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Prostejov

PROSTEJOV

PROSTEJOV (Czech Prostějov , Ger. Prossnitz , Heb. פרוסטיף), city in central Moravia, Czech Republic. From the Middle Ages Prostejov was a center for the textile and ready-made clothing industries, in which Jews played an important part. A Jew is mentioned in a document of 1445. The Jewish community, founded by people expelled from nearby *Olomouc (Olmuetz) in 1454, was, from the 17th to the 19th century, second only to *Mikulov (Nikolsburg) among the communities of Moravia. The Jews dealt in luxury goods and locally made textiles. In 1584 the Jews' right of residence was confirmed but the branches of trade open to them were restricted. The community then numbered 31 families. A minute book (pinkas) opened in 1587 began with the takkanot of *Judah Loew b. Bezalel regulating synagogal arrangements. A compendium of Sabbath hymns, Kol Simḥah, was printed in 1602 by a short-lived local printing house.

The Jewish community and its importance in local industry increased after the Protestant inhabitants had left when the town became Roman Catholic under duress. In 1639 there were 143 Jewish men in Prostejov and 64 houses in the town were owned by Jews. Prostejov absorbed many refugees after the *Chmielnicki massacres in 1648 and the Vienna expulsion in 1670. The community numbered 64 families in 1669. The synagogue was dedicated in 1676. The first known rabbi was Isaac Ḥayyut b. Abraham (d. 1639); among his successors were Meir b. Isaac Ashkenazi and Wolf Boskowitz. The Pros-tejov rabbinate was a steppingstone to the office of *Landrabbiner for Menahem *Krochmal and Nahum *Trebitsch. The names of almost 30 rabbis have been recorded since the late 16th century. In 1785–94 the local yeshivah was led by Rabbi Moses *Sofer (Schreiber), called Ḥatam Sofer (1762–1839). A compromise reached in 1677 (and supplemented in 1688) concerning the extent of trade between Jews and gentiles testifies to the importance of Jewish participation in the textile and clothing trades. The community numbered 318 families in 1713, 1,393 persons in 1787, and 1,495 in 1798. In 1804 the number was 1,704, representing about a quarter of the total population. The population continued to grow to about 2,000 in 1875 but then dropped to 1,553 and 1,442 in 1930. The number of families allotted under the *Familiants Law was 328. The Prostejov community was strongly influenced by the Shabbatean movement, and one of its leaders, Judah Leib *Prossnitz, lived in the town. The community was also affected by *Frankism and was one of the first to absorb the ideas of the *Haskalah. The first sermon in German in the Hapsburg dominions was preached there by Loew *Schwab (1835). In 1843 a Jew founded a private elementary school for Jewish and Christian children. In 1831 Feith *Ehrenstamm founded a factory, the beginning of Jewish enterprise in modern textile industry. By 1842 there were 135 Jewish textile merchants in Prostejov. The first factory for ready-made clothes on the European continent was founded by Mayer and Isaac Mandel in 1859. The 200 Jews in the National Guard units were lauded for their conduct in fighting during the anti-Jewish riots in 1848. Prostejov became a political community (*politische Gemeinde) in 1849. In 1880 there were 1,804 Jews in Prostejov. The community absorbed many World War i refugees from Eastern Europe. Between the two world wars the community was one of the most active in Czechoslovakia and the first to arrange modern Hebrew courses. The clothing industry, represented mainly by the Sborowitz firm, which had 108 sales establishments throughout Czechoslovakia and a vast export business, brought affluence to the community which attracted many new members from *Sub-Carpathian Ruthenia (Carpatho-Russia). In 1930 the community numbered 1,442 (4.3% of the total). Among the natives of the town were Menahem Katz, rabbi of the *Deutschkreutz community and leader of Hungarian *Orthodoxy; Gideon Brecher, physician and author of a booklet on circumcision; his son Adolph, author and physician; and the bibliographer Moritz *Steinschneider. Jonathan *Eybeschuetz and Adolf and Hermann *Jellinek were among the pupils of the Prostejov yeshivah. The well-known philosopher and founder of phenomenology Edmund *Husserl (1859–1938) was born there.

Many refugees from the Sudeten area arrived in Prostejov in autumn 1938. After the German invasion (March 1939) Jews suffered from Gestapo raids, mainly in July when the synagogue also was closed. Many Jews left Prostejov during 1940. Those who remained were deported to the Nazi extermination camps in 1942. Over 1,200 local Jews perished in the Holocaust. The synagogue appurtenances were transferred to the Jewish Central Museum in Prague. In 1945 a small congregation administered by the Olomouc community was reestablished, mostly by Jews from Sub-Carpathian Ruthenia. A memorial to the victims of the Holocaust was consecrated in 1950. The congregation was still active in 1980. Few Jews remained in the early 21st century.

Three synagogues were active in Prostejov: the first, from about 1676, was demolished before 1905; the second synagogue served as a bet midrash before being converted into a synagogue; it was in service until World War ii; in 1953–64 it was used by the Orthodox church and in 1970 it was converted into an exhibition hall; the third synagogue was built in 1904; services were held there until World War ii and from 1949 it was used by the Hussite church.

The prayer house established in 1945–46 has been used by the Plymouth Brethren's Church since 1982. Prostejov had three cemeteries: the first known from the 17th century and closed down after 1800; the second from about 1801 and destroyed by the Nazis in 1943; and the last founded in 1908.

bibliography:

J. Freimann, in: jjlg, 15 (1923), 26–58; B. Wachstein, ibid., 16 (1924), 163–76; L. Goldschmied, in: H. Gold (ed.), Juden und Judengemeinden Maehrens (1929), 491–504; B. Heilig, in: jggjČ, 3 (1931), 307–448, incl. bibl.; idem, in: blbi, 3 (1960), 101–22; R. Iltis (ed.), Die aussaeen unter Traenen… (1959), 71–76; The Jews of Czechoslovakia, 1 (1968), 417–8; R. Kestenberg-Gladstein, Neuere Geschichte der Juden in den boehmischen Laendern, 1 (1969), index; Y. Toury, Mehumah u-Mevukhah be-Mahpekhat 1848 (1968), index.

[Meir Lamed /

Yeshayahu Jelinek (2nd ed.)]

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