PRAGUE, May 2 (JTA) – The chairman of Prague´s Jewish community has outlined plans to re-establish the city as a world center of Jewish academic excellence. Tomas Jelinek, one of the Czech Republic´s most influential Jewish figures, is to lobby support for his idea during a visit to the United States next week. Jelinek told JTA he had made contact with a senior rabbi in Israel with a view to establishing a center of learning in Prague. The city in past centuries has played host to a number of distinguished scholars and teachers, such as Rabbi Loew ben Bezalel and Chief Rabbi Ezekiel Landau. "It is still in the early stages of planning, but I believe that Prague is a place where important figures in Judaism could spend a few months studying the rich archives on Judaica in Bohemia and Moravia and giving lectures on current Jewish issues," Jelinek said. "I would like to see Prague becoming a visible place on the Jewish map." His plan envisages Prague´s Jewish community providing facilities with the backing of Czech and international Jewish organizations, which would provide stipends for scholars to study in Prague. Jelinek said he believes the idea would benefit not only scholars interested in regional Jewish issues, both past and present, but the local Jewish population as well. "It would be good for the Prague Jewish community because we would attract scholars and rabbis, while the Jewish world outside would benefit by being able to rediscover Jewish life here," he said. Some scholars, he said, would find Prague an attractive place to "finish their thoughts" in their respective fields. "Prague was a place where leading Jewish authorities such as Rabbi Loew and Rabbi Landau used to stay," he continued. "I follow the principle that if you don´t have thinkers here, bring them in from abroad. In some way it helps you to inspire the local community." The American Jewish Committee has invited Jelinek to the United States. He will visit Washington and New York during his stay. He said he would try to win financial and moral support for his plan. "I am looking to establish the project as soon as possible, but I need to win support for this idea from authorities in Judaism," he said. "It cannot start just as a good idea from one chairman of the Prague Jewish community. It has to be something that involves a rabbi in Israel and respected figures from the U.S.A., Britain or from France." Jelinek also intends to press for financial support for social programs caring for the Prague Jewish community´s 800 Holocaust survivors. "I would like to ask those responsible for humanitarian funds in international Jewish institutions for money for social projects, so we can ensure the future funding of programs for survivors," he said. Jelinek said the Prague Jewish community is not wealthy enough to provide full social services for all its survivors. "We have 800 survivors, but at the moment we can only support about one-eighth of them through homes for the elderly and home help services," he argued. Jelinek said Czech Holocaust survivors were entitled to be looked after properly because many had not received full compensation in past claims against Germany. "I believe in the world today there are only a few thousand survivors, but we cannot be excluded from money available in humanitarian funds," he said. "People in Eastern Europe received less compensation than people in the West; that is just a fact." During his trip, Jelinek hopes to develop a "partnership" with a range of Jewish communal organizations in the United States. "I believe that Jews in America can very much benefit from re-establishing contacts with Eastern European communities because many of them came from Eastern Europe and are looking for their own heritage," he said. "And Czech Jews could learn from the vitality of Jewish life in the U.S.A."
Prague Jews want study center