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New exhibition in the Maisel Synagogue in Prague
History of the Jews in Bohemia and in Moravia

 


Part I - From the First Settlements until the Beginnings of Emancipation, 10th-18th Centuries
Maisel SYNAGOGUE, Maiselova 10, Prague 1

The exhibition runs from 19 April 2001, daily from 9am to 6pm, except Saturdays and Jewish holidays.
Curator by Dr. Alexandr Putík .

 

A newly arranged and extended exhibition of the Jewish Museum in Prague opened in the Maisel Synagogue on 19 April 2001. This provides an overview of the history of the Jews in the Czech Lands from the first settlements in the 10th century through to beginnings of emancipation in the 18th century.
Apart from information on Jewish communities in Prague, Bohemia and Moravia, the exhibition also documents discriminatory measures against the Jews (including the forced wearing of the Jewish badge, persecution and expulsion) and the lives of prominent scholars such as Rabbi Loew and the famous banker Mordechaj Maisel.
The exhibition also features a host of materials from the Jewish Museum in Prague and other institutions that have not previously been exhibited. There is a rich display of work by Jewish goldsmiths and also of interest are a debt note secured by Jan Žižka of Trocnov and the heraldic certificate of Jacob Bassevi, the first Jew to be raised to the nobility.
At the end of 2001 a specially air-conditioned room will be officially opened as part of the exhibition, which will house two of the oldest textiles stored in the Museum - the robe and banner of one of the leading adherents of the Messianic movement, Solomon Molcho, from the period around 1530.

 

From the opening speech of Dr. Leo Pavlát at the exhibition opening on 18 April 2001
“This exhibition in its original form ran for six years and was seen by hundreds of thousands of people from across the world. The Museum’s decision to rearrange it was not prompted by any doubts as to its conception or quality. By newly treating the same theme it merely seeks to develop and elaborate in more detail certain aspects of Jewish history in Bohemia and Moravia that had previously only been outlined. There has also been an attempt to incorporate such aspects more into the general history of this region and to reflect more closely the relations within the relatively autonomous Jewish society and relations between the Jewish minority and the rest of the population. The new exhibition does not differ from its predecessor either in terms of the amount or the nature of the exhibits that document the lives of Bohemian and Moravian Jews. It continues to feature a unique selection of the oldest, and hence the most valuable, objects from the Museum’s collections. At the same time, however, the new exhibition undoubtedly contains more paper documents: maps, unique papers with significant connections to the lives of local Jews and translations of texts depicting the atmosphere of the times. In addition, it features depictions of various artefacts of importance to the earliest history of the Jews in the Czech Lands which the general public has previously had little opportunity to see. To a large extent, therefore, this exhibition reflects the research findings of Jewish Museum specialists in numerous other institutions and, in its overall treatment, provides far more scope than before for highlighting the instructive and educational aspects of the subject matter covered.”

The exhibition is thematically based around individual aspects of Jewish life in Bohemia and Moravia, such as legal status, forms of settlement, depiction of Jewry, professions, self-government, literature, spiritual life and its prominent representatives, spiritual oppression, scholarship, persecution and discrimination, ceremonial processions, and messianism. Focus is placed on regional differences (history of the Jews in Prague, in the rest of Bohemia and in Moravia) and on chronological development. Such an arrangement of material reflects the inner tension in the history of the Jewish existence in the lands of the Czech Crown. On the one hand, the Jews were an inseparable part of the makeup and economic existence of Bohemian and Moravian towns, but on the other hand they constituted a closed community with its own religious, social and cultural life. By establishing connections between different periods of Jewish history, the exhibition enables viewers to look back into the internal structures of this community and to grasp the integral nature of a society that remained hidden from the eyes of contemporaries.

Details:
previous exhibition:
62 three-dimensional objects, 16 texile items
new exhibition:
63 three-dimensional objects, 13 textile items, 17 replicas from outside sources

Institutions that have contributed to the exhibition :
City of Prague Archives
State Central Archives
National Museum Archives
National Library of the Czech Republic
National Museum Library
City of Prague Museum
Royal Canonery of Premonstratensians at Strahov, Strahov Library
Prague Castle Archives
Numismatic Department of the National Museum
Moravian Provincial Archives
Moravian Gallery of Brno
Österreichische Nationalbibliothek , Wien
Bodleian Library, Oxford
Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana, Amsterdam
Universitätsbibliothek Erlangen-Nürnberg
Map Collection of Charles University
Dr. Alois Hrdlička Museum, Humpolec
Municipal Authority of Kasejovice

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