The Ceremonial Hall at the historic Jewish cemetery in Bzenec, in southeast Moravia near the border with Slovakia, is under going full restoration to bring it back to its original appearance. Restoration of the exterior was recently completed. The building will be used as a center for exhibitions and cultural events.
Jaroslav Klenovský, who oversees Jewish built heritage for the Federation of Czech Jewish communities and the Jewish community of Brno, sent a report to JHE detailing the history of the building and the restoration project.
The Jewish cemetery in Bzenec dates back to the 16th century. The ceremonial hall at its entrance was built in 1909 in the historicist style by the local builder Bedrich Holomek. After World War II it was used for storage.
In the 1980s, Klenovský writes, the town of Bzenec bought the ceremonial hall from the Jewish Religious Community in Brno and in 1985 redesigned and modernized its interior for use as an inter-confessional funeral hall.
As part of this conversion, modern stained glass windows by the painter Jan Gajdos were installed, and the exterior façade was covered over by rough gray cement plaster. Some of the old gravestones from the cemetery were used to level the terrain in front of the building.
The Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic took over ownership of the building in 2003, and in 2017 a local man, Libor Kuchar proposed to restore the ceremonial hall to its original condition. (He had already carried out the restoration of a pre-war Jewish-owned villa.)
Work began in 2018, based on photographs and original plans. To date, the four facades of the building have been completed and now appear in their original form, including the Hebrew inscription (Bet Olam, or “House of Eternity”), decorative vases on the roofline, and the six-pointed star on top. The 2 million Czech crown (€77,000) project was funded by the city of Bzenec, the Ministry of Culture, and Libor Kuchar himself.
The next stage of the restoration, in 2020, will entail the restoration of the interior of the building.