Újezd 19, Praha 1 - Malá Strana


© Vladimír Železný: At the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, a young Israeli blows the shofar - a musical instrument made of horn© Vladimír Železný: Hasidic Jews pray in the evening at the Wailing Wall
© Vladimír Železný: Hasidic Jew at the Wailing Wall laments over a temple destroyed more than two thousand years ago© Vladimír Železný: Boy from Mea Shearim, Jerusalem’s Hasidic quarter
© Vladimír Železný: Morning at the classroom for Breslov Hasidim© Vladimír Železný: At the Old Synagogue in Mikulov. An arcane ceremony called Havdalah marks the end of the Shabbath - holy Saturday - and sets it apart from the rest of the week.
© Vladimír Železný: Hasidic pilgrims in Uman in Ukraine. Father and son are reading psalms at the tomb of Rabbi Nachman© Vladimír Železný: Hasidic boys wear the payot from the age of three or four

PhDr Vladimír Železný (1945) is a journalist, writer, promoter of popular science, astronomy, astrophysics and physics for which he was given the Czech Academy of Science Award; he’s a television scriptwriter and director, author of books, politician, senator, member of the European Parliament, deputy leader of the Eurosceptic fraction of the European Parliament and deputy leader of its Board for Wine and Viniculture. He is also the spokesman of the Civic Forum, businessman, manager, founder and director of nationwide television station, television commentator and founder and vice-president of the Franz Kafka Society. As a collector of modern Czech art, he’s created the largest private collection in this country and made it accessible to the public. He’s also a founder of vineries, author of books on wine, including the Good Advice From a Wine Lover, which has been appraised world-wide.

He is a photographer who has been taking photographs for fifty-seven years and publishing them for fifty. This is his fifteenth exhibition. He is a member of the Association of Professional Photographers and has devoted the last twenty years of his photographic production to capturing Jewish life, with a special focus on the Orthodox communities.

These days he is less of an astronomer, less of a politician, less of a manager, but he remains a photographer who drinks wine.


The exhibition shows a world that was meant to end a long time ago, world of Hasidic Jews, poor Orthodox Jews from Eastern Europe - from the area between Belarus and Bukovina and between Poland, Galicia and southern Ukraine, who in the 18th century initiated a renewal of the stiff Rabbinic Judaism. At the base of the renaissance was not an intellectual knowledge, but joy. All of a sudden, singing and dancing became more compelling paths to salvation than the old, specialist talmudic disputations. The Hasidic belief called for dreaming and fervour; it gave religion a new feeling of resurgence and aroused a seductive feeling of a new beginning. Every thrill of joyfulness, however naive, was bringing them closer to the arrival of the Messiah.

The Hasidic movement created a new sense of togetherness in which even the most wretched common man could share in the salvation of the world through his everyday actions. The Hasidic world of contagious simplicity was a world of mystical stories with the cadik, their beloved, miraculous rabbi, in the centre. As an indisputable and absolute authority, he was rewarded with a boundless trust. His every simple action, even lighting a pipe, suddenly took on a spiritual meaning bigger than a talmudic discourse. In his Jewish language - Yiddish - the Hassidim endlessly discussed his miracles and his ability to communicate with higher worlds. The folksy world of simple, merry beliefs, suddenly found itself touching the inaccessible and complicated world of the cabbala. And nothing in between!

The Hasidic world survived the east European pogroms for two centuries, during which people were massacred and their towns, their Hasidic shtetls, burned down with cruel regularity. But the European Hasidism didn’t survive the Shoah, the last pogrom in Europe. The majority of the merry people ended in German gas chambers and flew out the chimney in Auschwitz. Those who were lucky to survive, then founded Hasidic communities in Israel, United States and in a few other countries around the world.

But they are still here; they are back. Approximately about every tenth Jew on this planet is a Hasid. There are now nearly one and a half million Hasidim who, led by their cadik, await and prepare for the arrival of the Saviour. And of course they continue to tell each other stories in Yiddish about miraculous rabbis, both past and present.

© Nikon CEE GmbH, odštěpný závod, 2017