Jewish history of Holešov

Holešov – Šach Synagogue
28. 8. 2013

Explore the Jewish history of Holešov

Beginning in the 15th century, a Jewish community was an integral part of the town of Holešov, situated in the foothills of the Hostýnské Mountains. The fate of the local inhabitants, their traditions and customs, and also centuries of peaceful coexistence and strife are today symbolized by the unique synagogue and magical atmosphere of the Jewish cemetery with the important tumba of Rabbi Šach, which is visited each year by hundreds of Orthodox Jews from all over the world.

The greatest flourishing of the Jewish community in Holešov was in the middle of the 19th century, when its members formed a third of all inhabitants. Židovský Holešov (Jewish Holešov), which was at that time an independent town, was later incorporated into Holešov as we know it today. The Holešov Jewish community, however, was decimated during the Holocaust. At present, their traditions are recalled primarily during the Week of Jewish Culture.

One-of-a-kind synagogue

The most important building, which is not to be missed when exploring the Jewish history of Holešov, is the Šach Synagogue. Because it is the only synagogue of the so-called Polish type preserved in its original form, it is considered unique in the world. After entering the synagogue you are welcomed into the prayer hall with its beautifully decorated rostrum, from which the Torah was read. After ascending a steep staircase you can enter a room above the women’s gallery that originally served as a school. Particularly soothing for the soul is the beautifully decorated wooden ceiling, where you can employ your imagination to identify flower, fruit and animal motifs.

Visit the grave of the learned Rabbi Šach

Your next steps in an exploration of Holešov’s Jewish history should lead to the local cemetery. Its origin dates back to the mid-15th century. You will see more than 1,500 graves spread over the entire area. The most important of these is the grave and quadrilateral tumba in the shape of a small house of the learned Rabbi Sabbataj ben Meir ha-Kohen, called Šach, whose tomb and the synagogue bearing his name are frequently visited by foreign travellers, mainly from the United States, Israel and other countries with a large Jewish community.

In quiet remembrance

The ceremonial room of the cemetery is a sad reminder of the tragic events of the 20th century. You can see three large wooden panels with prayers and beautiful painted interior decoration with botanical motifs. After the World War Two a stone slab was placed here with the names of 253 Jews who perished in the Holocaust.

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