I do not have a plan to visit Holešov. I didn’t even know about the existence of this town. Listening to the advice, however, we decided to check it out. The synagogue and Jewish cemetery in Holešov are places of pilgrimage for Jews from all over the world, but I will write about the reasons for these visits in a moment.
Holešov is located near Zlín (Moravia). Driving from this town, we pass the market square and just behind it, we find the synagogue. The car can be parked on the street. The Jewish cemetery is located about 200 meters from the synagogue.
The synagogue in Holešov
The first information I found was that it is the only Polish-type synagogue preserved in the Czech Republic and it is said to be unique on a global scale. From the outside, it does not stand out too much. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get inside. It is closed in winter. In the photos on the internet it looks impressive, so next time I’ll visit it for sure.
If you plan to visit this place, I am giving you the dates and opening hours:
- April and October – Saturday and Sunday (13.00-17.00)
- May to September – Tuesday – Sunday (13.00-17.00)
Guided tours take place at 9:00 am, 10:00 am, 11:00 am, 1:00 pm, 2:00 pm, 3:00 pm and 4:00 pm. The trip takes approximately 30-60 minutes and the ticket costs CZK 90 (normal) and CZK 40 (reduced). You can also buy a family ticket (2 adults + children under 18) for 190 CZK.
The fact that I did not go inside did not stop me from exploring the history of the synagogue. It was built in the 16th century on the site of a wooden building that had burned down. The synagogue was devastated during World War II, and its interior now houses exhibitions on Jews in Moravia and the Jewish monuments of the region. It is called the Shah Synagogue, from Rabbi Sabbatai ben Meir ha-Kohen, about whom in a moment.
Jewish cemetery in Holešov
As already mentioned, the cemetery is very close to the synagogue and it is worth visiting. It was established at the beginning of the 17th century and served the needs of local Jews. Currently, the owner of the cemetery is the Jewish community in Brno in cooperation with the town of Holešov. There are about 1,500 tombstones from different periods of Jewish history in Holešov.
The Shah Synagogue, as I have already mentioned, owes its name to the person of Sabbatai ben Meir ha-Kohen called “Shah”, whose tomb is located in the Jewish cemetery. He was a rabbi born in 1621 in Lithuania. He was a judge at a rabbinical court and a Talmudic commentator. Many of his works were published during the Shah’s lifetime and after his death. His grave is a place of pilgrimage for Jews from various countries, as evidenced by, inter alia, huge amounts of prayer cards on his grave. The Shah is counted among the 20 greatest scholars of the Jewish nation.
An interesting fact is that the parents of Rudolf Jelinek were buried in the cemetery, whom you may know from the nearby (Vizovice) distillery, which produces slivovitz known throughout the Czech Republic and beyond. Rudolf Jelinek himself would probably also have died there, but he died in the concentration camp in Oświęcim.
The synagogue and Jewish cemetery in Holešov are very interesting places and definitely worth visiting! If you are in the area, be sure to check them out!