The Czech Republic’s innovative, 10 Stars project will essentially create a nationwide Jewish Museum formed by 10 thematic exhibits in 10 synagogue or other Jewish buildings, in 10 locations all around the country.
Czech Radio’s English language service ran a piece on the project, on the heels of an article about it written by JHE coordinator Ruth Ellen Gruber.
The project, the most ambitious single Jewish heritage project in the Czech Republic, is financed by an approximately €11 million grant from the EU, with further funding from the Czech Culture Ministry.
Jan Kinderman, the project’s coordinator, told Czech Radio:
“The program is about breathing life into historical monuments. Each of the ten synagogues we’ve chosen once served as the center of the local Jewish community. Though obviously thanks to the Holocaust those communities – with the exception of Plzen – no longer exist. Wherever possible we’ve also chosen other locations as well as synagogues – former rabbi’s houses, Jewish schools and so on.”
“In general there’s a lot of interest in Jewish culture within Czech society, even if the great boom in interest that started in the early 1990s is beginning to fade away now. That’s only natural – in the early 90s it was something new, something that had been kept well under wraps during the communist era. But in any event I think Jewish culture remains a source of inspiration and enrichment for Czech society and I think a lot of people are interested in it.”
The project includes former synagogues in the towns of Úštěk, Jičín, and Brandýs nad Labem to the north; Plzeň and Březnice to the west; Nová Cerekev and Polná in the south-central part of the country; Boskovice, Mikulov and Krnov to the east.
Some of them were already restored in earlier years but are now undergoing maintenance and other work. Exhibits that already existed in the synagogues at Boskovice, Mikulov, Ustek and Polna are being revamped or expanded as part of the 10 Stars program.
“The exhibition in each site will be linked to one certain phenomenon in Jewish history, culture, religion, traditions,” said Tomas Kraus, the executive director of the Federation of Jewish Communities, which owns the buildings. “The idea is that if you visit one of the sites, even by chance, you will realize that there are nine other parts of the exhibition, so you will want to visit them, too.”
To encourage this, 10 Stars will issue a “passport” that can be stamped each time a person visits one of the synagogues in the network.
You can see pictures of all the sites on the 10 Stars web site, but to date all the information is only in Czech.
Thematic exhibits, largely based on photographs and text panels, will include Jewish education, Jewish life and practice, anti-Semitism, synagogue architecture in the Czech Republic, sources of Judaism, Jewish writers, Jewish industrialists and inventors, and the rabbinical world.
The target audience is school children as well as tourists and other visitors. To that end, Martin Smok, a Prague-based researcher, filmmaker and consultant for the Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education at the University of Southern California told Ms. Gruber that much would depend on the level of the exhibitions themselves. “I think the real importance of these places is for local people to use [them] as educational resources to break stereotypes,” Smok — who has published an article on the destroyed synagogue in Vinohrady, Prague in JHE’s In Focus section — said. “I am aware that they are rescuing buildings, but I do hope that adequate attention will be paid to the content, the programming and the professionalism of the exhibits.”