Monday, March 31, 2014

Svihov - It's Pronounced Shvi Hov With The Accent On The First Syllable

Svihov Torah
Congregation Albert

As I mentioned in the previous post, we had arranged for a rental car so we could drive to Svihov (pronounced Shvi-hov with the accent on the first syllable.) Why Svihov? Not for its historic castle but for its Jewish cemetery.

The cemetery contains burials from the 16th - 19th Centuries. The Holocaust Torah scroll we have at Congregation Albert in Albuquerque comes from the Jewish community of Svihov. Thanks to research done by others I found the GPS coordinates for the cemetery online and Google Maps took us to the exact spot.

Located downhill from a beautiful church with a perfectly manicured cemetery, the Jewish cemetery is officially listed as abandoned. But it is not abandoned. While the stone wall surrounding the cemetery is falling down, stones sit on top of some of the markers, yahrzeit (memorial) candles burned on others and it is cleared that the grass is maintained.

Most of the grave stones are unreadable and stones closest to the gate are so old that they have sunk half way into the earth. As we wandered among the graves, the history of this no longer extant community came to life. A community that rarely had more than 25 households but also served the surrounding Jewish villages, its synagogue unmaintained and torn down, the cemetery remains the last tangible symbol of an ancient Jewish presence.
One stone had a pineapple on it, a symbol of learning and wisdom. Unreadable, it may have been the grave of a former rabbi. I stood by the grave, chanted the El Malei Rachamim (God full of compassion) and recited Kaddish for the members of this historic community. (Click here to see the video)

We left Svihov and drove north to Plezn - the home of the Pilsner Urkiel brewery for a tour and lunch. As usual I remained the designated driver.

Typing in Hotel Jasmine instead of Hotel Yasmin into the GPS, the drive back to Prague took us on a circuitous route through the city, past the hockey arena as people were arriving for a game, and through neighborhoods that otherwise we would never would have seen. Prague is a city with European charm with an overlay of communist block buildings.

After returning the car we ate another excellent meal and headed to bed to get some rest before our drive to Warsaw the next day.

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