PRAGUE (Mar. 23)
When you run for U.S. president, you have to be prepared for opponents finding skeletons in your closet.
But in the case of Sen. John Kerry, the senator’s past may reveal not so much a skeleton but a Golem, the legendary Jewish man of clay.
Loew, who is buried in Prague’s old Jewish cemetery, is said to have created the Golem to protect Prague’s Jewish community from outside threats. The Golem, as legend has it, was a faithful servant until Loew was forced to drain the creature of its life force after it developed an ego and disobeyed its creator.
Kerry already is aware of his Jewish roots, having learned recently that his paternal grandfather was a German Jew born in 1873 in the north Moravian town of Horni Benesov who later emigrated to the United States. Further research established that the Massachusetts senator’s oldest known Czech Jewish ancestor is Bernhard Loew, born in 1771 in the south Moravian town of Boskovice.
But local historian Jaroslav Bransky has dug deeper into Bernhard Loew’s past — and says there is strong evidence to indicate that Kerry is related to Judah Loew’s brother, Sinai.
“Everything is showing that Kerry’s family is descended from Sinai,” said Bransky, who has written several books on the once thriving Jewish community in Boskovice.
Bransky believes that the family tree leads from Sinai, one of three older brothers of Rabbi Loew, to Josefina Loew, one of Kerry’s great-grandmothers.
Little is known about Sinai. History books have focused on his more famous brother who, even centuries after his death, draws large crowds to Prague’s Jewish Quarter.
Bransky reached his conclusion by using local archival material and epitaphs from gravestones at Boskovice’s Jewish cemetery, one of the largest in the country. But he says his search was hampered by the destruction of town records in an early-19th-century fire.
“I can’t precisely prove everything because there are some gaps in the chain,” Bransky said. “But I plan to continue on this research, and there are other genealogical sources which I have not examined yet.”
Tomas Kraus, executive director of the Czech Federation of Jewish Communities, welcomed Bransky’s research but said previous experience had shown that caution is required.
“There are people in Israel who claimed to have the full family tree of Rabbi Loew, but the tree showed that one of his descendants was killed at Stalingrad fighting as a German soldier,” Kraus said. “Loew’s family history is very complicated and at the moment we don’t have much more than speculation.”
Bransky says he is more interested in the Loew family than the Kerry connection.
“I don’t have any Jewish roots myself, but I have been interested in the topic of Jews in Boskovice since the 1960s because my father and I were both born in the Jewish Quarter of the town and I spent my childhood surrounded by Jewish friends.”
Town records show that Jews were living in Boskovice as early as the mid-15th century. The town’s Jewish cemetery officially dates back to the 17th century, although Bransky believes there was an earlier cemetery in the same place during the 15th century.
According to the Bohemia-Moravia Special Interest Group, which conducts research into Jewish history, more than 1,800 Jews lived in the town around 1850. It was one of the biggest Jewish communities in Moravia at the time. However, the community was later torn apart by the Holocaust. Only 14 of 458 Boskovice Jews deported to concentration camps survived the war.
Bransky, 75, says he will never forget those who died in the Holocaust. “I was very sorry when the Jewish population was removed in transports during the war. Afterward the town felt like a desert,” Bransky added.
Kraus said he would be delighted if evidence does prove Kerry’s link to Rabbi Loew.
“Mr. Kerry would be welcome to come to Prague, whether or not he wins the election in the United States. We would be very happy, as we are in other cases, to help him find out more about his family,” Kraus said.