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heber ctity, Utah
February 15, 2007
From journal Prague Deserves at Least a Week
September 5, 2005
From journal Prague, Czech Republic
December 19, 2004
This was the original medieval burial site for Prague’s Jewish ghetto, and although it’s been slightly enlarged over the years, it is effectively the only place that Jews could be buried until the 1780s (the last burial was in 1787). It is hard to believe, but in this small site there are believed to be over 100,000 people with at least 12,000 gravestones. Bodies are said to be at least 12 feet deep, and the gravestones are propped up against each other. It’s a fairly awesome sight. At the perimeter of the graveyard is the Pinkas synagogue, the second oldest (1479) in Prague. Be prepared—this is a harrowing experience, as the walls in the vaults have been engraved with the names of all the Czech Jews who were imprisoned in Terezin concentration camp before being deported to Nazi extermination camps. There are over 77,000 names of those who did not return. Additionally, there is an exhibition on the first floor of artwork from the children who were slaughtered. They were given paper and crayons and encouraged to draw pictures to be sent back to their villages, showing how great life was in their camps. I saw many a person wiping tears from their eyes.
The Old-New Synagogue (there’s a snappy title), built in 1270, is the oldest synagogue in Europe and has survived everything that history has thrown at it, including fires and a slum clearance programme of all surrounding properties. I was immediately impressed with the nave and the simple, yet stylish pews and the low-slung bronze chandeliers. Overseeing the congregation is the ancient ark containing the sacred scrolls. It truly has the atmosphere of a holy place, and tourists should feel privileged to be allowed "visiting rights".
The Spanish Synagogue has to be a favourite, with its Moorish appearance and bright colours. The internal decoration is absolutely superb, and the stucco decorations, intricate carvings, and magnificent high dome make for an uplifting experience. There is a permanent exhibition detailing the history of Bohemian Jews, but I really preferred to take in the ambience of the main church.
You will not fail to notice the grand pink and white building, with its strange green steeple on top of a wooden clock tower. This is the Jewish town hall. Other buildings to keep watch for are the "Cubist Houses" on Elisky Krasonhorske—robust looking properties with pragmatic sculptures standing sentry duty at the side of simple window frames. A strange but fascinating architectural style.
I puttered around this section for most of the afternoon, popping into synagogues en route and exploring small alleyways, wondering how determined the oppressed generations must have been to survive in their faith.
From journal A hectic 5 days in Prague
Seattle, Washington, Afghanistan
December 1, 2004
The Jewish Quarter in Prague is not to be missed. You can pay for the individual sites or for a full ticket that costs 500 crowns ($21.37), if I remember correctly. It gets you entry into the major synagogues, as well as the museum and cemetery. It's well worth it to see the quarter. It’s a tiny area that speaks a million words when you realize how many people were crammed into this living area. The overcrowded cemetery says it all. I recommend a good guide book or walking tour of this area to learn the stories and some of the historic truths and local legends of the area--check out Gallum and the Rabbi Levi.
From journal I love Prague
September 29, 2004
The Klausová Synagóga, next to Starý Židovský Hřbitov (Old Jewish Cemetery) was built by Mordechai Maisel in 1573, and originally consisted of a series of small klausen (prayer halls), a mikveh (ritual bath), and a yeshiva (Talmudic school) where Rabbi Löw taught. Destroyed by fire in 1689, they were replaced by the current 1694 Baroque Synagogue, which was second in importance only to Staranová Synagóga and the site of funeral services. It now houses an exhibition on Jewish religious rituals, including Hebrew manuscripts, ornately embroidered kippahs, and ceremonial cups.
In the back-streets of Josefov, across from the Kostel sv Ducha, (Holy Ghost’s Church) is the stunning Španělská Synagóga (Spanish Synagogue) that was built in 1868 on the site of Stará Synagóga (Old Synagogue). The Synagogue gets its name from the sumptuous Moorish interiors inspired by the Alhambra Palace, which make this by far the most impressive of Josefov's six remaining synagogues and one not to miss. It houses an exhibition on Jewish life in Prague from the emancipation of 1848 to the current day, and consists mainly of old photos and documents, including a small exhibit on Kafka and other Jewish writers.
The Maiselova Synagóga down Maiselova from the town hall is architect Alfred Grotte’s 1905, neo-gothic replacement for Maisel’s sumptuous 20-pillared, 1592 original that was destroyed in the fire of 1689. It was used as a store house for the furniture of Jewish deportees by the Nazis and now houses exhibits on Jewish daily life built up from that collection.
These three sites, while hardly worth going out of your way for, are certainly worth visiting if you have the time and have already purchased that all inclusive 450Kč ticket.
From journal Prague’s Jewish Ghetto: Exotic Museum for an Inextinguishable Race
July 16, 2001
Josefov is named after the Austrian Emperor Josef II who lifted most of the restrictions on jews and allowed them to live peaceably. In Prague, they lived in a ghetto between Staromanske Namesti and the river. Integration was not effective, and during the 19th century, Josefov contained over 30,000 jews. By WWII, there were over 90,000 living in the closely-confined quarters of Josefov.
The Nazis began transporting jews from Josefov to a camp at Terezin in 1941. By the end of the holocaust, 77,000 had died in the death camps. There were very few survivors.
It is hard to believe that a city which houses so much beauty also contained so much hate and horror just 60 years ago. A visit here is a wake-up call to the damage that hate can wreak.
You can buy a combined ticket for three synagogues: Klausen, Old-New and Pinkas. The Klausen contains many photos of the old ghetto, as well as menorahs and Torahs.
Around the corner in Siroka is the Pinkas synagogue. Before you enter, they hand paper yarmulkes to the men which must be put on before entering. We had to bow our heads in order to fit throught the narrow, short doorway. Inside are the 77,000 names enshrined on the walls along with birth dates and dates of transportation to the camp. The whole synagogue was covered in names from floor to ceiling. You exit the Pinkas synagogue through the Old Jewish cemetery (mentioned above) which is a high-walled, small area smothered in thousands of gravestones. The earliest ones date back to the 1500's but they are stacked on top of each other, and every space on the ground is taken. This is the part of Prague that I will never forget.
After seeing these somber sights, head back toward the river to see some medieval waterwheels. The narrow back alleys are crammed with shops, and you can pass by the Rudolfinium concert hall.
From journal Prague - A City Rich in History
New York, New York
June 29, 2001
The synagogues were interesting as well. The Klausen Synagogue has a beautiful ark (pictured below) along with artifacts from Jewish life in Prague. The interior walls of the Pinkas Synagogue are covered with the names of Czech Jews who were sent to Nazi concentration camps - these names seem to go on forever. And I just loved the Spanish Synagogue, which may be the only synagogue in the world with ornate Arabic designs inside - quite beautiful! I didn't make it to perhaps the most famous of the temples in the Jewish Quarter - the Old-New Synagogue. I just couldn't bring myself to pay the additional $8 admission fee (on top of what we already paid to see the other sights.) From what I could see from pictures it looked nice, but I do hope they reconsider the admission fees.
From journal Off-season in Prague
December 11, 2000
From journal Czech Republic: Prague
San Clemente, California
July 20, 2000
From journal Prague: The Most Magical City