The first written record of the presence of Jews in Boskovice dates back to 1343; the Jewish Community of Boskovice was established in the mid-fifteenth century. Boskovice has been one of the cultural centres of Moravian Jews; a famous yeshiva and a centre of Talmudic studies were run in Boskovice at the turn of the 19th century. The Jewish population had reached 2,000 by the mid-nineteenth century (in 326 familiants, i.e. legally residing families), which represented over 30% of the then city’s population. The Jewish Community of Boskovice was restored for a short period of time after the end of WWII.
The Jewish quarter comprises an extensive, over 12 acres large complex of buildings to be found in the typical location between the castle grounds and the historical centre, originally consisting of 13 streets and 138 houses. Of these 79 have been preserved, together with a former school at 7 Bílkova Street, a bathhouse at 8 U koupadel Street, a hospital at 10 Ve špitálku Street, a rabbinate at 45 Plačkova Street, a mikvah in the basement of a house at 5 U templu Street, a ghetto gate and a fountain. The originally baroque or classicist houses feature many interesting architectonic details. Since 1999, the 27 most attractive sights have been presented as part of an educational trail winding through the Jewish quarter; the tired traveller can also pay a refreshing visit to one of the stylish restaurants. The exceptionally valuable listed complex of buildings (Fig. 1 and Fig. 2) is annually visited by hundreds of tourists.
The baroque synagogue in Traplova Street was built in 1639 (Fig. 3) by an Italian builder Sylvester Fiota of Chiavenna. In 1698 the synagogue was extended with a side aisle; later alterations come from the Empire and Gothic Revival periods. Within three stages spanning from the first half of the 17th century to the second half of the 18th century, the vaults and interior walls of the synagogue were covered with decorative fresco paintings including ornamental and plant motifs and Hebraic liturgical texts by Polish refugees (Fig. 4). After a comprehensive historical reconstruction was carried out from 1991 to 2001, the synagogue hosts a museum exposition covering the history of the Jewish Community of Boskovice and featuring the preserved relics. The opening hours are – from April to October – Mondays from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM, Tuesday through Friday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Saturdays from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM and Sundays from 12:00 AM to 5:00 PM, at other times upon a prior appointment by phone (Mr. Janík, cell: +420 608 305 987), also see www.boskovice.cz/muzeum/. Another two synagogues, the Synagogue Minor from the 18th century and the Löw-Beer Synagogue from 1884, were pulled down after WWII.
The Jewish cemetery in Potoční Street, situated west of the city centre in the slope under the castle game-preserve, was founded no later than in the 16th century. The area of 3.7 acres features 2,400 tombstones, some of them of baroque (Fig. 5) and classicist origin; the oldest tombstone discovered dates back to 1670. The cemetery is a place where you can visit the graves of a number of notable personalities such as the learned rabbi Samuel ha-Levi Kolin, called Machzit ha-Shekel (1724–1806). At the centre of the area there are the ruins of a house of mourning from 1763 with the Kaddish prayer carved into a stone board. The cemetery is open to visitors during the tourist season at all times.
Boskovice was also the hometown of the noted ophtalmologist Abraham Albert Ticho (1883–1960, Jerusalem) and the writer Hermann Ungar (1893–1929, Prague), a memorial plaque to whom has been mounted on the wall of the house at 11 Zborovská Street, where he was born, in 1993. Every year, the second weekend in July the city becomes alive with the young visitors of the Boskovice Festival. The profit from the festival is used to support preserving and reconstructing the Jewish quarter (more info at wwws.unijazz.cz).
More details and further information on Boskovice and its surroundings can be found at www.boskovice.cz.