Only several weeks after torrential rains and flooding left half of Prague submerged in water, Chabad here is back in business, and “stronger than ever,” says director Rabbi Manis Barash.
Rabbi Barash, who established Chabad in the Czech capital with his wife Dini just over six years ago, reports that damage to the ground floor of the Chabad House—located in the center of the Old Town City Center—was substantial, but thankfully, not irreparable. A team of community members and local Yeshiva students worked around the clock to ensure Chabad would be completely ready for the high holidays. During all that time the daily minyan and Chabad’s programs carried on as usual- with some minor differences, such as kerosene lighting due to a two-week long power failure.
When Rabbi Barash and his wife arrived in Prague, the city was a curious irony. Home to some of the oldest and most beautiful synagogues in Europe, and host to thousands of Jewish tourists a year, there was not a single place to join a weekday minyan or participate in a traditional service on Shabbat.
“The synagogues had all been converted to museums, and in a sense, that’s what Jewish Prague was—a monument to Jewish life in the city many years before,” recalls Rabbi Barash.
Rabbi Barash estimates that as many as 6,000 Jews live in Prague, many of them holocaust survivors and their children. The city—world famous for its beauty, and with strong economic potential—also has a large foreign population among its residents.
The Rabbi and his wife have devoted all their energies to creating a vibrant, active Jewish community in Prague. The Chabad synagogue is a constant stream of activity with community programs, Hebrew school classes, daily and Shabbat services, a newly-opened Chabad Yeshiva, and a kindergarten on the ground floor.
Twenty-five of Prague’s Jewish youngsters are enrolled in Chabad’s kindergarten this year. Hit hardest by the flooding waters, the kindergarten classrooms have now been completely renovated and look better than ever.
Since the flood, Rabbi Barash observed many new faces at Chabad, particularly over the High Holidays as compared to last year. “It is written,” says Rabbi Barash, “that even many waters cannot stop the strong love that a Jew feels for G-d.”
“We are seeing this in our community. The floods in Prague brought out a sense of faith in so many people and a desire to connect with other Jewish people in the city.”