Jewish Heritage Report
Vol. I, Nos. 3-4 / Winter 1997-98
Czech Synagogue in Trebic Restored
by Ruth Ellen Gruber
The so-called Rear Synagogue in the Moravian town of Trebic, in the southern part of the Czech Republic, was opened to the public Sept. 1st, 1997, after a lengthy restoration process that recovered numerous wall texts, elaborate wall and ceiling paintings and baroque stucco decoration.
The synagogue is open to visitors on a daily basis. It will be used for concerts and cultural programs and eventually will house a small Jewish museum. A memorial to local Holocaust victims has been incorporated into the building's restoration. The core of the synagogue was built in late Renaissance style at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries, according to Jaroslav Klenovsky, the local Moravian historian who has documented Jewish monuments in the region and who has written booklets on Jewish sites in a number of Moravian towns. It was enlarged and renovated in the 19th century. Services were held in the synagogue until World War I, after which it fell into disuse and disrepair. It was a ruined shell when restoration work began in the early 1990s.
The structure has a barrel vaulted interior, heavy, partially buttressed walls, and arched windows. Walls and ceiling are covered with colorful paintings including Hebrew texts (some of them fragments), floral motifs (including a garland of flowers surrounding the small round window above the Aron niche), and painted lions on one of the doorways.
Restoration of the synagogue was carried out as part of an overall municipal plan to revitalize the dilapidated area of Trebic on the left bank of the Jihlava river as a National Heritage Town Zone. This zone includes the entire old Jewish quarter, which is the largest preserved ghetto in the Czech Republic, as well as the Jewish cemetery. The revitalization program is being carried out by Trebic Fund, an organization established in 1993 by the Town Council in collaboration with the private ABF Foundation for the Development of Architecture and Construction. The Fund drew up a reconstruction program and channels public and private funding for the project from the state, municipality, church, international organizations and and private donors.
Within the Jewish quarter, the Fund also to date has helped finance the renovation of the Front Synagogue, originally built in 1639-42 and now serving as a Hussite church, and has helped finance repair and maintenance of the Jewish cemetery. It erected a building next to the newly reconstructed Rear Synagogue, to serve as the Fund's office, an art gallery, and a pension.
Revitalization planners envisage shops, galleries, cafes, etc. So far one "Jewish style" restaurant, Rachel, has opened. Its decor features a flag of Israel, a menorah and other Jewish motifs, Hebrew writing and old paintings, but it serves more or less typical local dishes.
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