Today members of our Jewish Studies class, along with a bunch of others from our Prague Summer Program, were guided through the multi-stop Jewish Museum by Dr. Tomas Kraus, executive director of the Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic. Our first stop was the Maisel Synagogue, built in the early 1590s by the mayor of Jewish Town, Mordecai Maisel.
We then went to the Pinkas Synagogue, which houses on its walls the list of all those Czech Jews murdered in the Shoah. Although the Soviets whitewashed the walls, the Czechs handpainted the names once more when the Soviet regime collapsed. Exhibits upstairs showcase children’s drawings from the Terezin concentration camp.
From there we pretty much gallivanted through the Old Jewish Cemetery, stopping at the graves of benefactress Hendl Bassevi (died 1628) and the MaHaRaL, Rabbi Loew (died 1609). I don’t have photos of those sites yet, but I’ll post them when I do (the cemetery charges 40 crowns for permission to take photos). I know I must return to the cemetery. Soaking up history takes time.
The Klausen Synagogue (built in 1694) is situated in front of the cemetery and next to it is Ceremonial Hall, where the Chevra Kadisha performed its duties.
The Old New Synagogue, built in 1270 on Maiselova Street
was next. It has the smell of ancient history. Tomas showed us the seat of Rabbi Loew and you could just imagine him sitting there. Tomas also shared the legend of the rabbi and the golem he created as well as the story of how a Nazi officer sat in the chair and was assassinated. Further, he explained his theory of the name for the synagogue: that Old New, or Altneu in German, is actually derived from the Hebrew al-tenai, on condition, based on the Prague legend that the building’s foundation stones would be returned to Jerusalem when the Temple was restored.
The last synagogue on the tour was the Spanish Synagogue, so called not because its congregants were Sephardim, but because the structure was built in the Moorish style. It opened in 1868. Its exhibits focus on more modern Prague Jewry, that is, of the 19th and 20th century. Upstairs is an exhibit of Judaic silver.
Can’t wait to see what we learn tomorrow!