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Jewish Families from Mořina, Bohemia

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The Bohemian village of Mořina (49° 57' 0" North, 14° 13' 0" East) is located around 20 kilometers southwest of Prague, and 10 kilometers east of the district town of Beroun, and is part of the Beroun District (okres Beroun, Středočeský kraj). The German version is Gross-Morschin or Gross-Morzin, and it was also called Velká Mořina (or greater Mořina, in contrast to nearby Mořinka or Little Mořina, German Klein Morschin). Mořina is surrounded by fields of wheat and rye, and perfumed with wildflowers and fragrant apple trees. Overlooking the village is the now-abandoned limestone quarry 'Velka Amerika,' a site often used by Czech filmmakers and sought after by professional divers, also a popular spot for tourists trekking to and from the nearby Karlštejn Castle. Today’s population is around 600, with no Jewish residents remaining.

Jewish families first settled in the area in around 1720, a typical pattern for rural Bohemian Jewish communities, who preferred villages to larger towns. DNA testing for the male line of the Fröschl (Freschl) family, early residents of Mořina, shows that they are members of Haplogroup G and G2c, representing a clade of closely related Ashkenazi Jews. (Around 10% of Jewish males are Haplogroup G.) The Jewish families eventually occupied approximately 8 houses on the west side of the village, on the north side of the main road. The synagogue was located in House No. 59, according to Jiří Fiedler, and is also identified with House No 1 on the “Judengasse.” The Familianten order took effect early in the Jewish history of Mořina, perhaps one reason for the emigration from the village and from Bohemia, to Hungary, Austria, and the Americas.

Birth, marriage and death records show that Jewish occupations were most predominantly represented by that of “Handelsmann” (merchant). Other common Jewish occupations were that of “Fleischauer” (butcher), "Schneider" (tailor), and "Glaser" (glazier). In religious life, early Rabbis included Localrabbiner Abraham Salus (?) fl. 1788 (in progress) and Localrabbiner Abraham Günzburg(er), ritual slaughterer (schochet). Names of doctors appearing on death records appear to be those of non-Jewish men. Names of midwives appearing on birth records appear to be those of non-Jewish women, with no occupations otherwise registered for women. Mořina’s Jewish congregation merged with that of Beroun after 1908, with many people born in Mořina appearing on records of the district center.

Record-keeping (birth, marriage, and death) seems to have begun around 1786 and continued until around 1895. Birth, marriage and death records from Mořina (1786-1895) have been digitized and can be found on http://www.badatelna.cz/?wicket:interface=:0:2::: Pre-printed pages, possibly government-issued, were usually used, and bound in volumes housed with the Beroun Jewish Community. The German language is used almost exclusively, with some documents printed in Czech, beginning around 1890. For birth records, categories listed in earliest documents are the date and place of birth, including house number, name of the child, religion (choices of Protestant or Catholic are usually crossed out and substituted with “Israelitisch” or “Mosaïsch”), sex and legitimacy of the child (ususally based on Familianten status, with the occasional birth to single mothers), names of parents (“Eltern”) , and names of witnesses (“Pathen”). Record-keeping evolved from simple names and occupations (at first the father alone) to names, occupations, and residences of both parents and grandparents, as well as witnesses, godfathers (Sandekim), and midwives (Hebammen). Familiant license numbers and the dates of their issuance were also recorded, along with birth order (males only). Categories of date and place of circumcision and naming (for girls) were added.

Mořina’s Jewish cemetery lies on a gentle hill about 500 meters northwest of the former Judengasse and was established in 1735-36, according to a plaque with an inscription in Latin and Hebrew, embedded in the taharah-house. Earliest legible tombstones date from 1741, with burials continuing until the first third of the 20th century, when the few remaining Jews left the village. Styles of the approximately 150 stones are mixed, reflecting the changing trends, from baroque to classical to modern. The cemetery increasingly served as burial ground for surrounding Jewish communities. It is accessible today without need for a key and is fairly well maintained by the local community. Few signs of vandalism are evident. Many burials from the Mořina Jewish cemetery are documented on Achab Haidler’s website, Chewra.com.

               

The most famous representative of Mořina’s Jewish community is probably Jacob Pollak, born in Mořina in 1818 to Elias and Sara Pollak (Neumann) . A promising student, he studied philosophy and medicine in Prague, going on to Vienna, where he received degrees in medicine, surgery, obstetrics, and gynecology. He worked as a physician in factories and hospitals in Vienna, coming to the attention in 1851 of representatives of the Dār al-fonun, the first modern institution of higher learning in Persia. Jacob was recruited to teach there, and he taught himself Farsi and became personal physician and tutor to the shah. Despite distinguishing himself for his renowned ethnographic and medical studies and winning various honors, Jacob “never attempted to use this position for personal gain, nor was he ever accused of joining any political faction.” He returned to Vienna in 1860, where he married Therese (?) and continued his relationship with the Persian scientific community. He died on Oct. 8, 1891, and is buried in Vienna’s Zentralfriedhof. Jacob had no known descendants.

Mořina is a birth-town for families with the following surnames (with earliest known birth year – in progress):

  1. Beck Bek Back Bak (1792)
  2. Fischl (1788)
  3. Friedmann (1788)
  4. Fröschl Freschl (1790)
  5. Gros Gross (1789)
  6. Günzburg Günzburger Ginzburg (1761)
  7. Her(r) man(n)(1808)
  8. Kraus (1814)
  9. Neumann (1794)
  10. Pick Pik(1791)
  11. Pollak (1792)
  12. Redl (1791)
  13. Reiner (1801)
  14. Richter (1789)
  15. Salus Zalus (1789)
  16. Weil (1798)
  17. Winternitz (1801)

The Jewish community of Mořina kept records for the following towns: Dobřichovice, Hořelice, Libochovice, Lochovice, Řevnice, Tetín, Vysoký Újezd

Holocaust victims born in Mořina include Karel Kraus, and Marie Lustig. Today’s villagers are friendly and willing to give directions to the cemetery and to the former Jewish quarter.

Sources:

  • Encyclopaedia Iranica, “POLAK, Jakob Eduard (1818-1891), Austrian physician and writer who was instrumental in establishing modern medicine in Iran.”
  • Fiedler, Jiří, Jewish Sights of Bohemia and Moravia, Prague, Sefer, 1991
  • Wikipedia, various.