of JEWISH CULTURE IN PRAGUE
A major cultural event took place in Prague in November 2000 - the first
Nine Gates Festival of Jewish Culture. It takes its name from
the well-known and identically titled book by Czech Jewish writer Jiří
Mordechaj Langer (1894 Prague - 1943 Tel Aviv).
The festival programme was wide-ranging in scope, featuring
numerous theatre, music and film presentations, exhibitions, literary
gatherings and seminars on Jewish issues, and involving the participation
of outstanding Czech and international artists and cultural figures. The
Jewish Museum in Prague was also involved in this event. The Spanish
Synagogue played host to a number of distinguished musicians and
the Education and Culture Centre featured several interesting lectures
on Jewish history (The Prague Jewish Town, Maharal) and on current issues
facing the Jewish community (modern anti-Semitism, Jewish education).
The director of the Jewish Museum, Dr. Leo Pavlát, gave a
talk in the Centre on The significance and objectives of the Ronald
S. Lauder Foundation. As is widely known, this Foundation provides
financial and organizational support for Jewish education in Central and
Eastern Europe. It has been active in the Czech Republic since 1994 and
it is through its assistance that a Jewish kindergarten was opened in
Prague. The Foundation has also been involved in other educational projects
of the Prague Jewish community, most notably the establishment of the
Lauder Elementary School Gur Aryeh and the Lauder High School
Or Hadash. In addition, it financially contributes to the activities
of the Museum’s Education and Culture Centre. Dr. Pavlát’s talk was supplemented
by a documentary film on the activities of the Foundation. This was followed
by a theatrical presentation of The Golem by children from the
Lauder kindergarten and elementary school (a play written and prepared
by Vida Neuwirthová).
on the confiscation of jewish property
of Jewish property in Nazi-occupied territory was one of the means by
which Jewish rights and freedoms were suppressed and by which Jews were
severed from political, economic and social life. Various issues relating
to this process and its consequences were addressed by an international
science conference on the Confiscation of Jewish property in Bohemia
and Moravia, which took place in the Education and Culture Centre
between 13-15 November 2000. The conference was organized by the Terezín
Initiative Institute in collaboration with the Jewish Museum in Prague.
Discussions were attended by representatives of science/research and academic
centres, Charles University, Masaryk University of Brno, museums and other
local and foreign institutions.
Lost Neighbours Project
long-term project Lost Neighbours was launched this year by the
Museum’s Education and Culture Centre under the auspices of the Office
of the President of the Czech Republic. Its aim is to make the young generation
aware of the fate of Shoah victims. Throughout the year, young people
met and spoke to people who lived through this tragedy. These personal
encounters and other findings formed the basis for literary and documentary
reports by students, which were compiled in a single volume. This was
presented at a discussion forum hosted by the well-known Czech writer
Arnošt Lustig, who himself had been through the terrors of the concentration
The project met with great interest among young people and
teachers. Those involved in the project were received by the Czech President
Václav Havel in November 2000.
items displayed in exhibitions of the Jewish Museum in Prague often reflect
the aspects or trends characteristic of a certain historical stage in
the development of the Jewish community. In this regard, objects that
reflect Jewish assimilation into the wider society are of particular interest.
Attempts at assimilation were first promoted in various European countries
from about the mid-18th century, but primarily in the 19th century. Assimilation
in the Czech Lands took a more pronounced form in the first half of the
19th century. An important role in this was played by the late 18th century
reforms of Emperor Joseph II.
Initially, Jews adapted to the German environment, but after
the 1840s assimilation was directed more towards Czech society. This development
was linked, among other things, to the growing political, cultural and
social significance of the Czech people. Czech Jewish assimilation was
reflected primarily in social life, education and culture. Various Czech-Jewish
organizations were established from the 1870s, such as the Association
of Czech Academics-Jews, the Czech-Jewish National Association and the
Association of Czech Progressive Jews. Jewish children went to Czech schools
and the Czech language was used in services and in prayer books, calendars
The assimilation process is reflected by many objects in
the Jewish Museum’s collections, such as a Torah mantle from 1918 which
comes from Sušice (see picture). This can be seen in the exhibition The
History of Jews from Emancipation to the Present which is housed
in the Spanish Synagogue. The donation inscription on the mantle is in
Czech with Hebrew letters. Such a combination is a very rare feature,
as inscriptions on liturgical objects and on tombstones of assimilated
Jews were usually only in Czech.
This mantle - like many other objects in the care of the
Jewish Museum in Prague - has its own special history. The embroidered
text on the mantle shows that it was donated by Herman and Kamila Barth.
When it was seen in the Spanish Synagogue exhibition by Mrs. Hana Grun,
who was on a recent visit from the US, she found out that her parents
were the donors.
The 9th Musica Iudaica International Musical Festival was held
in Prague between 2 November-19 December 2000. It took place under the
auspices of the Israeli Ambassador, Erella Harel. The festival included
a performance in the Spanish Synagogue by the distinguished American cantor
Ira S. Bigeleisen.
Synagogue in Liberec
A new synagogue was opened in Liberec at the beginning of November. This
was a unique event as it is the first new building of its kind in the
Czech Republic since the end of the Second World War.
The Jewish community of Liberec is one of the few communities
in Bohemia and Moravia that renewed their activities after the war and
have continued to the present day. The history of the Jewish settlement
in this area dates back to about the 14th century, which was when the
first Jewish families started to settle here. A separate Jewish religious
community was not established in Liberec until 1872. An orthodox Talmudic
reading-room was opened here after the First World War. The Liberec Jewish
community was dissolved during the Nazi occupation.
The new synagogue was built on the site of the original Neo-Renaissance
synagogue which was destroyed by the Nazis in November 1938. The Jewish
Museum in Prague contributed to the success of the project by providing
expert consultation with regards the design of the interior and the restoration
of the Torah ark.
of The Jewish Cemetery in Fibichova street
year, the Jewish Museum in Prague took charge of the administration of
another historic building of the Prague Jewish Community - the Jewish
cemetery in the Prague area of Žižkov in Fibichova Street. A number of
prominent Jewish figures are buried here, such as the former Chief Rabbi
of Prague and leading representative of the Prague Yeshiva Ezechiel Landau
(1713-1793), his pupil Eleazar Flekeles (1754-1826), and the Chief Rabbi
Solomon Yehudah Rapoport (1790-1867).
The Museum has prepared a detailed project covering essential
measures to be taken, namely the construction of a new enclosure (currently
being completed) and the maintenance of tombstones and the garden. It
is expected that this historic monument will be open to the public as
early as next year. Visits will be by arrangement.
Work of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis in Paris
A touring exhibition of the work of the Viennese Jewish painter Friedl
Dicker-Brandeis (1898 Vienna -1944 Auschwitz) opened in the Museé d’Art
et d’Histoire du Judaisme in Paris in November 2000. 8 artworks and 25
Terezín children’s drawings are on loan from the Jewish Museum in Prague.
Exhibitions on Jewish Themes - Dobruška
The town of Dobruška is situated in Bohemia to the north-east of Prague.
The first references to a Jewish presence here date back to the period
after the first expulsion of Bohemian Jews from the royal towns in 1543.
The Jewish population of Dobruška changed in the course of time and its
status was greatly influenced by the granting of equal rights to Jews
and the possibility of free movement in the second half of the 19th century.
The 20th century witnessed a marked decrease in the local Jewish population.
While there were about 70 Jews in the mid-19th century, by 1930 there
were only 39. The Jewish community which was established here in the 17th
century was not restored after the Second World War. The majority of the
local Jewish population died in the Nazi concentration camps. Survivors
did not return to Dobruška.
Several sites of importance have been preserved from the
original Jewish ghetto (first recorded in 1721), in particular a Neo-Gothic
synagogue from the second half of the 19th century. This was built on
the site of two previous synagogues which were both destroyed by fire.
After the Second World War, the synagogue was sold to the Czech Brethren
Evangelical Church which since then has used it as a house of prayer.
The cemetery is another historic Jewish site in Dobruška, the oldest tombstones
dating back to the late 17th century. Also of interest is the rabbi’s
house, where an 18th century ritual bath (mikvah) was recently discovered.
The Museum of Dobruška, in collaboration with the Jewish Museum in Prague,
installed in the vestibule of this house an exhibition on Jewish customs
which also deals with the history of the local Jewish community. As well
as expert assistance, the Jewish Museum provided the local museum with
several items from its collections, including articles that originate
from Dobruška and its surroundings.
publication by the Jewish Museum in Prague
the publication of guides to the exhibitions in the Spanish and Klausen
synagogues and the Ceremonial Hall, the Jewish Museum has now come out
with another book - Prague Synagogues. All the historic buildings
in the Jewish Town have undergone gradual reconstruction since the establishment
of the Jewish Museum in Prague in October 1994. That was when the Museum
became responsible for the care of collection items that had been returned
by the state to the Federation of Jewish Communities and for the administration
of the historic synagogues that had been returned to the Jewish Community
of Prague. Many of these synagogues had waited years for restoration,
some were finally opened after years of forced closure.
The book Prague Synagogues deals with the history
and current state of seven of the most prominent synagogues in Prague.
It follows on from a similar publication of the early 1980s which has
been completely sold out. The new book features detailed architectural
and historical descriptions of these unique memorial buildings of Jewish
Prague and is supplemented by a wealth of photographic documentation.
The book takes you through seven centuries of Jewish history spotlighting
the legendary Old-New Synagogue (established c. 1270 and still
in use to this day); the Pinkas Synagogue (1535) of the Horovitz
family (converted to an impressive memorial to the nearly 80,000 victims
of the Nazi persecution of Bohemian and Moravian Jews); monuments from
the Golden Age of the Jewish Town, including the Renaissance High
Synagogue (1586) and the Maisel Synagogue (1592); and what
used to be the second main house of prayer of the Prague Jewish community,
the Baroque Klausen Synagogue (1694). There is also a fascinating
chapter with lavish photographs of the decorative Moorish interiors of
more recent buildings - the Spanish Synagogue (1868) and the
Jerusalem Synagogue (1906), the latter being built in the New
Town as a replacement for three synagogues that had been demolished in
The text is by Arno Pařík, the photographs by Dana
Cabanová and Petr Kliment. The book is in two versions:
one in Czech, English and German, the other in French, Spanish and Italian.
It is available on-line at http://www.jewishmuseum.cz and may
be ordered from the Jewish Museum in Prague, Jáchymova 3, 110 01 Prague
1, Czech Republic, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or via the Internet at http://www.jewishmuseum.cz.
It is also being prepared as a CD-ROM.
following new souvenirs are on offer:
- bound collection of postcards
featuring historic buildings of the Jewish Museum in Prague
- jigsaw puzzle with pictures
of the Old-New Synagogue, the Spanish Synagogue and the tombstone of
- a new set of postcards featuring
historic sites of the Jewish Museum in Prague,
- wooden pencils with decorative
- writing paper featuring
a wedding contract (ketubbah), Ferrara, 1715
- havdalah candlestick
- framed reproduction of the
title page of the Tashlich Book (Sefer Tashlich) from 1829
These and other
souvenirs can be bought in the Museum’s shops in the Spanish, Klausen
and Maisel synagogues or ordered from the Jewish Museum in Prague, Jáchymova
3, 110 01 Prague 1, Czech Republic, e-mail: email@example.com, Internet-http://www.jewishmuseum.cz.
The historic sites of the Jewish Museum were visited by Jicchak Navon,
President of the State of Israel in 1978-1983.
The Jewish Museum was visited by Queen Paola of Belgium, who was in Prague
on a state visit with her husband, King Albert III.
New Address of the
The Jewish Museum in Prague
is moving its offices to a new address in February 2001: U Staré školy
1, 110 01 Prague 1, Czech Republic, tel.: 0042/02/24819456, fax: 02/24819458.
The precise date of the move will be announced on the Internet and in