Workers are restoring the entry way of Prague’s ornate Jubilee (or Jeruzalemska) synagogue so that the three arches of the portal will bear their inscription as originally planned in three languages — Czech, Hebrew, and German.
The inscription is from Malachi 2:10 — “Do we not all have one father?” — and originally the quote from one of the three languages was positioned on each of the arches.
Designed by the noted Viennese architect Wilhelm Stiassny, who designed several other synagogues in central Europe, the Jubilee synagogue replaced three synagogues destroyed in the urban renewal clearance of the medieval Prague ghetto. At that time Bohemia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the synagogue was initially known as the Emperor Franz Joseph Jubilee Temple in honor of the Hapsburg ruler. The decision to build it was taken in 1898, the 50th anniversary of Franz Joseph’s ascension to the throne. It was constructed in 1905-1906 and formally dedicated in 1908 — the 60th anniversary of his reign.
After World War I — with the defeat of Austro-Hungary and the establishment of independent Czechoslovakia — the German inscription was was removed (and the synagogue began to be referred to as the Jeruzalemska — Jerusalem — synagogue, as it is located on Jeruzalemska street).
Then, after the Nazis occupied Bohemia and Moravia in 1939 and made it a Protectorate, the Czech inscription was removed, the synagogue’s page said in a Facebook post.
“Only the Hebrew text remained, which said nothing to the uninitiated,” the post said.
It said that it hoped that the time when politics suppressed the use of a native language would never return.
Except for the period during World War II, the synagogue has been — and still is — used for religious services. Today it also hosts concerts and other cultural events and there are permanent exhibitions in its women’s gallery.