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Bondy, Filip

(1830–1907), Czech rabbi. After completing gymnasium in Prague (one of his teachers was the playwright Václav Kliment Klicpera), Filip Bondy studied philosophy at Prague University. He was simultaneously tutored in Jewish theology and Hebrew literature by Shelomoh Yehudah Rapoport, the city’s chief rabbi, as well as by Daniel Frank, rabbi of Brünn (Brno), who ordained him in 1857. That same year he also earned his doctorate of philosophy. Bondy’s exceptional linguistic gifts enabled him to master not only Czech and German, Hebrew and Aramaic, and Latin and Greek, but also English, Italian, and French.

From 1857 to 1859, Bondy served as rabbi in České Budějovice. From 1859 to 1868 he was based in Kasejovice and was responsible for the whole district. It was there, at the beginning of the 1860s, that he began his efforts to promote the use of the Czech language in religious services, initially in wedding addresses and later for eulogies. He redoubled his efforts in what would become his lifelong endeavor, namely, to replace German with Czech in Jewish ceremonial life in Brandýs nad Labem, where he worked from 1868 to 1876, and in Slaný, where he was active from 1876 to 1884. His sermons, which he delivered not only in his own community but also throughout the Czech lands, were particularly meaningful to rural and small town Jews, earning him the sobriquet “the Czech rabbi.”

From the outset, Bondy’s name was associated with Or Tomid, the society for the promotion of religious services in the Czech and Hebrew languages, which was founded in 1883 at the instigation of the Spolek Českých Akademiků Židů (Association of Czech Academic Jews in Prague). In 1884, the association asked Bondy to serve as its first rabbi. At the time, the Prague Jewish community refused to use Czech in its synagogues, and since Or Tomid initially lacked its own prayer house, Bondy officiated at the city’s Stein Hotel. In his role as a teacher of Jewish religion (1884–1904) at all of Prague’s Czech communal, municipal, and secondary schools, where he taught in Czech, Bondy ensured that at least the lectures to the pupils of Czech schools would be delivered in that language.

In formal synagogue life in Prague, Czech was heard for the first time at the Pinkas Synagogue in April 1885. In August 1886, Bondy consecrated the Or Tomid prayer house (where he later officiated at the marriage of the writer Vojtěch Rakous). His occasional sermons were published under the title Hlas Jakobův. Patero slavnostních řečí přednesených v měsíci Tišri 5647 v synagoze spolku Or Tomid v Praze (The Voice of Jacob: Five Occasional Addresses Delivered in the Month of Tishri 5647 in the Synagogue of the Or Tomid Society in Prague; 1886). That same year he published the first Czech textbook of the Jewish religion, Mojžíšovo učení pro školní mládež (The Teachings of Moses for Schoolchildren), a translation of the first 15 chapters of the book of Genesis. The volume was printed with parallel Czech and Hebrew texts; its appearance marked the first time that readers had access to an essential part of the Torah in Czech.

In 1891, Bondy published a translation of Nathan Grün’s textbook on Judaism, Počátky vyučovánínáboženství mojžíšského dle dra Grüna (The Beginnings of the Teaching of the Mosaic Religion According to Dr. Grün). This was the first Czech Jewish textbook authorized by the Ministry of Religion to be used in Czech schools in Bohemia and Moravia. Finally, at the request of the National Czech Jewish Union, he published a translation of all of Genesis, Učení Mojžíšovo. První kniha Mojžíšova (The Teachings of Moses: The First Book of Moses; 1902).

Suggested Reading

Karel Fischer, “Dr. Filip Bondy,” Kalendář českožidovský 11 (1891): 59–62; Hillel J. Kieval, The Making of Czech Jewry: National Conflict and Jewish Society in Bohemia, 1870–1918 (New York, 1988); Vojtěch Rakous, “Židovský Jan Hus,” in Vojkovičtí a přespolní, vol. 3, pp. 38–43 (Prague, 1926).



Translated from Czech by Martin Ward