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The economic situation for the Jewish Museum - three years of the low income

For the third year in a row, in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and now the war in Ukraine, the economic crisis has continued to have a negative impact, which has resulted in soaring inflation. For the past three years, the Jewish Museum as non-state-funded institution has been struggling with a difficult economic situation, having to deal with major losses in income due to a drastic decline in tourism and to rapidly rising operating costs.

In terms of economic results, 2019 was the last positive year when the museum’s revenue reached the expected level. As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, visitor numbers in 2020 were down 81.37% on the previous year and receipts from ticket sales declined by as much as 84.09%. A similar decline occurred in 2021, with attendance down by 79.10% compared to 2019 and receipts from ticket sales declining by 81.12%. The situation has improved slightly this year, but there is still almost a 60% decline in visitor numbers and in receipts from ticket sales.

Moreover, from 1 January 2023, the Jewish Museum will be facing a dramatic increase in electricity and gas bills – about 350% higher than in 2022 (450% increase for gas, 300% increase for electricity). In nominal terms, it is estimated that our annual costs will rise by CZK 7.5 million, from the current CZK 3 million to CZK 10.5 million. In addition, operating costs can also be expected to increase – by 15-20% compared to the present level – as a result of contractual indexation of prices for services in line with average annual inflation for 2022.

If you would like to support the Jewish Museum’s activities, please consider making a financial donation – this can be made at any time by bank transfer to our account no. 10426398/6200 with the payment reference number 2020. You can also send a donation via PayPal: paypal@jewishmuseum.cz. The terms and conditions for use of a donation can be arranged individually according to your wishes and requirements. We will also issue you with a receipt for tax purposes, and we can prepare a deed of gift.
Photo JMP / The Pinkas Synagogue and The Old Jewish Cemetery.

A selection of cultural events and lectures

Memorial concert for Yom HaShoah Ve-Hagevurah

In April, the Jewish Museum in Prague hosted its annual gala concert for Yom HaShoah Ve-Hagevurah (Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day) in Prague’s Maisel Synagogue. The concert, which this year took place on Thursday, 28 April, was introduced by Zuzana Pavlovská, who heads the Jewish Museum’s Department for Education and Culture. It featured the Kukal Quartet, a young ensemble that won third prize at last year’s Prague Spring International Music Competition. The concert opened with Five Pieces for String Quartet by the composer and pianist Erwin Schulhoff (1894–1942), which was followed by works by Bohuslav Martinů (1890–1959) and Leoš Janáček (1854–1928). This event was held with financial support from the City of Prague.

The Kukal Quartet performed at the Memorial concert for Yom HaShoah Ve-Hagevurah.

Photo JMP / Dana Cabanová

Lecture by Martin Wein at the Jewish Museum’s Department for Education and Culture

On Wednesday, 25 May, a distinguished guest, the Israeli historian and political scientist Martin Wein, was invited to give a lecture at the Jewish Museum’s Department for Education and Culture. Martin Wein is the author of the books A History of Czechs and Jews: A Slavic Jerusalem and History of the Jews in the Bohemian Lands. During his brief visit to the Czech Republic, he also talked about his work in a public lecture at Palacký University in Olomouc.

In his lecture at the Jewish Museum, he focused on one of the most significant milestones not only in Czech history itself, but also in Czechoslovak-Israeli relations, i.e. the show trial of Rudolf Slánský and of others from his inner circle. Wein placed the trial in the context of historical events relating to the Holocaust, the post-war supply of Czechoslovak arms to the emerging State of Israel, and Soviet ideas about the political system in the Middle East. The lecture was well received by the audience and also inspired a rich discussion afterwards.

Five Glimpses into the Art Collection of the Jewish Museum in Prague – lecture series with curator Michaela Sidenberg

A new lecture series on the Jewish Museum’s visual art collection was launched in May. In a series of five lectures, Michaela Sidenberg, the collection’s long-time curator, will be drawing attention to the fate of little-known artworks and to the stories of the original owners of many of these pieces. Following the first two lectures in May and June, the series will continue from October to December. Each lecture will focus on the creation of this unique collection and the research into the provenance of its artworks, as well as featuring the work of female artists and portraiture, among other topics. There will also be a separate presentation of the life and work of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, a leading representative of the Central European interwar avant-garde, with an emphasis on her legacy in the form of the world’s largest collection of children’s drawings from the Shoah.

Discussion with the filmmakers of the documentary series Stories of the 20th Century: the Holocaust

Last autumn marked the 80th anniversary of the first Jewish transports from the Nazi Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, and the establishment of the Terezín/Theresienstadt ghetto. It was on this occasion that Czech Television launched the third series of the eight-part documentary series Stories of the 20th Century, which provides a comprehensive exploration of the Holocaust in the context of the former Czechoslovakia. The series’ creators, Adam Drda and Viktor Portel, rely primarily on unique testimonies from the last survivors, which are part of the collection of the Memory of Nations organisation and have been brought together over the last 10 years. On Monday, 20 June, the Maisel Synagogue hosted a discussion between the documentary filmmakers and the documentarist Martin Šmok about how the documentary was made. This event also included a screening of short excerpts from the documentary series.
Discussion about the making of the documentary film series Stories of the 20th Century on the subject of the Holocaust. From left Viktor Portel, Martin Šmok and Adam Drda.
Photo JMP / Dana Cabanová

MANTIC project

The MANTIC project is co-financed by the European Union through the CERV programme and is being carried out by three partner organisations: the Jewish Community of Prague, the Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic, and the Jewish Museum in Prague. The Jewish Museum’s Department for Education and Culture is involved in the educational part of the project. Together with Czech school pupils and students, this department is working on the outputs of the Annual Report on Manifestations of Antisemitism in the Czech Republic as part of its educational programme. At present, more than 300 pupils have already been supported in this way. The Jewish Museum’s Department for Education and Culture also organises seminars for teachers as part of the “Jews, History and Culture” series. Four seminars have already been held this year, two in Prague and two in Brno.

Brno seminar from the “JEWS, HISTORY AND CULTURE” series

On 28 April, more than twenty teachers from all over Moravia and Silesia gathered at the Jewish Museum’s Brno branch for another seminar in the “Jews, History and Culture” series. The event began with a Jewish traces tour in Brno with the historian Michal Doležel, as well as a visit to the almost miraculously preserved apartment of the Jewish Herdan family, who escaped to Johannesburg in the face of growing antisemitism in 1938.

The house in Hlinky Street (No. 46) was owned by the Jewish intellectual Eugen Teltscher (1883–1942) and his wife Elsa (née Feiner, 1885–1942). On 2 February 1933, their daughter Johanna (1909–1993) married Richard Herdan (1900–1966), an engineer and head of the export department at Škoda Works for South America. Johanna’s father had the apartment renovated and furnished by the Hungarian-born Jewish architect Emerich Horvát, and then gave it to the newlyweds.

In August 1938, Richard Herdan and his wife Johanna moved to Johannesburg with their son Lee Thomas (born 1933) and daughter Felicitas (born 1937), thus escaping Nazi persecution. Richard and Johanna never returned to Czechoslovakia. They spent the rest of their lives in South Africa. Their house in Hlinky Street was confiscated by the Nazis in 1943. The Teltschers were deported to the Terezín/Theresienstadt ghetto and then to the Piaski ghetto near Lublin, where they perished.

In 2020, the unique interior space was discovered during a search for film locations by the architect Ondřej Lipensky. Information about this find was subsequently provided to the public by the historian Michal Doležel. In the same year, a plan was made to conserve the apartment and to replace missing furnishings. The aim was to restore its impressive appearance so that that it could be used as a venue for cultural events and guided tours.

A lecture by Zbyněk Taranto (from the Faculty of Near Eastern Studies at the University of West Bohemia, Pilsen) charted the history of the commemoration of Holocaust victims in Israel and the origins of Yom HaShoah Ve-Hagevurah (Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day). In the afternoon, the lecturers and seminar participants joined together in a public reading of the names of Holocaust victims as part of Yom HaShoah Ve-Hagevurah. After being commemorated online for the last two years, the event was once again held outside this year.
The interior of the apartment of the Jewish Herdan family.
Photo Michal Doležel

Brno Museum Night and OPEN HOUSE BRNO Festival

Once again, the Brno branch of the Jewish Museum’s Department for Education and Culture took part in two festivals in May. On Saturday, May 21, as part of Brno Museum Night, almost a hundred visitors went for a walk through the city centre in the footsteps of the Brno Jewish community, visiting the Agudas Achim Synagogue after Havdalah. There was a talk about Jewish holidays and customs in conjunction with a kosher wine tasting in the courtyard and in a sukkah by candlelight, which created a special atmosphere. A week later, fifty admirers of modern architecture gathered at the synagogue during the Open House Brno festival to learn more about this unique building, which was designed in the purist-functionalist style, and to find out about the life of its creator, the Jewish architect Otto Eisler.
The participants of the Brno Museum Night visited the Agudas Achim Synagogue.

The other news from the museum

Family portraits returned to the descendants of the original owners after 80 years

At the end of May, two pastels by the Jewish artist Max Soldinger (1906–1962), depicting child portraits of Ewald and Jan Osers, were handed over by the Jewish Museum director, Leo Pavlát, to the granddaughter of their original owner, Lenka Warner. In 1942, both portraits were confiscated from the apartment where the mother of the two brothers, Josefina (Fini) Osers (1894–1942), lived until her deportation.

Portrait of a boy (Jan Rudolf Osers, born 1921)

In 2019, descendants of the family contacted the Jewish Museum to ask for help in locating artworks and valuables lost during the Second World War. The two portraits that had been confiscated exactly 80 years ago, almost to the day, were subsequently identified in the museum’s collections and then returned to their rightful owners.

“I am pleased that our museum can return the portraits to the family that they originally belonged to. This is important with regard to dealing with historical injustice and, at the same time, is an expression of the Jewish Museum’s enduring position and of its efforts to contribute as much as possible to righting the wrongs that were inflicted during the German occupation,” said the Jewish Museum director, Leo Pavlát. 

Portrait of a young man (Ewald Osers, born 1917)

Both portraits were confiscated in 1942 by Treuhandstelle Prag, a special department for managing property confiscated from deportees from Prague and the surrounding area. In 1944, they were then removed from a storage facility in Prague’s Vinohrady Synagogue and were transferred to the Central Jewish Museum, where selected confiscated items were collected.

Redressing property injustices committed during the Second World War and the Shoah is a commitment to which the Czech Republic has subscribed in related international conferences and forums. The Jewish Museum in Prague is supportive of the state’s efforts in this area and strives to serve as an example of good practice for other cultural institutions.

Family portraits were handed over to Ms. Lenka Warner by Leo Pavlát, director of the JMP.
Photo JMP / Dana Cabanová

Jewish Museum involved in the creation of the Judaica Index

The Judaica Index, an online resource prepared by the Rothschild Foundation Hanadiv Europe, is now available on the judaicaindex.org website. It contains information on more than 200 Jewish ritual objects, searchable in 15 languages (Czech, English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Polish, Hungarian, Greek, Russian, Hebrew, Arabic, Ladino, and Yiddish) by name or keyword. Each record includes a definition, images and a bibliography. The Jewish Museum’s Collections Department and Jewish History Department have also contributed to the project.

Kolben family photo albums acquired by the Jewish Museum

In May, the Jewish Museum’s archives collections were enriched by the addition of two interesting photo albums from the Kolben-Schück family archive in the city of New Ulm in the American state of Minnesota. The albums were acquired from the estate of Mr. Gerhard Schück-Kolben (1921–2000), a former member of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and grandson of the renowned entrepreneur and electrical engineer Dr. Emil Kolben (1862–1943 concentration camp Terezín).

The first photo album contains photographs of young Gerhard Schück-Kolben, his younger brother Robert and their parents Gréta and Ignác. It also includes pictures of Dr. Emil Kolben’s family, his wife Malvína (née Popper) and their children, the eldest son Hanuš (b. 1895), Gréta (b. 1898) and Lilly (b. 1902). The photographs give us a glimpse into the Kolben family’s home, their everyday life, family gatherings, celebrations, leisure time, and holidays in the Alps.

The first album also includes photographs of the interior and garden of the Kolben family’s “Red Villa” in Hradešínská Street in the Vinohrady district of Prague, where the family lived from 1902 onwards. It is known that Emil Kolben was fond of luxury vehicles and that he was one of the co-owners of the Praga Car Factory, which later became part of the ČKD concern. There are several pictures of his Praga Golden and Praga Lady cars, produced in 1937, with which various members of the family pose.

The second album traces the life of Gerhard Schück-Kolben during and shortly after the Second World War, specifically between 1943 and 1946. It includes photographs from his flight training in Canada and Great Britain, as well as photographs of the aircraft that Gerhard piloted, his instructors, and flight and ground staff.

These photo albums are an interesting testimony to the life of members of the Kolben family in the period before and during the Second World. They not only complement our existing archival collections, but will certainly also contribute to further enriching our knowledge of this important business family of Jewish origin.

Gerhard Schück-Kolben

Jewish Museum’s visual art collection enriched by the addition of drawings by Georges Kars

In May, the Jewish Museum managed to enrich its visual art collection with the addition of two figural drawings by the prominent Jewish painter Georges Kars (1880–1945), which were acquired by purchase and donation from a private collection in southern France. Both works, dating from Kars’ late period, had been purchased by the previous owner from the Chappe-Lautier Gallery in Toulouse. The study of a seated girl with a scarf, sometimes referred to as La petite juive, was made during a brief interlude of the artist’s stay in Prague, which lasted less than two years and was abruptly ended by Nazi Germany’s occupation of the rest of the Czech lands. Georges Kars and his wife Nora fled back to France, where they had earlier been living for a long time.

The second of the two drawings, a female nude titled Jeune femme nue, is another interpretation of Kars’ beloved toilette theme, this time set in the intimate atmosphere of a particularly dark interior. Out of the shadows emerges Kars’ characteristic, classically statuesque female figure with firm rounded features; in the background, the complementary silhouette of a jug with a slender neck. This work appears to reflect the dark atmosphere of the year 1940 when, following the Nazi occupation of Paris and other parts of France, Georges Kars once again found himself in imminent danger. Together with his wife, he fled first from the small town of Anse in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region to Lyon and then illegally crossed the border into neutral Switzerland, where in 1945 he ended his life by jumping out of the window of a Geneva hotel.
Georges Kars (1880–1945)
Girl with Scarf (La petite juive), 1938
chalk on paper, 630 x 477 mm
signed and dated lower left: Kars 38
Georges Kars (1880–1945) Toilette (Jeune femme nue), 1940
charcoal on paper, 633 x 462 mm
signed and dated lower left: Kars 40

News about the project “Secrets in the Attic: Genizah Findings from Bohemian and Moravian Synagogues”

The exhibition Secrets in the Attic: Genizah Findings from Bohemian and Moravian Synagogues was on display at the Regional Museum of Chrudim. This exhibition featured 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. Visitors can still visit the synagogue in Luže, where a panel exhibition on the same topic is open for a long time.

The “Secrets in the Attic” exhibition documented the fragility of objects of material culture and pointed to the gaps in our knowledge of this topic. It familiarized visitors with the genizah, which offers an encounter with important remnants of the Jewish presence. For decades, objects whose original shapes and colours can often only be guessed at have been decaying in genizot, including those in the Czech lands. It is not possible to fully know their original form, and sometimes not even their function, but they nevertheless provide an impressive glimpse into the world of long-gone Jewish communities in East Bohemia and elsewhere”, said Leo Pavlát, the director of the Jewish Museum.

On 14–16 June, as part of the exhibition, a workshop for conservators, restorers and museum professionals was also held at the Regional Museum of Chrudim, which helped to strengthen the professional skills of museum staff involved in the preservation of movable cultural heritage.

The project also involved the making of a film, Secrets in the Attic, which was narrated by the actor and Vinohrady Theatre director Tomáš Töpfer. The film was awarded an Honourable Mention at the 24th annual museum film festival MUSAIONfilm, specifically for the Jewish Museum in Prague “for the engaging portrayal of its work on its collections”.

As part of the project activities, the Jewish Museum completed the reconstruction of the depositories of old printed books in its administration building. The flooring was replaced, the walls and door frames were repainted, the windows were refurbished, and interior shutters were installed to prevent heat and moisture loss and to prevent daylight and UV rays from penetrating the rooms. In addition, the old humidifiers and dehumidifiers were replaced with new ones, and new interior equipment was installed.

A catalogue was published for the exhibition with a text by the curator Lenka Uličná and accompanied by beautiful photographs. This can be purchased via JMP e-shop since August. The Jewish Museum plans to enter the exhibition and catalogue in Gloria Musaealis, a national competition for museums in the Czech Republic.

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.

"Secrets in the Attic" exhibition at the Regional Museum in Chrudim

Jewish Museum involved in the Prague Visitor Pass project

Prague Visitor Pass is a tourist card issued by Prague City Tourism, a city-run organization in charge of promoting and managing tourism in Prague. Tourists and visitors to the Czech capital can use the pass to visit historical sites, museums and galleries, to obtain discounts, or as a public transport ticket. The Jewish Museum is now included on the pass, which means that all three of its tours – the Prague Jewish Town, the Jewish Museum in Prague, and the Old Synagogue – can be visited for free with this card. You can choose the Prague Visitor Pass to suit your preferences, either for 48 hours, 72 hours, or 120 hours. It is available at all sales points, online, and in an app.

The return of a lost book – Jüdische Balladen

In December 2021 we discovered that Jüdische Balladen [Jewish Ballads](Weimar: Alexander Duncker, 1919), a book formerly owned by the Prague Jewish Religious Community, was listed in the catalogue of the Universitätsbibliothek der Justus-Liebig-Universität Giessen (The Giessen University Library). We then made a claim to this book (call number 8.821), which was lost during the Second World War, and Justus-Liebig-Universität Giessen, which had acquired the book in good faith, promised to repatriate it. After a memorandum of understanding was signed, the book was returned on 8 June 2022.

The author of the book is József Kiss (1843–1921), a Hungarian poet who was one of the first Jewish authors to receive recognition from Hungarian society. In his literary work, he drew on his experience of wandering through Hungary for several years, which was prompted by his family’s difficult financial situation. After his mother had died and his father’s business had stopped making money, he moved to the countryside, where he supported himself for three years as a religious teacher. He later worked at the editorial offices of various newspapers and also published detective stories under a pseudonym. His poems, which gained a lot of popularity, particularly deal with the topic of emancipation and the transformation of Jewish society. Jüdische Balladen is a German translation of the Hungarian original. The book has been catalogued and listed in the Jewish Museum’s collection under its original call number.

VIP Visits

Jewish Museum visited by Spanish-speaking ambassadors

On April 24, Spanish-speaking ambassadors in Prague visited the Jewish Museum in connection with the exhibition Más allá del deber (Beyond Duty) at the Instituto Cervantes in Prague, which highlighted the efforts taken by Spanish diplomats to assist Jewish refugees during the Second World War. The visit was organized by the Spanish Ambassador to the Czech Republic, His Excellency Angel Lossada, who invited all of the Spanish-speaking ambassadors in Prague to a tour of the local Jewish sites. Among those taking part were the Mexican Ambassador, Her Excellency Rosaura Leonora Rueda Gutiérrez and the Chilean Ambassador, His Excellency Patricio Utreras.
Jewish Museum visited by Spanish-speaking ambassadors.
Photo JMP / Dana Cabanová

New publications

A new issue of the journal Judaica Bohemiae (Vol. 57/2022, 1)

A new issue of the journal Judaica Bohemiae (Vol. 57/2022, 1) came out at the end of June 2022. It starts with a study by Lucie Storchová (The Jewish War, God’s Wrath and ‘the Most Unfortunate People’: Representations of the Jews and Judaism in Late Sixteenth-Century Protestant Literature in the Bohemian Lands), which, on the basis of a large number of contemporary texts, discusses how Protestant scholars wrote about the First Jewish-Roman War and the destruction of Jerusalem, and shows how this story was updated in relation to Jews in the Bohemian lands after 1550. The next paper by Andrea Jelínková  (The Publishing Practice and Reading Culture of Moravian Jews in the Second Half of the Eighteenth Century) closely examines the products of the 18th-century Moravian Hebrew printing press and uncovers the hitherto unexplored relationship between publishing strategy and the reading abilities of Moravian Jews. Drawing on the example of the Jewish population in Kolín, Daniel Baránek’s study (Transformation of the Jewish Space in Kolín, 1848–1921) explores the phenomenon of the disappearance of the borders of the Jewish ghetto after the granting of equal rights to Jews in the middle of the 19th century, and analyzes the factors that influenced the demographic dynamics of Jewish society at the time.

In the Reports section, Michal Bušek provides information on the results of efforts by staff of the Library of the Jewish Museum in Prague in connection with searching for books that are missing from the pre-war Library of the Jewish Religious Community in Prague, and gives an overview of books from this library that have been found and successfully returned to the Jewish Museum in Prague during the last few years. Kajetán Holeček reports on the international conference ‘Migration Processes and the Mobility of European Jews at the Turn of the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period’ (Migrationsprozesse und Mobilität der europäischen Juden am Übergang vom Mittelalter zur Neuzeit), which was held in Prague in mid-October 2021 and was organized by the Institute of History of the Czech Academy of Sciences.  

The final section of the journal contains reviews of the following books: Robert Neumann, Bratislava – Pressburg, die Stadt und Mutter Israel’s. 1. Teil: Die Entwicklung der Judengemeinde bis zur Vertreibung der Juden aus Ungarn im Jahre 1526 nach der Schlacht bei Mohács (reviewed by Lenka Blechová), Stefan Litt (ed.), Jüdische Fürsprache: Quellen aus Gemeindeprotokollbüchern (pinkasim) des aschkenasischen Kulturraums 1586–1808  (reviewed by Kajetán Holeček) and Anna Hájková, The Last Ghetto: An Everyday History of Theresienstadt (reviewed by Tomáš Fedorovič).
Published since 1965 by the Jewish Museum in Prague, Judaica Bohemiae focuses on Jewish history and culture in Bohemia, Moravia and the wider Central European area (the territory of the former Habsburg Monarchy). The texts are published in English and German.

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Editor: Tomáš Tetiva
Photographs: JMP unless otherwise stated