Festivals of Jewish culture in the Czech Republic

Prague, May 2007 More than 200 synagogues, countless precious works of art and books and the UNESCO listed Jewish quarter in Trebíc all pay testimony to the thousand-year existence of a Jewish community in the Czech Republic. Various festivals of Jewish culture strive to bring this extraordinary legacy alive for the general public.

For some 15 years a Jewish festival called Boskovice 2007 (www.unijazz.cz) has been successfully promoting a unique Jewish quarter which attracts several thousand visitors to the South Moravian town of Boskovice every year. This year July 19 – 22 a series of interesting musical, theatre and film programmes have been put together, as well as exhibitions, readings and much more besides. Visitors can once again look forward to concerts at the open-air cinema (Michal Prokop & Framus Five, -123 minut, Tata Bojs, Visací zámek, Už jsme doma, MCH Band) and to a jazz stage behind the museum at the chateau hothouse. There will also be afternoon theatre at the castle, film screenings at the Panorama Cinema and at the local amphitheatre, exhibitions at the Boskovice Regional Museum (an exhibition marking the 30th anniversary of Charta 77 and 15 years of the festival Boskovice), lectures, excursions and a few surprises. The Jewish cemetery will be open to the public during the festival, and more intimate events will be taking place in the synagogue (concerts given by the Steinová Sisters etc). The local literary tea rooms and the large adjoining coffee shop bearing the name of a famous Boskovice native, Herman Ungar, also invite visitors to sample their wares. Walking the Jewish Quarter Trail and visiting other sites in Boskovice (www.boskovice.cz) can also provide ample inspiration.

Trebíc (www.kviztrebic.cz), a town closely associated with Jewish culture and priding itself on a place in UNESCO’s list of world cultural heritage sites, extends an invitation to all comers to attend a festival called Šamajim Trebíc 2007 (Aug. 2 – 4, www.samajim.cz, www.samajim.eu). This is the fourth year this festival of Jewish culture has been held, and this year it will begin with a first viewing of works of art by Eva Milotová. This will be followed by a concert, a lecture and other programmes of events. Next day three bands will perform in Trebíc – Trombenik from Prague, Glik from France and Cinzi Renta from Ceský Krumlov. Some visitors may want to join in the fun by taking part in art competitions; everybody else can look forward to interesting lectures, music evenings, film screenings and tasting sessions of kosher beverages. Those who would like to experience something really special can bring a sleeping bag and spend the night in the synagogue (Sat/Sun). Bedtime stories will be read by Hebraist, Achab Haidler.

Prior to the Šamajim festival you can head to Trebíc for a Jewish-style celebration of the midsummer solstice (June 21). You’ll have the chance to taste Jewish dishes and listen to a concert given by Trombenik, a band from Prague (www.travellers.cz).

A festival of Jewish culture and history called Jewish Days (www.zidovskedny.cz) will once again be held in several locations in the Práchensko Region (Ckyne, Strakonice, Volyne, Písek) from July 17 until Sept. 23, 2007. The programme includes theatre and musical events, film screenings, lectures and literary evenings. A trip around the Jewish sites of the Práchensko region is also planned.

A project called Music in the Synagogues of the Pilsen Region (www.zoplzen.cz) is striving to save the Old Synagogue in Pilsen. All profits raised from ticket sales will go towards saving the oldest surviving synagogue in Pilsen. Concerts will mainly feature soloists and members of the Czech Philharmonic. During your time in Pilsen (http://info.plzen-city.cz) don’t forget to pay a visit to the Great Synagogue, the third largest in the world, as well as other Jewish sites in the Pilsen area linked by the Jewish Trail (www.jewish-route.eu).

There are many other opportunities in the Czech Republic to learn something of Jewish culture. For instance, the Dobruška Municipal Museum (www.dobruska.cz) can boast the only accessible ritual bath (mikve) in the entire country; in Hermanuv Mestec (www.hermanuv-mestec.cz) the buildings of the former synagogue and the former Jewish school have been completely renovated. In Polná in the Highlands Region (www.mesto-polna.cz) learn a bit about the anti-Semitic Hilsner Affair, which was similar to the Dreyfus affair in France. In Holešov (www.mks.holesov.cz) visitors can admire the Šachova synagogue dating from the 16th century with its high Baroque painted interior. In Mikulov (www.mikulov.cz) follow a trail around the Jewish quarter which leads to one of the biggest and oldest Jewish cemeteries in the Czech Republic. The recently renovated mountain synagogue in Hartmanice (www.hartmanice.cz) won the ‘Pilsen Region Building of the Year’ award in 2006. The Terezín Monument reminds all visitors of the turbulent times the Jews experienced during World War II (www.pamatnik-terezin.cz).

Jewish sites in central Prague (www.prague-info.cz) – the Jewish town hall, six synagogues and the Old Jewish Cemetery – are some of the most precious in all of Europe. In Prague you can also admire a huge collection of artefacts at the Jewish museum (www.jewishmuseum.cz). Until July 22, the Robert Guttmann Gallery will be hosting an exhibition entitled ‘Since then I have believed in fate…’ Transports of Jews from the Protectorate to Poland 1941–1942. The exhibition relates these events through the stories of several prisoners who survived the ghettoes and concentration camps, and is made up of filmed interviews, documents and photographs from the period.

The Czech Tourist Authority – CzechTourism is a state-funded agency of the Ministry for Regional Development of the Czech Republic. Its main activity is to promote the Czech Republic as an attractive tourist destination abroad. 25 CzechTourism offices around the world promote the Czech Republic. Since 2003 the agency has also been supporting domestic tourism.

For more information visit www.CzechTourism.com, www.CzechTourism.cz.