in the Klaus Synagogue and the Ceremonial Hall
March 1998 saw the opening of the exhibition Jewish Customs and Traditions
- The Course of Life, which was installed in the gallery of the Klaus
Synagogue and in the Ceremonial Hall of the Burial Society. During preparation
of the exhibition space, certain alterations were made to the interior
of the Ceremonial Hall with the aim to restore as many of the original
qualities of the building as possible. On the basis of period photographs
and surveys it was possible to partly restore original paintings from
1908, to repair and fill display cabinets, and to open up a previously
blocked view from the Ceremonial Hall to the Old Jewish Cemetery.
Thematically, the exhibition The Course of Life is directly linked to
the exhibition housed in the main nave of the Klaus Synagogue which
is devoted to Jewish festivals and to the significance of the synagogue.
The newly opened show offers the public a clear and attractive introduction
to the everyday life of the Jewish family and to the customs connected
with each stage of life.
The gallery of the Klaus Synagogue contains exhibits associated with
birth, circumcision, bar mitzvah, wedding, divorce and the Jewish household.
The Ceremonial Hall (basement and first floor) offers an in-depth treatment
of the following related themes: illness and medicine in the ghetto,
death, ritual washing and dressing of the dead, burial and remembrance
of the dead. A separate theme is based on Jewish cemeteries in Bohemia
and Moravia and the Jewish cemeteries in Prague. Attention is also focused
on the organisation and activities of the Prague Burial Society.
The exhibition provides the public with an opportunity to see 349 rare
exhibits from the collections of the Jewish Museum which originate both
from Prague and from other areas in Bohemia and Morava. It forms an
important part of a comprehensive presentation of Jewish customs and
traditions and is the most complete and extensive of its kind to have
ever been presented in the Czech Republic. The Jewish Museum is preparing
a catalogue to accompany the exhibition with a short text and photographs
of the most interesting exhibits. The exhibition is curated by Dr. Alexander
Putík and Dr. Eva Kosáková.
The new display marks a significant expansion of the exhibition programme
of the Jewish Museum. Above all, it completes the thematically arranged
selection of exhibits displayed in other historic buildings in Prague
- the Klaus Synagogue, the Maisel Synagogue (The History of the Jews
in Bohemia and Moravia from the late 10th to the late 18th century)
and the Pinkas Synagogue (Children’s Drawings from Terezín). With the
exhibition The Course of Life, the Jewish Museum has come close to accomplishing
the goal of its exhibition programme - to present the life of the Czech
and Moravian Jewish community as an integral part of the Central European
region and to place it within the wider historical, cultural, social
and political context. This goal will be fully accomplished by the end
of 1998 with the opening of the second part of the historical exhibition
in the Spanish Synagogue (The History of the Jews in Bohemia and Moravia
from the 18th century to the present day).
Restoration work in the Spanish Synagogue
Work is successfully continuing on the overall reconstruction of the
Spanish Synagogue, which this year celebrates its 130th anniversary
of its founding. In February, the heating installation was completed
and the floors were treated so as to prevent rising damp. At present,
the difficult task of restoring glass cabinets and historically valuable
murals is being carried out. The photograph shows the restoring of a
stucco painting inside the dome of the Spanish Synagogue, 26 metres
above the ground.
Donations towards the renovation of the Spanish Synagogue may be sent
to the Jewish Museum account: no. 195 450 830 257/0100, address: Komerční
banka a.s., Spálena 51, 110 00 Praha 1.
Discovery of tombstone fragments
from the medieval Jewish Cemetery in Prague
In late 1997 a significant discovery was made of fragments of medieval
tombstones from the Jewish Cemetery in the New Town of Prague. This
cemetery, known as the Jewish Garden, was established in the mid-13th
century at the latest and was probably the earliest Jewish cemetery
in Prague. It was closed down in 1478.
Previously, the only concrete evidence for the existence of the cemetery
consisted of a few fragments of Jewish tombstones found in 1866 during
construction of the Freemen’s Club in Vladislavova Street. About 10
fragments were transferred to the Old Jewish Cemetery in the Old Town
where they were placed on the wall of the Klaus Synagogue. The earliest
decipherable dates on the tombstones are 1346 and 1351.
The new and unexpected discovery of tombstone fragments occurred during
reconstruction work in the basement area of the house U Řečických in
Vodičkova Street which is not far from Vladislavova Street. Parts of
the marly limestone tombstones had been used for the construction of
an arch in the north basement of the house. Of the material that was
found, 21 fragments bearing Hebrew inscriptions and one which was unmarked
were selected. Several tombstone fragments are on display in the newly
opened exhibition in the Ceremonial Hall. Mediaeval Jewish tombstones
were also recently found in Olomouc (Moravia) and Cheb (North Bohemia).
The above finds will be focused upon in a special essay in the year-book
of the Jewish Museum Judaica Bohemiae.
Jewish Museum Photoarchive
The Jewish Museum Archive contains about 40,000 photographic images
of all kinds. Among other things, it documents collection items, museum
exhibitions, synagogues and cemeteries, covering the period from the
late 19th century to the present.
The material from the pre-war and wartime years is of particular factual
and historical value. This is the case for example with the collection
of slides that belonged to of one of the founders of the Jewish Museum,
Dr. Hugo S. Lieben, which contains a number of unique turn of the century
images of sections of the Jewish Town of Prague no longer in existence.
Also of note is the collection of photographs of synagogues, cemeteries,
prominent Jewish buildings and settlement plans acquired from Jewish
communities outside Prague. These photographs were compiled by the cultural
and educational department of the Prague Jewish Community in 1942 in
connection with the break -up of Jewish communities and the closing
down of synagogues. The material was then transferred to the Central
Jewish Museum which was established by the Nazis at that time.
The wartime collection includes amongst other things photographs documenting
the activities associated with the Treuhandstelle which was the organization
connected with assigned for the collection and management of confiscated
Jewish property that had belonged to individuals and Jewish institutions.
The museum’s archive collection also contains a copy of the Auschwitz
Album which the museum acquired after the Second World War. This includes
reproductions of photographs taken by the Nazis at Auschwitz, the originals
of which are now stored in the Yad Va-shem Memorial in Jerusalem.
After the Jewish Museum renewed its activities after the war the photoarchive
continued to regularly document its exhibitions and items from its collections.
In the 1960s, while the State Jewish Museum was in existence, the collection
was enriched by a set of photographs of Jewish sites in Bohemia and
A smaller section of the Jewish Museum’s photoarchive consists of documentary
films on Palestine and on various Jewish organisations, in addition
to drama productions dealing with Jewish themes. The Jewish Museum devotes
a great deal of care to the photoarchive. A newly built photography
depository was opened in September 1997 and a database is currently
being designed in order to create optimum conditions for the registration
and research of archive material.
New depository for rare synagogue textiles
The Jewish Museum completed the construction of a new depository in
the Maisel Synagogue at the end of 1997. The depository is designed
for the museum’s most valuable synagogue textiles dating from the early
17th and 18th centuries. The museum has installed a range of cases with
spacious drawers in which about 500 synagogue curtains will be placed
in storage. In addition, there is now a stand for 50 selected Torah
mantles and special air-tight glass cabinets for the permanent storage
of Torah crowns.
Recording in the Pinkas Synagogue
The devout nature of the memorial to the Czech and Moravian Jewish victims
of the Holocaust in the Pinkas Synagogue is to be heightened from the
Spring of 1998. Visitors will have the opportunity to hear recordings
of the names of victims being read out by two celebrated Czech actors
- Vlasta Chramostová and Radovan Lukavský. In total, 500 names were
selected. The actors state each forename, family name, place of birth
and age of death, as well as the concentration camp in which the victim
perished. The readings will alternate with the prayers El male rahamim
and Shemah Yisrael as recited by Solomon Katz. The Jewish Museum believes
that this will be well-received by the public and that it will also
encourage tourists to appreciate the devout nature of the memorial.
Jewish Museum collection in Sweden
Following months of intensive work , Jewish Museum staff have prepared
an extensive two-year travelling exhibition of the Museum’s collection
of Judaica. The first show, entitled Jewish Prague, was opened in late
January 1998 in the Princ Eugens Waldemarsudde Museum in Stockholm.
It contains about 250 rare exhibits from various areas in Bohemia and
Moravia - Torah scrolls, synagogue curtains, silver artefacts such as
spice boxes and Torah pointers, rare manuscripts, prints and portraits
mostly from the 18th and 19th centuries. From Sweden the show is heading
for New Zealand and is to end in Australia.
Bar-Ilan University lectures in Prague
On 28 December 1997 a one-day series of lectures by the Bar-Ilan University
took place in the headquarters of the Jewish Community in Prague. This
was organised by the Educational and Cultural Centre of the Jewish Museum
and was held under the auspices of Raphael Gvir, the Israeli Ambassador
to Prague. The common theme of the lectures was Hanukkah, the festival
of lights. The intensive programme involved contributions from the Chief
Rabbi of Prague Karol Sidon, the Ambassador Raphael Gvir and guests
from Israel - the Chief Rabbi of Israel, Israel Meir Lau, the rector
of Bar-Ilan University Prof. Moshe Kaveh, and Prof. Daniel Sperber,
also from Bar-Ilan University. Variety was given to the discussions
in the form of a concert by the Prague group Mishpacha.