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Jewish Families of Slatina (Prachen District, Bohemia)

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  • Leopold Löwy (c.1841 - 1926)
    Leopold Lowy and Anna Adler were married in the Slatina synagogue on May 7, 1863. HBMa, Fond 1073 inv. č 455, Folio 16, Line 83 He was 22 and she was 26. The officiant was Rabbi Philip Bondy, the first...
  • Anna Löwy (1835 - 1909)
    Google Translate of gravestone in Horazdovice, CZ: Here rests Ms Anna Lövy nee Adler Died on August 5, 1909 In the 73rd year of her age Note. Anna was the wife of Leopold Lövy (Löwy). They lived in...
  • Philipp Fischer (1854 - d.)
  • Hermann Adler (1843 - 1919)
    Farmer (Rolnik) Google translate of his grave stone" Here he rests in peace Heřman Adler From Horažďovice Died on July 12, 1919 In his 75th year of age Earth is light to him! (pM) A peasant from Ho...
  • Adolph Fischer (1847 - 1923)
    Adolph Fisher is in the 1870 Federal Census in Missouri, Washington County, Breton Township, Osage Post Office on 26 July 1870. He worked as a clerk in the store of Abram Block, and his wife Sophia Sch...

Slatina means salty water in several languages. Several Bohemian towns are named Slatina. This project refers to the town named Slatina in the Prachen District of Bohemia.

The Vapenik family bought the old synagogue in the 1970s or 1980s and have been working to restore it. Petr Vapenik has mapped the Slatina cemetery and created a website to document the Jewish community of Slatina: http://www.synagoga.obec-slatina.eu/historie-osidleni.

Petr Vapenik prepared this history based upon the research of Josef Smitk. [Edited by Alice Ra'anan.]

'History of the Jews in Slatina'

The village of Slatina located near Horažďovice was established in the 12th century (about the year 1150) and is one of the oldest communities in the area. About the year 1220 there was a small church court was constructed. St. George's monastery, which played a large role in the region of southwest Bohemia, owned this church court in Slatina until 1254. At that time, Bishop Tobias sold the court to Lord Bohuslav, who was the burgrave of castle Zvíkov.

In 1691, the village was sold to Václav Lev Kunáš Jidřich from Machovice. This led to an innovation when Kunáš followed the example of other noble families by settling Jews on his manor in Slatina. The Kunáš family allowed Jews to lease abandoned houses and gave them plots of land where they could build their own houses, which later became the Slatina ghetto.

Jews in Slatina were employed by dealing in grain and cattle; selling from door to door; and money-lending. Because they were under the protection of Kunáš, they were considered “Schutzjude”--literally, protected Jews. To receive this protection, the Jews were required to pay him a significant portion of their income. In return, they were allowed to earn their livelihood and practice their religion. In 1723, Václav Ferdinand Kunáš from Machovice issued a decree allowing the Jews of Slatina to establish a ghetto, synagogue, school and cemetery.

The original deed permitted the Slatina community to build a cemetery that was about 15×15 meters. Later it was later extended to 58×28 meters and enclosed by a stone wall. A plaque above the entrance in Hebrew reads: "BAIS MOUEVITS LCHOLCHAI. KHI UFOR ATHU VAEL UFOR THOŠUF." Translation: "The house of meeting all living. From dust you came and in dust you shall return."

Jews from 12 villages worshiped at the Slatina synagogue, but Jews from a wide surrounding area were buried in the cemetery. Today, there are 172 preserved gravestones of two types. The granite ones are commonly simple without ornaments, and most are barely legible. The second type have a lime stele, with an arch and a floral motive of a folk art character.

The original Slatina synagogue was 8x6 meters, made of wood and stood on four wooden support pillars. It was located in the center of the ghetto. In 1868, the Jewish congregation bought a new plot of land from J. Podlešák, for 500 guilders and built a new brick synagogue. It was in a rural style but very sizable and included a school, the rabbi's living quarters, and a chapel.

The Jewish school of Slatina was established at the end of the 17th century, but it ceased to function in 1893 because there were not enough pupils. Isaak Shwarz was a teacher who worked in the school starting in 1872. He was very popular for his work with the Jewish congregation. Jewish teachers were often also helpful to the mayors and local officials of the town.

The Jewish congregation was governed by an autonomous commission comprised of elected representatives that was led by the mayor. This commission was responsible for deciding various matters and for setting the annual budget for maintaining the synagogue and the school, paying dues to the county rabbinate in Blatná, and to give to charity.

Around 1834 there were 17 Jewish families living in Slatina. These families lived usually in one room, and sometimes more than one family lived in a single room. It's hard to imagine the living conditions because were some very large families. The construction of the houses typically involved a wooden frame with some elements made of clay bricks or stone.

The Jewish ghetto of Slatina was built on marshy, inhospitable ground where there was a spring with high levels of magnesium known for its healing properties. Today all that remains of the Jewish ghetto are the houses previously numbered 19, 29, 31 in the village plan of 1837, but these structures have largely been rebuilt.

The importance of Jews in Slatina

The main reason why Kunáš from Machovice agreed to have Jews settle in Slatina was the economic benefit he expected to reap from this relationship. However, the Jews also had a significant impact on life in the village, and the economic activity generated by the Jewish inhabitants contributed to the prosperity of the town.

Jewish celebrations took place in a pub owned by a Jewish man named Hasterlik. (The village also had a Dominican pub.) On Saturdays Jews from the neighboring town came to Slatina to for Shabbat worship. They wore traditional kaftans with black hats and kept long full beards. This drew notice from the inhabitants of the village, particularly on occasions when funeral processions passed through on the way to the cemetery.

When the Lažany Enistovy synagogue was established in 1868, the importance of congregation in Slatina began to diminish. In addition, many Jews emigrated to America in 1894 (1) while others sought to earn their living in larger towns and cities. As the number of Jews in Slatina decreased, it became difficult to maintain the synagogue and the school. Mojse Hasterlik tried to preserve the synagogue by depositing 2000 guilders with the Jewish community of Horažďovice to ensure that the synagogue would not be sold and that there was a fund to maintain it.

Karel Sabath (1), the last Jew in Slatina, left on September 20, 1917 moved to nearby Kasejovice. That same year the synagogue was purchased for 10,800Kčs (Czech Crowns) by tradesman and music teacher Karel Volmut. He rebuilt the part of synagogue that housed the school and turned it into a store. The former chapel was converted to a barn.

After the World War II, Volmut left Slatina, and the abandoned synagogue became part of a newly established collective farm. When the collective farm started to use the synagogue as a storage for fertilizers, it seems that its doom was certain. Fortunately, the synagogue was sold by then-owner JZD Svéradice after the consolidation of collected farms, and new owners renovated the synagogue.

More recently, Ben-Zion and Rivka Dorfman, representatives of the Israeli branch of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), visited Slatina.(2) They recommended that interested organizations should sponsor the effort to restore the synagogue chapel and the cemetery because of their value as an example of rural Jewish settlements in the 17th-19th centuries.

(1) One significant member of the Jewish community in Slatina was Adolph Joachim Sabath, who emigrated to the U.S. and later was elected to Congress.

(2) ICOMOS is an association of professionals throughout the world working for the conservation and protection of cultural heritage places.