, the coordinator and initiator of the Year of Jewish Culture, has tried to illustrate that it is not only a museum with an important collection, a library and an a source of archives, but also a living entity that is actively contributing to the modern history of Jewish culture and supporting contemporary arts. Although the Year of Jewish Culture has ended, Jewish culture is continuing to develop and the museum’s objective remains to preserve historical sources and create new space for creative activities. Many thanks go to all the partners involved.
Under the auspices of the Mayor of the City of Prague Pavel Bém, Chairman of the Senate Přemysl Sobotka, the former president of the Czech Republic Václav Havel, former Ministers of Culture Pavel Dostál and Vítězslav Jandák and the former Chariman of the House of Representatives Lubomír Zaorálek.
Media partners: MF Dnes, Týden, Český rozhlas, The Prague Post
Jewish Museum in Prague, Ministry of Culture, State Fund for Culture, City of Prague, City District Prague 1, City District Prague 3, Embassy of the USA, Embassy of Canada, Embassy of the Netherlands, Embassy of Turkey
Installation Ark was supported by:
SIEZA, s.r.o., Goodside Foundation, Hardesh Foundation, The Lee Foundation, The Davis Family, The Glina Family, The Warshafsky Foundation, JAP–Jewish Art/Products/Politics
Days of Jewish Culture in Brno were supported by:
City of Brno, Region of Southern Moravia, Ministry of Culture, Jewish Community of Brno
Individual projects were supported by other organizations and institutions.
Museums & galleries:
Egon Schiele Art Centrum in Český Krumlov, Galerie Millennium, Galerie SVU Mánes Diamant, Galerie Vyšehrad, Gallery of Visual Arts in Cheb, Museum of Southern Bohemia in České Budějovice, Gallery of Josef Sudek, City Museum and Gallery in Břeclav, City Museum in Česká Třebová, City Museum in Chotěboř, City Museum in Kamenice n. Lipou, City Museum in Polička, City Museum of Žacléř, Moravian Museum in Brno, Museum of Boskovice Region, Museum of Children’s Drawings, Museum of the City of Prague, Museum of Kroměříž Region, Museum of Brno, Museum of the Region of Mladá Boleslav, Museum of Podkrkonoší in Trutnov, Museum in Prostějov, Museum of Roma Culture, Museum of T. G. M. in Rakovník, Museum of Art in Olomouc, Museum in Velké Meziříčí, Museum of Vysočina in Jihlava, Museum of Jewish Culture in Bratislava, National Museum of Photography in Jindřichův Hradec, Regional Gallery in Liberec, Regional Museum in Most, Pedagogical Museum of J. A. Comenius, Regional Museum and Gallery in Jičín, Regional Museum of K. A. Polánek in Žatec, Regional Museum in Mikulov, East-Slovakian Museum in Košice, Jewish Museum in Vienna
Jewish organizations & synagogues:
Baševi o.s., Bejt Praha, Matana, a.s., OLAM – Judaica Holešov Society, Synagogue in Krnov, Synagogue in Rychnov n. Kněžnou, Synagogue in Úštěk, Union of Jewish Youth, Jewish communities in the Czech Republic
Embassies & cultural centres:
Polish Institute, Austrian Cultural Forum, Embassy of Argentina, Embassy of Canada, Embassy of Latvia, Embassy of the Netherlands, Embassy of the State of Israel, Embassy of Turkey, Embassy of the USA
9 gates, Febiofest, Festival Boskovice, Festival ŠAMAJIM in Třebíč, One World, MOFFOM – international festival of music films, Poláčkovo léto in Rychnov n. Kněžnou, Unconventional Autumn of Jiří Hošek, Prague Writers‘ Festival, Prague Spring, Prague Theater Festival of the German Language, Respect, Days of Jewish Culture 2006 in Prácheň Region
Činoherní klub, Dejvické Theatre, Archa Theatre, Minor Theatre, Na Fidlovačce Theatre, na prádle theatre, Na voru Theatre, Na zábradlí Theatre, Pod Palmovkou Theatre, Ponec Theatre, Rokoko Theatre, U stolu Theatre, Ungelt Theatre, V Dlouhé Theatre, Viola Theatre, HaDivadlo, Husa na provázku, Klicperovo Theatre in Hradec Králové, Lyra Pragensis, National Moravian-Silesian Theatre, National Theatre in Brno, National Theatre in Prague, State Opera Prague
Czech Centres, Czech Culture, Hankův dům in Dvůr Králové n. Labem, Charles Unicersity, Karmelitánské Publishing House, Library of Jiří Mahen in Brno, Library in Broumov, Library in Třebíč, Krátký film Praha a.s., Kultura do města in Kutná Hora, Kulturní centrum ZAHRADA, KVIZ Třebíč, City of České Budějovice, City of Heřmanův Městec, City of Lipník n. Bečvou / Czech Hussites Church, City Library in Prague 4, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, Multicultural Centre in Prague, NBK Foundation, National Film Archive, Hartmanice Memorial, Museum of Czech Literature, Terezín Memorial, Roxy / NoD, Areka Association, Respect and Tolerance Association, Serpens Association, Society of Franz Kafka, Praha-Cáchy/Aachen Society, Prague Castle Administration, Úhlava Klatovy, University in Cologne in collaboration with the University of Palacký in Olomouc, František Brikcius
PR: Jana Tomášková, firstname.lastname@example.org, GSM: 602 255 961
Eva Dudasová, email@example.com, GSM: 731 171 517