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Prague shul celebrates first marriage in 30 years

PRAGUE, Sept. 5 (JTA) — A piece of history was created in Prague’s New Town this week as the Jubilee Synagogue hosted its first Jewish wedding in more than 30 years.

The marriage of local Jews David Stecher, 32, and 29-year-old Jitka Sobotkova was hailed by members of the Prague Jewish Community as a sign that Jewish life in the city is regaining vitality lost in the Holocaust and during the former Communist regime.

It was a particularly poignant moment for the groom who — 19 years ago in the same shul — became the only Prague Jew of his generation to have a Bar Mitzvah, thanks to the tenacity of his parents and his late grandmother, a Holocaust survivor who risked the wrath of the Communist authorities.

Tuesday’s wedding was officiated by the country’s chief rabbi, Karol Sidon, and attended by two other rabbis working in the Czech Republic.

“This is a wonderful day for me,” said Stecher, who as chairman of the Prague Jewish community’s supervisory board is closely identified with a recent push by community leaders to regenerate the city’s Jewish cultural life.

His father Denis, who now lives in Germany, said he was sorry that the groom’s grandmother, Waltraut Stecher, didn’t live to see the day.

“David’s grandmother died in 1990, having survived the war by hiding in a cellar in what is now Germany,” he said. “She was a very religious woman who came here often for services. I know she would have had tears in her eyes today.”

Many in the community shared the joy of the couple, who met at a party in Prague seven years ago. Prague-based Rabbi Yehuda Yesharim, of Israel, described the day as “very important.”

“We have worked very hard here to preserve the Jewish identity,” Yesharim said. “Today is not only a personal symbol for the couple but a symbol of the rebuilding of the Jewish community.”

The Jubilee Synagogue, which is known locally as Jerusalemska after the name of the street on which it is located, is one of the few synagogues in Prague that holds regular services.

“Jerusalemska is less fashionable for wedding ceremonies” than the Old-New Synagogue in the Old Town, one community member said. “On top of that, many of the local congregation have died or moved away over the years.”

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