Prague: few Jews, many shuls

PRAGUE, May 25 (JTA) — Estimates put registered membership in Prague’s Jewish community at 1,500, though most observers say there are at least 3,000 Jews in the Czech capital. Only a few hundred of Prague’s Jews regularly attend services, but there are seven different congregations. One is Reform; another Reform shul describes itself as “liberal,” the British equivalent of Reform; one, which is particularly friendly to foreigners, is somewhere on the border of Reform and Conservative and describes itself as non-denominational liberal; one is Conservative; two are Orthodox; and one is associated with the Orthodox Chabad movement. According to Rabbi Ron Hoffberg, the country’s only official Conservative rabbi, the proliferation has as much to do with longstanding political feuds as with real religious differences. “There are small towns in Pennsylvania with 3,000 Jews that make do with one synagogue and one congregation,” he said. Of course, it must be noted that those small towns probably do not have Prague’s good fortune: The city has five working synagogue buildings, some dating back to the Middle Ages.

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