Prague

Jewish Prague

more than a year ago

Prague's Jewish community used to be one of the oldest in Europe, rich in history, legend and tragedy. Here, the story goes, Rabbi Loew created the Golem nearly half a millennium ago.

The community was confined to a ghetto until 1781 when Josef II issued the Edict of Tolerance, which permitted the free exercise of religion and the secularisation of education, science and art. The Jewish town is called Josefov to this day in his honour.

From the 1880s, in the name of slum-clearing, most of Josefov was razed to the ground and only a few synagogues, the cemetery and the Josefov town hall remained. Wide new streets with grand Art Nouveau buildings emerged in place of the decrepit old tenement buildings.

Later still, the Nazis all but annihilated Prague's Jewish legacy, saving the monuments as their planned epitaph to a vanished culture. The post-war communists did little to alleviate the persecution - many of the remaining Jewish inhabitants chose to emigrate.

Today, the Josefov quarter is home to six synagogues, including the famous Spanish Synagogue and Old-New Synagogue, plus the Jewish Ceremonial Hall and the Old Jewish Cemetery. All of the sites, with the exception of the Old-New Synagogue are run by the Prague Jewish Museum.

Despite being so close to Old Town Square the streets of Josefov are often quiet and contemplative, a beautiful place to sightsee. Another item of note from the Jewish Quarter is that it was the birthplace of writer Franz Kafka. You can see a unique commemorative statue on Dusni Street.
There are three additional sites worth checking out outside of the Jewish Quarter. Close to the main train station is the Jubilee Synagogue, designed with an impossible-to-miss mix of art nouveau and pseudo-Moorish styles. The New Jewish Cemetery (Nový židovský hřbitov) in Žižkov was created in 1891 to relieve overcrowding in the Žižkov Jewish Cemetery. In addition to many notable art nouveau monuments, Franz Kafka and writer Arnošt Lustig are buried here. The Žižkov Jewish Cemetery is nearby, close to the TV Tower in Prague 3. This was originally established as a plague cemetery but only a small part has been preserved.

The Jewish Museum in Prague ticket includes the Maisel Synagogue, Pinkas Synagogue, Old Jewish Cemetery, Klausen Synagogue, Ceremonial Hall, Spanish Synagogue and temporary exhibitions in the Robert Guttmann Gallery. Admission 300Kč/200Kč, Children under 6 free.

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