Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Josefov is Prague’s Old Jewish Quarter that lies between the Vltava River and the Old Town Square. It is named after Emperor Josef II because his reforms improved Jewish living conditions in Prague. During WWII, the Nazis actually preserved the synagogues and the cemetery. They brought objects from 153 Jewish communities from Bohemia and Moravia to Prague because they wanted to use it as the “museum of an extinct race” once their extermination program was complete. Disturbing to say the least. But at least everything survived and it’s now a memorial of 700 years of oppression.

The Jewish Museum has one of the most extensive collections of Judaic art in the world. Its contents are spread across multiple synagogues, the Ceremonial Hall, the Old Jewish Cemetery, the Robert Guttmann Gallery and the Education and Culture Center.

Europe’s oldest working synagogue is the Old-New Synagogue. It was built around 1270 and is one of the city’s earliest Gothic buildings.

The Klausen Synagogue was completed in 1694 in the Baroque style. Today, it contains an exhit detailing Jewish customs and traditions, in addition to, an exhibit of Hebrew prints and manuscripts.
The Pinkas Synagogue was founded in 1479. After WWII, it turned into a Jewish memorial. One wall inside contains the names of all of the Nazi death camps and the others are covered with the names of the 77,297 Czechoslovak victims. The walls are organized by different part of the country.

The Spanish Synagogue was built in 1868 and combines different architectural styles. Its name comes from its Moorish interior. It houses an exhibit on Jews in the ČR from emancipation to today. The synagogue is very impressive. Unfortunately, they are really strict about the “no photography” rule inside.

The Old Jewish Cemetery is Europe’s oldest surviving Jewish cemetery with over 12,000 visible tombstones. It’s hard to image that 100,000 people are buried in 12,000 graves. But the body count is much higher due to the layering system used to save space. This is because Prague Jews were not allowed to bury their dead outside of the ghetto so they had to make d0. The oldest tombstone, actually now a replica, dates back to 1439 while the newest one dates back to 1787.

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