Jewish Route in the Pilsen Region
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Jewish Route in the Pilsen Region - HOME

Pilsen     Pilsen
First written mention of Jews comes from 1338 when the king Charles IV. set up a rule to respect Jews who lived in the city . The one that didn´t respect this rule would be punished.
The medieval ghetto was established in 1504 in the 52nd part of the city center - now Solni and Sedlackova streets. 
There were 10 Jewish houses in the 15th century. The old synagogue was situated in the area of the main post office, and was firstly mentioned in 1409.
This synagogue was not suitable for the Jewish community and in 1437 they bought a house standing nearby to build a new synagogue.
The first Jewish cemetery was established in 1424 but disapeared in 1504 when the Jews were banished from Pilsen "forever". After this there is period of decay of Jewish culture which totaly disapeared in the 16th century - 1533 when the synagogue disapeared along with the Jewish school. Jews were forced to leave Pilsen and until 1643 none Jews lived there although in 1504 the Jewish community had the highest number of members in Bohemia and Moravia (except Prague). 
Finally in 1790 a Jewish businessman Joachim Popper was allowed to buy a house in the city and according to the emperor Joseph II. reformations the Jews could move back into the city and could start their business there.
In 1821 there was another banishing of the Jews from Pilsen but later in 1854 these movements against Jews calmed down and around 41 Jewish families lived in the city. The Pilsen Jewish community was so rich that they could afford to build a new synagogue.
The construction of the synagogue situated in Smetana´s park started in 1856 and already in 1856 was open for services which carried on until 1892.
In 1888 the fift synagogue was built (now the area of 1935´s park). The last funeral took place on the second cemetery ( Lochotin area) in 1898 and was replaced by the new Jewish cemetery built on Rokycanska street, which is still in use.
In 1938 the Jewish community had 3200 members, the total popullation of Pilsen was 125000 people. In January of 1942 around 3000 Jews from the Pilsen region were transported in three big conveyers to Terezin and other concentration camps.
In May of 1945 the Jewish community was reestablished, but after the February of 1948 almost the half of the Jews decided to emigrate to the USA and to the modern state of Izrael in 1949. Another wave of emigration came in 1968.
Despite all of these disasters in the history the Jewish community was reestablished and has 20-25 active members and aproximately 70 citizens in Pilsen are partly Jewish. The community has a small house of prayers where the divine services are kept during the Jewish festivals. Unforturnately the community is not big anough to keep its own rabbi, so the divine services are run by rabbi who comes every week from Prague.

The Big Synagogue in Pilsen
This synagogue is the second biggest synagogue in Europe and the third in the World.
Among the other Jewish buildings in the world it is known as "The Big Synagogue in Pilsen"
It was established in 1888 and should had been built in gothic style of the nothern style according to Fleischer, but this type was refused by the townhall. They said that the towers would had been too high and too similar to the Christian church of the St. Bartholomew.
The new design was done by Emanuel Klotz, he kept the original shape of the foundations but totaly changed the architectonical style. The towers were 20 meters lower, the building was designed in renesance style and the side halls in the pseudorenesance style.
This design was admited and the construction was given to the Pilsen builder Rudolph Stech in 1891. The ceremonial opening of the synagogue was hold on the 2nd of September 1893.
The synagogue was badly damaged at the end of the World War II. and after 1948 was used as a stock. The last divine service was hold here in 1973. Since 1980 there were many efforts to reconstruct the building and finally the reconstruction was allowed and the synagogue was reopened.


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