Czech Republic

mogen david

The History of the Čkyně Synagogue 
and Its Restoration Program

Submitted by Alexander Woodle 

     We are all indebted to Mr. Stefan Palo, Jr., an engineer at Long Island’s Brookhaven National Laboratory for taking the time to translate the following text.  I have excerpted the following two pieces about the Čkyně Synagogue and its restoration program drawn from an article by Nikola Rychtarikova and  www.synagoga-Čkyně.cz constructed by Ms Jindra Bromova.

Shrine is the Oldest Building still in existence in Southern Bohemia

     The oldest synagogue was located near the count courtyard perhaps from the 18th century (some sources mention 17th century). After 1827, it was converted to a barn and later burned to the ground. {Note: On my visit to Čkyně in July 2000, I was told by town archivist that a wealthy merchant/developer offered to build a new synagogue for the Jewish community if they gave him the old synagogue and its land for some development. They agreed and a new synagogue was dedicated in 1828 at its current site.}
     The new synagogue in the southern part of the village between the main road and the railroad station was built in 1828 in a simple classic style.  The synagogue is massive, one-directional construction.  Where the main and winter inner sanctuaries and additional rooms are located, years ago they were used as a Jewish school and as an apartment.  This is the only synagogue of this construction style still in existence in Prachatice County.  Together with Bechyne and Pacov, it is the oldest Jewish shrine in Southern Bohemia.  Regular religious services were held here until the beginning of World War I.  Later the building was used as a craftsman shop.
     “It is considered to be one of the oldest synagogues in Southern Bohemia and possibly the oldest village synagogue in the whole of Bohemia, with rural character expressed in its simple architectural shape and artistic decoration.  The building is in a dilapidated state and is awaiting general overhaul,” according to Dr. Jan Podlesak speaking at the festive reopening of the Jewish cemetery in Čkyně on September 17, 1995.  He is the caretaker {and savior} of the cemetery and professor at the University in Ceske Budejovice.

Corporation for the Restoration of Čkyně Synagogue

     The Corporation was begun in 1990 when the future of the deteriorating building came under consideration.  This effort is chaired by Ms. Jindra Bromova who, together with Dr. Podlesak, sees to the details of raising awareness and monies for the restoration.  The plan is for the restored Čkyně Synagogue to serve as a regional Jewish museum, art gallery (directed at art creation for Posumava artists) and cultural hall for multi-use.  In addition, the hall could be used for concerts of spiritual music, lectures and occasional religious services - not only Jewish, but also Christian and non-denominational.  In fact, at least two concerts have already been held in the building, the last in October of 2000.  Over 140 people attended!      The multiple uses of the synagogue since WWI have debased its architectural and artistic appearance.  The former owners sold the building to Jednota (union) Vimperk, and from that moment on nobody took any care of the structure.  The village of Čkyně purchased it with help from the local cultural department.  Later years saw the involvement of the Prague Jewish Congregation in the removal of replacement windows and the restoration of the original classic windows with their distinctive arch shape. 

    The late Dr. Jan Muk, an expert in restorations, conducted an extensive survey of the synagogue to determine the feasibility of reconstruction.  Mr. Frantisek Petrlik, an architectural engineer from Ceske Budjovice prepared restoration plans in the original spirit and artistic style of the building.  The simple style of the village masons is reflected in the synagogue’s decorative God’s eye on the anterior and the figurative painting on the illusive altar in the main inner sanctuary.   The acoustics are excellent in these sanctuaries, offering an excellent setting for cultural activities.  In 1999, sufficient funds were raised to replace the entire roof, thus protecting the interior from further deterioration.  Unfortunately, since that time funding has dried up.  It is estimated that $300,000 is needed to complete the restoration. 

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Copyright © 2013 E. Randol Schoenberg