The Museum Invitation to an Exhibition: Secrets in the Attic: Geniza Findings from Bohemian and Moravian Synagogues
Phylacteries, Torah scrolls, amulets, various personal items, and even shoes – all of these items will be on view at an exhibition entitled Secrets in the Attic: Genizah Findings from Bohemian and Moravian Synagogues. Held as part of a project of the same name, the exhibition is on display at the Chrudim Regional Museum between 7 April and 30 June. The exhibition features a selection of the unique finds made by Jewish Museum staff over the last few decades in the attics of synagogues in Bohemia and Moravia. It also includes a long-term panel exhibition in the synagogue in Luže, where the largest intact geniza was discovered.
“Visitors to the exhibition will be able to learn about the little-known Jewish custom of setting aside objects that no longer fulfil their ritual role but cannot be destroyed for religious reasons. The reason for the regulation is respect for God's name, which Hebrew scrolls or books often contain. I am glad that we can now present the first results of this project to the general public,” said the Jewish Museum director Leo Pavlat.
In the 1990s, the Jewish Museum in Prague carried out genizah research in buildings owned by the Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic and its member organizations. In total, museum staff surveyed 13 sites and obtained over 3,000 finds, the oldest dating from the 16th century, the most recent from the 19th century. Some of these findings have already been made available to the public, but most are still awaiting processing.
As part of the exhibition an extensive catalog in Czech and English was published. The findings from the genizah can also be viewed through the online collection catalog and the social networks Facebook and historypin. Beside this, a specialized website will be launched next year. Another exhibition of the genizah findings will take place in Pilsen in the second quarter of next year, with special regard to the findings from western Bohemia.
The Jewish Museum’s “Secrets in the Attic” project is supported by the European Economic Area (EEA) Grants and Norway Grants. For this project, the Jewish Museum has received the maximum amount of CZK 16,808,175 from the EEA Grants 2014–2021, which is approximately 90% of the total eligible project expenses of CZK 18,774,834.
Photo JMP – Genizah finds in the Jewish Museum’s conservation and restoration workshop
A selection of cultural events and lectures
Exhibition “Severed Lives & The Arks of the Maier Family
During January and February, the Jewish Museum’s Department for Education and Culture hosted two interconnected exhibitions on the story of Ruth Maier, an Austrian Jewish girl with Moravian roots, and her family. The exhibitions are based on the diaries that Ruth kept between 1933 and 1942, which record her personal feelings and everyday life, as well as touching upon the political events of the day and the increasing persecution of Jews in Austria following the Anschluss in 1938. The exhibitions were presented by Vilém Reinöhl, a descendant of the Maier family, together with Táňa Klementová from the Brno branch of the Jewish Museum’s Department for Education and Culture, who helped to put together the exhibitions.
Vilém Reinöhl with Táňa Klementová (from the Brno office of the Jewish Museum’s Department for Education and Culture) at the “Severed Lives” exhibition
Photo JMP / Lucie Křížová
“Alma Rosé” monodrama in the Maisel Synagogue
To mark the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a theatrical piece on the life of Alma Rosé was performed in the Maisel Synagogue on 25 January. The monodrama is based on a text by the Polish writer Mariusz Urbanek and was directed by Olga Struskova. Alma Rosé (1906–1944) was an outstanding Austrian violinist who was deported to Auschwitz in 1943 because of her Jewish origin. There she worked as a conductor of the women’s camp orchestra until her death. In the theatrical piece, the role of Alma Rosé was played by Sarah Haváčová, accompanied by Dámské smyčcové kvarteto (Ladies’ String Quartet).
Theatrical performance of “Alma Rosé” starring Sarah Hlaváčová at the Maisel Synagogue
Photo JMP / Dana Cabanová
Gala concert on the occasion of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day
In collaboration with the Jewish Community of Prague, the Jewish Museum hosted the annual gala concert for Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Spanish Synagogue on 27 January. Among the guests were many prominent public figures and diplomats, who were welcomed by the Jewish Museum director Leo Pavlát and the Jewish community chairman, František Bányai. The concert featured the female string quartet Alma Ansámbl, which performed works by Antonín Dvořák, Robert Schumann, Erwin Schulhoff and Gideon Klein.
The Alma Ensemble captivated those attending the gala concert for Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Photo JMP / Dana Cabanová
“Jewish Architects in Prague” lecture series
Since January, the Jewish Museum’s Department for Education and Culture has been hosting a three-part lecture series by the architectural historian Zdeněk Lukes. These lectures draw attention to important but now forgotten figures on the architectural scene during the 20th century in Prague. The January lecture focused on the life and work of Max Spielmann (1881–1970) and the March lecture dealt with the underrated architect Rudolf Wels (1882–1944). The May lecture will highlight the architectural work of František Zelenka (1904–1944), a member of the Devětsil association of Czech avant-garde artists.
The building of the former Health Insurance Company in Karlovy Vary (now health center) built in 1930–1931 in the style of geometric modernism by architect Rudolf Wels.
Opening of the exhibition “The Wingmen”
On 14 March, the opening ceremony of the photographic exhibition The Wingmen (The Story of Czechoslovak Pilots and Aircraft Mechanics in the Service of the State of Israel) took place in the Auditorium of the Jewish Museum’s Department for Education and Culture. This miniseries of photographic portraits tells the stories of several Czechoslovak pilots and mechanics who served in the Israeli army at the time of the founding of the State of Israel and who settled there permanently. On the occasion of the opening of the exhibition, there was a discussion with the photographer of the images on display, Pavlina Šulcová, and with the author of the accompanying biographical texts, Irena Kalhousová. The discussion was moderated by Tomáš Pojar, a security analyst and former Czech ambassador to Israel between 2010 and 2014. The exhibition will be on view until the end of April.
Discussion on the occasion of the opening of the photographic exhibition The Wingmen
Photo Lucie Křížová
Other news from the museum
Commemoration of the victims of the Holocaust at Czernin Palace
On 27 January, the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs paid tribute to the victims of the Holocaust at a memorial ceremony held in Czernin Palace, with particular focus on the Jewish diplomats who were persecuted and murdered during the Second World War. This event was attended via video conference by the Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky, the Israeli Social Equality Minister Meirav Cohen, the Israeli Ambassador to the Czech Republic Anna Azari, the Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Prague Jennifer Bachus, the Czech Foreign Ministry Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues, Interfaith Dialogue and Freedom of Religion Robert Rehak, and the President of the Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic Petr Papoušek. During the speech given by Leo Pavlát, the Director of the Jewish Museum in Prague, photographs of the faces of Shoah victims from the museum’s archive were projected onto a wall. The event also included a meeting with Shoah survivor Michaela Vidláková and with students of the Bohumil Hrabal High School in Nymburk who have documented the fate of the Jewish Pick family. In addition, there was a performance by the Israeli musician Effie Shoshani.
The Czech Foreign Ministry’s Holocaust memorial event was also attended by the Director of the Jewish Museum in Prague, Leo Pavlát (pictured second from the left).
Photo Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic
Paintings from the museum loaned on exhibition in the Netherlands
In early February, Museum MORE in the Dutch town of Gorssel launched an exhibition, titled Czechoslovak Realism, 1918–1945, which showcases the Czechoslovak inter-war avant-garde. Its focus is on the Czechoslovak artists influenced by the realist tendency in post-WW2 German art known as Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity). The latter emerged from the traumatic experience of the war and reflected the subsequent preoccupation with the mundane and the poetry of everyday life. This is the first major international survey of Czechoslovak figurative art from 1918 to 1945, featuring the work of both Czech and German-speaking artists. The Jewish Museum in Prague has loaned three important works from its Visual Arts Collection – portraits by Richard Schrötter, Grete Passer-Schmied Mikeska and Ilona Singer-Weinberger. Girl with Golden Rain (1930) by the latter artist has become the iconic image of the entire exhibition project. The exhibition runs until 8 May of this year.
Ilona Singer-Weinberger (1905–1944)
Girl with Golden Rain, Prague, 1930
oil on canvas, 60 x 45 cm
Richard Schrötter (1893—after 1945)
Portrait of a Lady with a String of Pearls, Prague, 1925
oil on canvas, 79 x 63 cm
Grete Passer-Schmied Mikeska (1899–1998)
Portrait of a Young Woman, Prague, 1927
oil on canvas, 80 x 70 cm
The museum purchased the Hebrew printed book Chut ha-Meshulash
Last autumn, an opportunity arose to purchase the Hebrew printed book Chut ha-Meshulash (Praha: S. Freund, 1859), which the Jewish Museum’s library had listed as one of its disiderata, i.e. one of the books that it would like to acquire. One of the copies of this edition was once part of the pre-war library of the Prague Jewish Religious Community. This copy, however, was lost during the war, as a result of which the holdings of the Jewish Museum’s library became incomplete. Driven by the aim of collecting Hebrew books produced in the Bohemian lands, the Jewish Museum purchased the copy on offer, thereby replacing the loss that had occurred during the war.
The book, whose title means “three-ply cord”, may be characterized as a collection of three essays: Talmudic stories, a philological treatise on Talmudic Hebrew in relation to surrounding languages, and an ethical treatise. It was written by the Hebrew scholar and philosopher Ya'akov Reifmann (1818–1895, Poland), who had close ties to the Haskalah (the Jewish Enlightenment). The book was originally owned by Joseph Doctorowitz, an American rabbi and author of the Talmudic commentary Sefer Midot ha-Batim (1937). Chut ha-Meshulash has been catalogued and added to the holdings of the Jewish Museum under the inventory number H 173.228.
REIFMANN, Ya’akov ben Tzvi Hirsch. Chut ha-Meshulash. Prague: S. Freund, 1859
The War in Ukraine: The Jewish Museum in Prague offers a helping hand
The Jewish Museum in Prague will be providing Ukrainian refugees with free access to its exhibitions, and the Jewish Community of Prague will be giving them free access to the Old-New Synagogue (Altneuschul). This reflects the museum’s decision to become involved in the care of refugees in the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In addition, the museum is prepared to help safeguard Ukrainian museum collections and to provide expert curatorial assistance and assistance in handling collection objects.
“As an institution, we try to provide assistance that can be combined with our regular activities. Our offer to Ukrainian museums and refugees is related to this. I trust that we will be able to make their extremely difficult situation at least a little bit easier, and that a visit to our museum will hold out the promise of a return to normal life in their homeland, free of Russian occupation,” said Leo Pavlát, director of the Jewish Museum in Prague.
HELP FOR UKRAINIAN REFUGEES
The Jewish Museum in Prague will provide Ukrainian refugees with free access to its exhibitions, and the Jewish Community of Prague will give them free access to the Old-New Synagogue (Altneuschul). Entry tickets can be picked up at the museum’s Information and Reservation Centre, Maiselova 15, Prague 1–Josefov.
Єврейський музей у Празі пропонує безкоштовний вхід у свої будівлі квитки можна отримати в: інформаційному центрі, Maiselova 15, Прага 1 – Йозефов.
EVACUATION OF COLLECTIONS FROM UKRAINE
In response to an appeal received through the Association of Museums and Galleries in the Czech Republic, the Jewish Museum in Prague has offered to provide expert curatorial assistance (especially with Judaica) and assistance in handling collection objects, should Ukrainian collections be transferred to the Czech Republic.
The Jewish Museum was visited by the U.S. Chargé d’Affaires in Prague, Jennifer Bachus
On Thursday 27 January, to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Jewish Museum in Prague was visited by the U.S. Chargé d’Affaires in Prague, Jennifer Bachus. Accompanied by the Director of the Jewish Museum in Prague, Leo Pavlát, she went to the Pinkas Synagogue to pay tribute to the victims of the Holocaust and to see the exhibition of children’s drawings from the Terezín Ghetto.
The Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Prague, Jennifer Bachus, with the Director of the Jewish Museum in Prague, Leo Pavlát, at the Pinkas Synagogue exhibition of children’s drawings from the Terezín Ghetto.
Photo JMP / Dana Cabanová
Catalogue for the exhibition Secrets in the Attic
Despite its uniqueness, the genizah phenomenon in the Czech Republic is almost unknown. The Jewish Museum in Prague – in collaboration with its partner, the Regional Museum of Chrudim – has arranged for the “Secrets in the Attic” exhibition to be held directly in the region where the genizah finds were made. An extensive Czech-English catalogue has been published for the exhibition with a text by the curator Lenka Uličná, and containing a plethora of beautiful photographs. As a result of financial support from the EEA Grants 2014–2021, both the Czech and the English version of the catalogue are available at the exhibition venue in the Regional Museum of Chrudim for the discount price of just CZK 100.
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Editor: Tomáš Tetiva
Photographs: JMP unless otherwise stated