the Jewish Community in the Czech Republic

Post date: Nov 01, 2015 7:14:2 PM

Meet the Jewish Community in the Czech Republic

Before World War II, there were 325,000 Jews in what was then Czechoslovakia. 270,000 of them perished in the Holocaust. Many of the Holocaust survivors left the country during and after the war. Many of those who remained departed in 1968.

The number of Jews living today in the Czech Republic is estimated at no more than a few thousand. Outside of Prague, there are only a few small communities in cities such as Brno and Plzen (Pilsen). The majority of the Jewish population is elderly (70% are over 60 years old). Many of the younger members of the community (second and third generation to Holocaust survivors) have intermarried and only a minority live an Orthodox lifestyle.

Organizational Structure

The Federation of the Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic is the umbrella organization of the Jewish community. The community has an elected president, a general-secretary and a chief rabbi.

Amongst the active organizations, there are cultural associations, the Union of Jewish Youth, and the Franz Kafka Society. Bnai Brit, Maccabi and the JNF have a presence, as well as non-Zionist organizations, such as Chabad.

Between the years 2004-2006, a cloud hung over the Jewish Community in the Czech Republic. The reason was a bitter dispute that received wide media coverage, creating a deep rift and almost completely paralyzing the community institutions.

Community Life

The Jewish Community is not particularly religious and attendance at synagogue services in Prague is poor. A number of years ago a “Masorti” (conservative) congregation, “Bejt Praha”, was established. In the Czech Republic there is no strong Jewish educational system. A kindergarten and school operate in Prague with the support of the Lauder Foundation. Chabad of Prague is at odds with the community institutions, who claim that the former is attempting to take over the community institutions and the synagogue.

The government of the Czech Republic has allocated $15 million US to serve as reparations for unreturnable Jewish property. In 2000, it was decided that 65% of this sum would be allocated as compensation for community property, and the remainder for individually owned property.

The amount that was allocated for the Jewish community has already been received and is being used to improve the welfare of Holocaust survivors, for commemoration of the victims, to support Jewish education and for the maintenance and rehabilitation of Jewish sites. In addition, with the help of Germany, the Czech Republic has established a fund to support the renovation of synagogues destroyed during World War II.

In 2007, the Czech Republic hosted an international conference on the topic of the repatriation of Jewish artwork looted during World War II.

In 2009, an additional international conference was held in the Czech Republic dealing with the topic of property repatriation and the European ShoahLegacy Institute was established in Prague.

We assist Czech descendants with the repatriation of their lost property – read about this here.


Expressions of antisemitism are a marginal phenomenon in the Czech Republic. Over recent years, similar to other European capitals, the extreme right wing has been active in the Czech Republic under the guise of “private parties”. The community works actively, in cooperation with the Israeli Embassy, to eliminate any racial or anti-Semitic manifestations. Notably, the Czech Government acts against any expression of anti-Semitism, and works to enforce the law against any actions bordering on racism or anti-Semitism.

Theofficial Terezin Memorial has become an important center for Holocaust education, sending teachers to seminars in Israel and holding important educational activities on site and in schools throughout the Czech Republic.