Educational and Cultural Centre
of the Jewish Museum in Prague
The Centre has organised a number of meetings with foreign and domestic
students and lecturers since its official opening in August 1996 (in
fact since last April). During the autumn and winter of 1996 seminars
were held here for more than 300 students and 40 lecturers from Israel
and for smaller groups of students from Norway. More than 300 Czech
secondary school pupils and 91 Czech teachers attended lectures and
debates where they learnt of the history, culture and customs of Czech
Jews. Of particular interest in this connection was the international
seminar which took place 3-5 February 1997. This involved historians
from Israel, Prof. Ezra Mendelsohn, Prof. Richard Cohen and Dr. David
Bankier and also Prof. Eduard Goldstücker from the Czech Republic. As
part of the main theme - “History of Jews in the Czech Lands“ - they
dealt with such issues as the basic characteristics of the Jews, the
significance of the bible for Judaism, Christianity and western civilisation,
the emancipation of the Jews, anti-Semitism, Jewish identity, the Holocaust
and aspects of Jewish life during the communist regime and after its
fall in November 1989. The seminar was mainly aimed at secondary school
teachers, university lecturers and employees of institutions dealing
with the methodological aspects of teaching. The main goal was to contribute,
albeit indirectly, to the improvement of history and civil education
teaching in Czech schools and also to get teachers to think of ways
of enriching the teaching of these subjects by means of various Jewish
aspects. The seminar was financed by the European Union - the PHARE
programme - with significant participation of the Jewish Museum in Prague.
There have also been a number of cultural programmes in the Centre aimed
at the general public. For example last October, on the occasion of
the Hanukkah festival, a competition was announced for children and
students to design modern Czech Hanukkah lamps - 30 young people took
part. The specialist jury was made up of representatives from the Academy
of Arts, Architecture and Design, the Academy of Fine Arts, the National
Gallery, the Jewish Museum in Prague and the Jewish Community in Prague.
The winning design was exhibited together with the other most successful
designs in the Klaus Synagogue in the exhibition space given over to
the Hanukkah festival.
A rich cultural programme was prepared for the Centre in March - a lecture
on the taverns and cafés of the Jewish Town, a film show (Jozef Grusse’s
film based on the book by Karel Poláček : the Inn at the Stone Table),
a lecture by and discussion with Prof. Jacob Neusner from New York ,
a specialist on the Mishnah and Talmud, a debate among invited guests
on the themes of xenophobia and the Genocide. Also successful was the
joint concert given by the Jewish group Mišpacha and the Romany group
Terne čhave (literally ”young children“).
The ORT computer laboratory
The ORT laboratory is part of the Educational and Cultural Centre. Its
initial task was to create a home page for the museum (http://www.ecn.cz/ort).
The continually renewed page provides Internet users with basic information
on the Jewish Museum in Prague, an outline of all its main activities,
permanent and temporary exhibitions, cultural programmes in the Centre
and on other items of interest in the museum. Thanks to the Internet,
people from all over the world now have access to current and reliable
information on Jewish activities in Prague.
The computer laboratory is also preparing teacher training material
- guides to the Centre and also tailor-made multimedia programmes directed
mainly at educators at the Centre. Computer training has been organised
both for teachers and for other museum employees. The laboratory is
not as yet open to the general public, although computer training courses
are expected to be started in the near future, particularly for members
of the Jewish communities and other organisations in Prague.
From the Jewish Museum’s metal restoration
The Jewish Museum in Prague takes care of a rich collection of silver,
brass and tin artefacts. Of particular historic and artistic value is
the set of synagogue silverware from Bohemia and Moravia - Torah shields
and crowns, finials, spice boxes, Hanukkah and Sabbath candlesticks
and other objects dating from the 18th to the first third of the 20th
century. A number of the mentioned objects are being gradually conserved
and when necessary restored. As with textile restoration, the restorers
at the Jewish Museum play a major role in the protection of these artefacts
of often irreplaceable cultural value. Pavel Veselý’s restoration work
can be seen in the photograph - a shield, produced in 1852 in Vienna,
which consists of seven plates bearing the names of festivals. This
oblong shield is topped by a crown supported by two lions which also
support the Decalogue tablets in the centre, with five vine-leaf pendants
attached to the bottom. After restoration the shield with other silver
artefacts (Torah pointers and synagogue curtain bells) were displayed
alongside the work of other Czech restorers in the successful exhibition
Discourse with the past for the future in the National Museum in Prague,
which ran from October 1996 to January 1997.
New exhibitions in the Klaus Synagogue
In December 1996 - February 1997 The Peace of the Desert exhibition
was held in the gallery of the Klaus Synagogue. Visitors had the opportunity
to see the work of the renowned Israeli artist Ruth Levin, who with
this exhibition returned to the city of her birth after sixty years.
The curator of the exhibition was Dr. Arno Pařík . In March 1997 another
exhibition - Restored textiles from the Jewish Museum in Prague - was
opened in the same gallery. Here it is possible to see rare Torah mantles,
synagogal curtains as well as covers, wimples, tefillin bags and head
covers dating from the 17-19th centuries. The exhibits reflect the high
professional standards of the Jewish Museum’s restorers and of the numerous
specialists co-operating with the museum. The curator of the exhibition
is Dr. Ludmila Kybalová. The exhibition runs until 30 May 1997.
The estate of Gideon Klein
in the Collection of the Jewish Museum in Prague
At the end of 1996 the archive collection of the Jewish Museum’s Holocaust
Department was enriched by an exceptionally valuable addition - the
estate of the composer and pianist Gideon Klein who died in January
1945 in the concentration camp in Fürstengrube, Silesia. His life was
tragically ended a few weeks after his twenty fifth birthday, thus depriving
the musical world of one of the most outstanding pre-war composers and
Gideon Klein was born in December 1919 in Přerov. He left for Prague
as an exceptionally gifted pianist to study at the Prague Conservatory
where he graduated under Prof. Vilém Kurz. He also studied composition
under Prof. Alois Hába and musical science at the Charles University
- he was, however, soon forced to leave the University as a result of
new anti-Jewish laws, which meant that he was no longer able to perform.
In late 1941 he was deported to the Terezín ghetto where he stayed for
almost three years. Despite the limitations he became involved in teaching,
participated in the cultural life of Terezín and continued to compose.
In October 1944 Klein was included in one of the last transports to
Auschwitz (along with other prominent musicians, until then protected
by the Terezín council of elders, - Hans Krása, Viktor Ullmann, Pavel
Haas, Rafael Schächter and others). On arriving at the camp Klein passed
the selections, thus escaping death in the gas chamber. He was then
sent to Fürstengrube where he worked in the coal mines. The eastern
front approached in January 1945, after which the camp was evacuated;
it was at this time that all traces of Klein disappeared. It remains
unknown to this day whether he was sent on the ”death march“ or whether
he fell victim to the mass killing of the SS commandos whose task was
to liquidate the rest of the camp.
Klein’s estate was offered to the Jewish Museum in Prague by his sister,
Eliška Kleinová. She also went through Terezín, Auschwitz and other
camps until she finally managed to escape from the ”death march“ in
January 1945. Herself a gifted pianist, she stopped performing in Terezín
and instead put all her efforts into protecting and supporting her younger
brother, of whose exceptional talent she had been convinced since childhood.
She was deeply wounded by Gideon’s death at the very end of the war.
It affected the rest of her life which she was to devote to the memory
of her beloved brother and to promoting his uncompleted work , both
in Bohemia and the world. Gideon Klein’s estate, which has come into
the museum’s ownership, mainly consists of pre-war documents such as
his birth certificate, all his reports, his diploma from the State Conservatory
of Music in Prague, his university registration, extensive correspondence
including newspaper articles and concert reviews from the 1930s. The
main part of the estate consists of scores of all Klein’s preserved
compositions dating from the pre-Terezín period (the earliest dating
from his childhood). Both the original Terezín scores which have also
been stored for a number of years in the Terezín Memorial (the museum
also has copies) and the transferred estate constitute a comprehensive
and rich source of information on the life and work of this great artist.
The documents are also accompanied by a series of family photographs.
The estate was transferred with great care due to the efforts of Prof.
Kleinová and her assistant Veronika Suchlová. Researchers will be able
to see the collection after archive treatment, perhaps during this year.
The testimonies of Holocaust survivors
At the instigation of the University of Yale, the personal testimonies
of Holocaust survivors were recorded on videocassettes in the Czech
Republic during 1996. The project was co-ordinated by Nathan Beyrak
from Tel Aviv and directed by the sociologist Fedor Gál from the Charles
University Sociology Dept. It also involved the Czech Foundation of
Film and Sociology and Jewish Museum staff, Anna Hyndráková and Anna
Lorencová. Alongside the recorded testimonies of Czech Jews and four
Romanies are those of three Sudeten Germans who describe how they viewed
the removal of Jews from the Sudetenland. The original cassettes are
stored in the Yale University archives - copies were received also by
the Jewish Museum in Prague. The project was financed by the University
of Yale and the private television station Nova.
The project is continuing this year, but is now focused on the testimonies
of Romanies who survived the hardships of the war. The resulting document
is to be stored in the archives of the Holocaust Memorial Museum in
Washington which instigated and is financing the project.
Prominent visits to the Jewish Museum
In January 1997 Dr. Leo Pavlát welcomed Mr. Siegfried Vergin, member
of the German Federal Assembly and of the budget committee, to the Jewish
Museum in Prague.
In March 1997 on the occasion of the official visit to the Czech Republic
of the Norwegian king Harald V, the Jewish Museum was honoured by a
visit from his wife, Queen Sonja. Accompanied by the wife of the President
of the Czech Republic, Mrs. Dagmar Havlová, the Queen visited the Old-New
Synagogue, the memorial to the victims of the Holocaust in the Pinkas
Synagogue and the Old Jewish Cemetery.
Donations from sponsors
In early 1997 the Jewish Museum in Prague received donations towards
the activities of the Educational and Cultural Centre from a number
of Jewish institutions, above all from the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation
and also from the American Joint Distribution Committee, the Rotschild
Foundation, the Pincus Education Fund for the Diaspora and the Memorial
Foundation for Jewish Culture. All these institutions greatly contribute
to the functioning of the Centre. In the second half of 1997 the Jewish
Museum is to open an exhibition in the gallery of the Klaus Synagogue
of the work of the American painter, Mark Podwal (the illustrator of
Elie Wiesel’s book on the Golem and of his commentary to the Pesach
Haggadah etc.). This project is being significantly funded by Philip
Morris through its subsidiary in the Czech Republic, the Prague-based
Jewish monuments of Prague on Czech and
Israeli postage stamps
On 30 April 1997 the Czech Ministry of Transport and Communications
and the Israeli Ministry of Communications are to jointly issue two
special postage stamps on the theme of Jewish monuments in Prague. The
initiative to issue stamps on a Jewish theme came from the Jewish Museum
in Prague. The design was by the Czech painter James Janíček , the engraving
by Miloš Ondráček . On the 8 k stamp is depicted the eastern side of
the interior of the Old-New Synagogue in Prague with its five-part ribbed
vault, Torah box and section of the Gothic grille surrounding the tribune
(bimah). On the 10 k stamp is depicted the famous tombstone of Rabbi
Loew in the Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague. Further motifs of synagogue
objects - Torah crowns and pointers - were used for the issue of the
specially postmarked first day covers. The issue of both these thematic
stamps indirectly follows on from the series of six stamps based on
Czech Judaism which were issued in 1967. For political reasons - in
connection with the Six-day War in the Near East - these stamps were
withdrawn from circulation and their further sale was banned. A ceremonial
presentation is to take place in the Educational and Cultural Centre
of the Jewish Museum in Prague on the occasion of the issuing of the
special postage stamps on 30 April 1997. It will be attended by representatives
from the Czech and Israeli ministries, the Czech and Israeli Post-offices
and a host of guests from the political and cultural world.
From the museum’s production
A set of colour postcards of the Pinkas Synagogue
The Jewish Museum in Prague has prepared for its visitors a new set
of four postcards showing the recently restored inscriptions in the
memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust in the Pinkas Synagogue.
The impressive photographs are the work of Dana Cabanová, the official
photographer of the Jewish Museum.
1 set of postcards - 1 USD.
The Jewish Museum recently issued a further copy of the journal, Judaica
Bohemia XXXII. Studies are on various themes related to the history
of Jews in the Czech Lands, as well as on major collections of Judaica
in Slovakia and on the fate of Czech Jews during the second world war.
Alexander Putík : On the Topography of the Prague Jewish Town
Prior to the Pogrom of 1389,
Lenka Matušíková: Bestandaufnahme der Hinterlassenschaft von
Abraham Stern Kaufmanns und Pachters von Třeboň,
Bedřich Nosek : Jewish Hebrew Studies in the Czech Lands in the
Pre-Enlightenment Periods - Part IV. Moshe Shemuel Neumann and his Efforts
to Revive Hebrew,
Arno Pařík : The Slovak Jewish Museum in Prešov (Eperjes),
Miroslav Kárný: Vorgeschichte der Regierungsverordnung über die
Rechtstellung der Juden im öffentlichen Leben,
František Fanta: Memoirs,
Anna Hyndráková - Anna Lorencová: Systematic Collection of Memoires
Organized by the Jewish Museum in Prague - III.
The contributions are printed in English and German.
One copy - 6 USD.
Those interested can obtain a limited number of earlier volumes of the
journal at a discount.
For more information on how to buy the Judaica Bohemia and the set of
postcards write to:
The Jewish Museum in Prague,
fax: 00420 22310 681