The presence of a Jewish settlement in Holešov dates back to at least the 16th century. Holešov hosted one of the most important Jewish communities in Moravia, a centre of culture and education. The Jewish population of the city reached 1,700 (one third of the whole) by the mid-19th century. The pogroms in 1774, 1899 and 1918 left the community diminished. The Jewish community was restored for a short period after the end of WWII; it ceased to exist as an autonomous community in the 1960s and was formally merged with the Jewish Community of Brno.

The Jewish quarter in Holešov consisted of an independent district northwest of the Square, today comprising streets Příční, Dlažánky and U potoka and Svobody Square. Of the initial 103 houses 45 buildings have been preserved – among them, a school at No. 123, a house of religious study Bet ha-midraš at No. 134 and a hospital at No. 260. The particularly unique urban complex was damaged by demolitions after 1945. The new synagogue built between 1891–1893 in the Historicist style by architect Jakob Gartner was burnt down by the Nazis as early as 1941 and torn down.

The old synagogue (Fig.1), called Šachova, on Příční Street, was built in 1560 in the Renaissance style. During alterations in the 1730s, the interior of the building was uniformly decorated with valuable ornamental illuminations and Hebraic liturgical texts, the work of Jewish immigrants from Poland. Following the complete reconstruction in 1956–1964 the synagogue houses the exhibit “Židé a Morava” (Moravia and The Jews). The layout and facilities of the interior have been preserved exceptionally well; in the entrance-hall a walled-in ritual washbasin – kior – captures the visitor’s attention while the main hall is dominated by a rostrum – almemor – with a forged gridlock and by a tabernacle (Fig.2). The synagogue is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays from 9:00 AM to 12:00 AM and from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM during the winter season (March and October), during the summer season (May to September) it is open daily except Mondays from 9:00 AM to 12:00 AM and from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM. Contact: Mr. Brázdil, phone +420 573 397 822 or +420 603 796 411. Also see www.mks.holesov.cz.

The Jewish cemetery at Hankeho Street on the outskirts of the Jewish quarter is situated approximately 200m north of the Dr. E. Beneš Square. It was probably founded in the 16th century; the oldest legible tombstone dates back to 1647. The cemetery consists of at least 1,000 tombstones, with valuable baroque and classicist tombs among them (Fig.3). The cemetery is a place where you can visit the graves of several notable personalities such as the writer Max Winder (1855–1920). The most noted among the Holešov rabbis was Sabbatai ben Meir ha-Kohen (1621–1663) from Vilno, called Šach (Shah) according to the Siftei Kohen tract. His tomb (Fig.4), which is situated at the centre of the rabbinical section, attracts pilgrims from all over the world. The tomb was built in 1663, the year of his demise, and altered in 1817. A house of mourning dating from 1903 is located by the cemetery entrance, where a memorial plaque to the victims of Nazi racial persecution is mounted. The cemetery is open to visitors at all times.

Every year, the festival Týden židovské kultury“ (Jewish Culture Week) takes place in Holešov around the turn of August. For further information please see www.olam.cz. More information on the sights and landmarks in and around Holešov can be found at www.holesov.cz.



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