Sightseeing in Prague -
Prague Jewish Quarter
Top Sights in Josefov
Prague has been the home to Jews since the city was first founded over 1,000 years ago. The Jewish Quarter is one of the oldest and best preserved in Europe. It is said that the quarter was not destroyed during WWII because Hitler wanted to transform it into an epitaph to a vanished culture.
The community was confined to a ghetto until 1781 when Josef II issued an Edict of Tolerance. This permitted freedom of religion, science, art and the secularization of education. The Jewish Quarter of Prague is called Josefov in his honor.
Many important figures have come from Josefov and the local community including Rabbi Löw (famous Cabbalists and creator of the Prague Golem), Morchedai Maisel (famous court Jew) and Franz Kafka (author).
Maisel Synagogue- Start your tour of the Jewish town here, you can get a lot of background history and avoid the ticket lines at some of the other locations mentioned below. This synagogue was named for the Mayor of the Jewish town, Mordechai Maisel. It is a part of the Jewish Museum and the permanent exhibition is called "The History of Jews in Bohemia and Moravia from the Establishment of Jewish Settlements up to the Period of Emancipation."
Jewish Museum- The museum has one of the largest collections of Judaic art in the world with over 40,000 exhibits. The collection is so large because, in 1942, the leaders of the community were able to negotiate with the Nazis to bring artifacts from liquidated communities in the regions of Bohemia and Moravia. The museum also sells a combined ticket for entry into the Synagogues mentioned.
Old Jewish Cemetery- This cemetery was established in the 15th century and is considered one of the most important monuments in Jewish Prague. There are over 12,000 tombstones in the cemetery, the oldest from 1439. Because the community was confined to the ghetto, as the cemetery filled, dirt was brought in and layers were added above other graves. Many of the tombstones are for people buried far below. Both Rabbi Löw and Morchedai Maisel are buried here.
Old New Synagogue- This synagogue dates from the 13th century when it was called the "New Synagogue." In the 16th century more synagogues were built and this became known as the "Old New Synagogue." The medieval vaulted hall is the only of its kind still in existence. This synagogue has Orthodox services.
Pinkas Synagogue- In this synagogue you will find the names of the 80,000 Bohemian and Moravian Jews who were murdered during WWII. Also here is a very powerful exhibition entitled "Children's Drawings from Terezín 1942-1944." Of the 8,000 children that were deported to this death camp, only 242 survived. The Jewish Museum has over 4,000 original drawings that the children drew while at the camp.
Klausen Synagogue- This was the largest synagogue in the ghetto and it served as the Burial Society for the Old Cemetery which is adjacent. The permanent exhibition is called "Jewish Customs and Traditions."
Spanish Synagogue- This synagogue is newer than many of the others, dating to the late 19th century. It is built in the Moorish style. The permanent exhibition is a continuation of that at the Maisel Synagogue, called "The History of Jews in Bohemia and Moravia from Emancipation to the Present."
To help you better understand the city's layout, we have divided the best sights in Prague by area. Please also visit our pages about Hradcany (the Castle Area), Staré Mesto (the Old Town) and General Information about Prague.
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Prague Hebrew Clock
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