Prague Rabbi Formally Installed As Chief Rabbi of Czech Republic

Rabbi Efraim Karol Sidon, rabbi of Prague since Rosh Hashanah, was installed this week as chief rabbi of the Czech republic.

As the only rabbi in the republic, he takes over the spiritual leadership of nine surviving Jewish communities in Bohemia and Moravia, with a total population of 3,000.

Rabbi Lazar Kleinman was recently installed as the only rabbi of the Slovak republic. The two republics are scheduled to become independent in January.

The Nov. 9 installation ceremony in the Jewish town hall of Prague was preceded by a morning service at the Altneuschul synagogue, the foundation of which dates back to the 13th century.

The installation was attended by Czech government representatives, priests from eight churches, the ambassadors of Israel, Poland, Austria and Germany and diplomats from the United States and other countries.

The gathering listened to Sidon’s inaugural speech and was addressed by the chief rabbi of Haifa, Elijahu Josef Shaar-Yashuv Hakohen, and by the director of the Heidelberg College of Jewish studies, Rabbi Julius Karlebach.

Both were Sidon’s teachers during his studies of Judaism at Heidelberg University and his rabbinical studies at the Bet Ariel yeshiva in Israel.

The speakers stressed the great responsibility of the new rabbi, who inherits the legacy of such spiritual leaders and scholars as the Maharal of Prague, Yehuda Low Ben Bezalel and other famous Czech rabbis of the past.

Sidon was born in Prague in 1942 to a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother. He became a well-known Czech playwright and novelist and was among the first signatories of the anti-communist “Charter 77″ manifesto, initiated by Vaclav Havel.

Due to communist persecution, Sidon at one time made his living as a stoker in boiler rooms.

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