My Return to Forgotten Czech Synagogue

Gone for Century, Jewish Life Haltingly Returns to Village

e. randol schoenberg

By E. Randol Schoenberg

Published October 12, 2013, issue of October 18, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 3)

Michal called Nathan up to do some of the prayers before the torah reading, and then Nathan was called for the first aliyah, the prayer before the first reading from the torah. Having Nathan there made everyone very excited, I think, because they all started to take photos. I couldn’t resist joining in. I put a video up on facebook of Nathan saying the prayer following the torah reading.

Julius Müller acted as gabay and helped figure out all the various people to call up for the remaining aliyot. A man from Germany, Hermann Löffler, who had helped support the restoration of the synagogue, was called asked to call out the names.

After Nathan, I came up, then the Sittigs and Wudls and also a friend of my fellow Geni curator from Israel, Rafi Kornfeld, was touring in the region and came to join us. The last aliyah was given to everyone in the community, so we all stood up around the old torah as Michal read from it to conclude the torah service.

The service was long, and with most of it in Czech or Hebrew, sometimes my attention flagged. At one point I actually got disappointed because I was missing the smell of an old building. I wanted some sense that the old congregation had been there. The place felt too new somehow.

After the service, many of us were invited by Jindra Bromova, the woman who organized the entire restoration project and this event, to the local hotel restaurant for lunch. Nathan passed on the trout, but I actually liked it even though I don’t ordinarily eat much fish. After lunch, we all went to the outskirts of town and climbed up to the old Jewish cemetery. It is on a hill enclosed by a high wall that has broken down in one place so you can easily walk in. The tombstones were recently cleaned (by Matana, I heard) and looked white and polished.

I could not find Rabbi Bloch’s grave, until I took out my blackberry and went to the Geni page and found a photo. I realized it was against a wall and then Alex Woodle showed me exactly where it was. Not with all the rest of the graves, but completely separate, along a wall about 10 yards away, his grave stood almost alone, lined up with some much later graves of children who had died young.

I did not understand this, since he died in 1850. Later I asked Achab Haidler, a wonderful man, and actor by profession, who has helped catalogue many Jewish cemeteries in the region, and he thinks the grave was moved, or perhaps the plaque with his name fell off and someone attached it to a different grave along the wall. He said he would investigate further. You can hear Achab on this video of the Ckyne synagogue. Achab can read all the tombstones, a very difficult task, and he even made a catalogue of the cemetery in Ckyne.

I should also mention Jan Podelsak, a local man who had been working to rescue the old cemetery and the synagogue for about 20 years. In fact, I recalled coming to Prague in 1996 and getting a poster about saving the Ckyne cemetery that he must have designed. Jan was clearly very moved by the tribute to him and seeing his long dream fulfilled. He is a local hero there in Ckyne.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "What I didn’t realize before my trip was that I would leave Uganda with a powerful mandate on my shoulders — almost as if I had personally left Egypt."
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.