Boskovice’s past goes back to the 1000s, possibly farther. It sat on a minor trade route, and appears in documents in the 1000s. It is in Moravia, south of the larger city of Brno, in a lovely highland region. And it has one of the best preserved synagogue’s in the Czech Republic, the Big Synagogue. The map above shows the Jewish Quarter, including the Big Synagogue (H) [the prominent black building in the cluster of structures in the center of the map] and Little Synagogue (I).
At the top of the picture, you see one of the wonders of the Big Synagogue – the decorations. The first recorded Jewish presence in the town goes back to 1343. These are from somewhat later.
Hidden in with the flowers and text are a few lions, birds, a unicorn, and other animals. The entry hall ceiling is decorated with Hebrew texts.
Boskovice had a strong Jewish community, and by the late1800s, the community numbered around 2000 people, all living in the Jewish Quarter. The area was under Austrian law, so Jews could live elsewhere, but tradition and local feelings die hard.
Unfortunately, along came the 20th Century. Only a dozen or so of Boscovice’s Jewish residents survived the Holocaust. Their descendants, and American and other descendants of the former residents, helped fund the restoration and preservation. The mikveh is also preserved, and is not for the claustrophobic. You cross the street, angle off a little, and duck into an old building, then duck even lower. The water flows from the living rock, via a small channel built into the floor, and then into the washing pool.
The water is COLD. I stuck my finger into the channel feeding into the mikveh. There are two very low rooms behind the main room, I suspect for storage or for placing one’s clothes while one bathes.
If you are interested in the Jewish history of Moravia, or in Moravian art in general, I recommend the museum. There is a charge for taking photos, but they have an English-language guide sheet that you can use during your visit. Guided tours are available with advance reservations.