Synagogues of Prague #Passover #TuesdayTravels

Tuesday Travels
Since today is the final day of Passover, it seemed appropriate to focus on Prague’s Jewish heritage. At least I think this is the last day. The Internet gave conflicting information as to whether this year’s Passover ended on April 17 or 18. But since it’s Tuesday, it’s a travel day.

There were Jews living in Prague in 965AD, as recorded by an Arabian Jew who visited the city that year. Chances are there were Jews in Bohemia and Moravia, the main Czech provinces, before the arrival of Christianity in the mid-ninth century. During the Middle Ages, most Jews became concentrated in a ghetto in the area now known as Josefov, north of the Old Town.

On our first morning in Prague, Rebecca and I wandered through the Josefov district, but unfortunately too early to be able to visit any of the attractions, like the Jewish Museum of Prague.

Jewish Museum of Prague

Jewish Museum of Prague

What we did see a lot of, though at the time we didn’t know what they meant, was a lot of bronze plaques in the sidewalks of Josefov. The plaques are placed in front of homes where Jewish victims of the Holocaust were known to live. These are paid for by surviving members of the family, so there would probably be more if entire families hadn’t been wiped out by the Nazis. Here’s an example of one:

Holocaust plaque

Emil Roubicek, born 1894 and sent to Terezin in 1943.

Terezin is the Czech word for Theresienstadt, the Nazi’s show camp. I’ll have more about that in a separate post.

One of the most interesting buildings is the Old-New Synagogue, finished in 1270 and “the oldest surviving Medieval synagogue of twin-nave design.”

Prague's Old-New Synagogue

Prague’s Old-New Synagogue

The Old-New Synagogue was presided over by famed Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel, generally known as Rabbie Loew. He lived in the 16th century and was well-known as a scholar of the Talmud, a mystic and a philosopher. What he is best known for today, however, is the legend of the Golem, a large, fierce creature supposedly made of clay to protect the Jews of the Prague ghetto from attack. The Golem supposedly lived in the attic of the Old-New Synagogue, presided over by Rabbi Loew.

Legend is the operative word, however, and Rabbi Loew may have had nothing to do with it. The first printed reference is in a German book published in 1834. Too bad it’s just a legend. The Jews could have used the Golem’s help in the Nazi era.

Rabbi Loew and the Golem

Painting of Rabbi Loew and the Golem in Alchemical Museum in Prague taken by Rebecca Anderson, 2016

Located between the Pinkas and Klausen Synagogues is the oldest Jewish graveyard in Prague, in use from 1439 through 1878. It’s full of very old monuments and headstones, many of them listing to one side. I would have loved to wander through the cemetery to take a closer look at the headstones.

Headstones in Jewish cemetery, Prague

Headstones in the Jewish cemetery, Prague, Czech
Republic @ marcovarro

I was intrigued by the architecture of the Maisel Synagogue. It was built in the late 16th century in neo-Gothic style. I thought it very pretty.

MaiselSynagogue-Prague

Maisel Synagogue – Prague

I hope you had a lovely spring holiday, whether you celebrate Easter of Passover. Mazel tov!

Linda

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  1. Pingback: World War II in Prague Tour #TuesdayTravels | Linda McLaughlin/Lyndi Lamont

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