When Jindrich was born, the Jewish community in Prague was one of the largest in Europe, at over 92,000. It was also home to a thriving literary-intellectual community, associated with such names as Franz Kafa, Max Brod, and Franz Werfel.
Jindrich's mother went to the Maisel Synagogue. The Maisel Synagogue was built in the 1590s, financed by Mordechai Maisel. The Maisels were an influential Bohemian family whose ties to Prague date back to the 1470s. Learn about the Maisel family here. The synagogue burned down at the end of the 17th century and was later rebuilt in the baroque style. Today it serves as the primary location of the Jewish Museum in Prague.
The Jewish quarter where Jindrich was born, Josefov, was once a ghetto. Defined as "a quarter of a city in which members of a minority group live especially because of social, legal, or economic pressure", many Jewish communities have been forced to live in these conditions throughout Europe's history.
Jindrich's father was a member of B'nai B'rith. Founded in 1843, the Independent Order of B'nai B'rith (meaning "Sons of the Covenant" in Hebrew) is the oldest continually-operating Jewish service organization in the world. The organization is engaged in a wide variety of community service and welfare activities, B'nai B'rith International being its' main body.
Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, many Zionist organisations were founded in European Jewish communities. Zionism, the movement to return the Jewish people to their homeland of Israel, was first popularised by Theodor Herzl's text Der Judenstaadt (in English, The Jewish State). Jindrich and his family moved to Palestine during the Aliyah Bet period, when the flow of immigration to British-mandated Palestine was restricted.
For a broader overview of Jewish life before the Holocaust, read this article.
The Czech Torah Network is an educational organization that promotes Jewish spiritual continuity by fostering connections between synagogues and religious institutions that have Czech Torah Scrolls. During the past 35 years, over 1,500 Czech Torahs have been rescued and distributed by the Czech Memorial Scrolls Centre of London, England. They are now on permanent loan throughout the world.
Jindrich returned to Czechoslovakia in 1946. Though Czechoslovakia soon placed a ban on Jewish emigration to Palestine, it was one of the first countries to recognize Israel in the United Nations. In the years after 1948, relations between Czechoslovakia and Israel gradually soured, and diplomatic relations were severed completely following the 1967 Six Day War. During this time, the Jewish community of Czechoslovakia was forced to hide their Jewish affiliation- these circumstances were relatively common in Soviet controlled countries. In his interview with Centropa, Jirí Franek, a professor of Slavic studies who lectured at leading German universities and at Charles University Prague discusses this experience.