Touring The Jewish Museum in Prague

Limited wifi here in the new hotel. We have access but it’s very very slow so I’m typing it in as a note and will post when I get a chance.

We packed up after breakfast, checked out and headed to the next hotel. A Hotel Caesar Palace Praha. Rita wanted to splurge a bit on the last couple of days here.

We picked up a day pass on the metro and headed over. They were nice enough to We were able to drop off our bags in the lobby and headed out to our day long tour of the Jewish section of Prague. As we hadn’t explored the new area much, we hiked a bit to get to the tram. We got off across from Galerie Rudolfinum (The Museum of Decorative Arts).

We walked up to the entrance to The Jewish Museum. We lined up for tickets to be able to enter all the exhibits. At 480 ck each, it would be quite the tour. It was extra to take pictures but only in The Cemetery so you’ll have to either visit the sites or check out the linked web site for a few pictures.

The self tour consisted of 8 locations including 4 Synagogues starting with The Pinkas Synagogue, The Klausen Synagogue, The Old-New Synagogue, The Maisel Synagogue, and The Spanish Synagogue. The other 4 locations are The Old Jewish Cemetery, The Ceremonial Hall, The Robert Guttmann Gallery, and the Reservation Center. We didn’t get to visit all of them though. Rita also wanted to visit the Jubilee Synagogue although it wasn’t on the self tour.

Out of respect, I wore a Kippah or Yarmulke during my visits to a few of the Synagogues.

First on the tour was The Pinkas Synagogue. The walls had the names, dates of birth and date of death or deportation to German ghettos or extermination camps of Jews that lived in The Czech Republic. There are 80,000 names on the walls throughout this Synagogue.

Next was The Old Jewish Cemetery. Because the Jews can’t close a cemetery to new burials, they had to expand the existing cemetery by adding dirt on top of the existing graves (to a specific depth) and older gravestones were then brought up to the new layer. There are 12,000 tombstones although there are certainly more people buried here. The oldest tombstone marks the grave of Avigdor Kara dated 1439. There are several famous Jews buried here including Rabbi Liwa ben Bezakel associated with The Golem who died in 1609. There are 4 others listed in the brochure.

When we left the Cemetery, we went into The Ceremonial Hall. It was a smaller building and contained information on Jewish customs and traditions. The theme in this location was illness and death in the Prague ghetto and discussion of other Jewish Cemeteries in The Czech Republic. There was also discussion of the Prague Burial Society. There were historical artifacts and text, in Czech and English were written. There is a large historical text sheet with small placards describing specific items.

Next was The Klausen Synagogue. There were originally three buildings which were torn down in the late 19th century and replaced with this one. The building held displays on Jewish customs and traditions. The theme here was on daily life of Jews including birth, bris, bar and bat mitzvahs, weddings and even divorce. There was also description of ceremonies held in the home.

Next we visited The Old-New Synagogue which wasn’t actually part of the self tour. This is the oldest active synagogue. As it was still in use, I was given another kippah to wear when visiting. There also weren’t any displays about Jewish life but it did show a functioning synagogue. And it was built in the 13th century.

Next was The Maisel Synagogue where artifacts regarding Jews from the 10th century to the 19th century described Jewish life including origins and the reasons why Jews were persecuted, something I’d been wondering as I read the text. Generally it was the requirements by the rulers that the Christian religion was the official religion and all had to convert or be persecuted. Since Jews wouldn’t convert, this is how the persecution started. Laws were enacted requiring Jews to live in certain areas (ghettos) and prevented them from competing with Christians. Since Christians couldn’t be moneylenders, Jews took on the role. The state kept the books so if debts got too high, they’d cancel interest or even loans. Eventually even being a moneylender caused persecution. It was all very interesting. 1,000 years of Jewish history in The Czech Republic.

In addition there was an exhibit of the silver used for various Jewish religious artifacts. There was an interesting section on the restoration of such artifacts.

In between the various locations, we saw lots of interesting decorations on the surrounding buildings.

Outside The Spanish Synagogue was a statue inspired by Kafka’s Description of a Struggle.

We stopped for lunch at a bakery. I had a Tandoori kabob (ok but dry), rice (cold and vinegary) and a croissant (good). Rita had a goat cheese salad with hummus. For dessert I had a carrot cake (pretty good but not the best in the world as advertised).

Next door to the bakery was a Deli.

Next was The Spanish Synagogue. So far all the synagogues were beautifully decorated but this one surpassed the others. In addition the text and artifacts were related to the 19th and 20th century including Nazi and Russian occupation. There were historical information on concentration camps and the communist years. One interesting bit was that Czechoslovakia helped with the creation of Israel although thinking it would be a communist middle eastern state. With The Seven Days War, they broke off diplomatic relations. When The Czech Republic gained independence from Russia, they restored relations with Israel.

Rita kept hurrying me along but I like reading about history.

We then hiked over to the Jubilee Synagogue. A beautiful facade but entrance was extra and since it was under construction, we didn’t go in. It was quite interesting from the outside and even the sidewalk had the Star of David in stone.

From there we came back to the hotel to check in to our room. The room itself is pretty nice in general but no internet! I’m shocked. It may be a mistake so we’ll check on the way out.

Well we checked. In the lobby it’s fine, just not here in the room so I’ll finish the night and head down to post.

Rita had a destination in mind for dinner. We got on the metro and first headed to Mustek to catch the green line out to Dejvicka, the end of the line.

Then we walked into the neighborhood to Staroceska Krcma, an authentic Czech restaurant. It even had American country music playing. See during the communist era, rock and roll was frowned on but country was acceptable plus it fit in with the tramping lifestyle. That’s where people would go and, well not a camping trip but more like live in the woods for vacation. They liked westerns along with country, bell bottoms, etc. So it is authentic.

Rita ordered pork chops with vegetables and I ordered sword meat. Chicken, beef, onions, peppers, wrapped in bacon. I also ordered butchers potatoes which came with nicely done garlic cloves. I also ordered apple strudel with whipped cream. The helpings were large and the food pretty good. Mine came on a wooden platter with an iron plate and the potatoes. The sword was vertical and stuck in a holder. There was a gravy bowl too. The strudel was on a big glass square with powdered sugar and chocolate swirls. Quite different from the dinner itself.

After finishing, we headed back. The metro had warnings pasted on the doors in Czech and English warning about pickpockets. We made it to our stop without trouble. I did zip up the escalator vs waiting on Rita. I was a little out of breath but it was quite a distance πŸ™‚

On our way back to the hotel, we encountered Sunday night drunks, homeless looking for handouts, and roving gangs of… American teenagers laughing. πŸ™‚

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2 Responses to Touring The Jewish Museum in Prague

  1. Rita says:

    Not Star of Davids in the sidewalk; just stars. SOD are 6 sided, 2 inverted triangles

  2. Freejack says:

    You’re right. They have eight points.

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