Prague Old Jewish Quarter Area Tour

Josefov.

Order Tour Code: P 4
Tour availability: Tour available in summer season Tour available in winter season Recognized by UN as an unique heritage site
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This tour is a walking four hour tour. Take the opportunity to join our experienced guide who will show you the Prague Jewish sights, the Jewish museums-synagogues, the Old New Synagogue, the Old Jewish Cemetery with thousands of tombstones from the medieval ages and if you want also the New Jewish Cemetery with the grave of the famous writer Franz Kafka.
4 HOUR TOUR
GUIDE ONLY
Tickets to attractions are not included in the tour price.

The Prague Jewish museum celebrated the 100 years anniversary of its existence in the year 2006.
What is possible to see with our guide:

Maisel Synagogue
The Maisel synagogue was erected in 1592 on the basis of a privilege granted by Emperor Rudolf II. Its founder was Mordecai Maisel, the Mayor of the Prague Jewish Town.
Built by Judah Tzoref de Herz and Josef Wahl, it was originally a Renaissance temple with three naves, which was unusual for its day.
The synagogue burnt down in the ghetto fire of 1689 and was rebuilt several times. It acquired its current Neo-Gothic form by Prof. A Grotte in 1893-1905.
There is the exhibition "Jews in the Bohemian Lands, 10th-18th Century".
On display is a wealth of rare collection objects, each placed in a new layout and proper context after a recent comprehensive reconstruction of the Maisel Synagogue. Touch screens enable visitors to look through old Hebrew manuscripts and to view historical maps of Jewish settlements. Visitors are also encouraged to search the museum's database for information about prominent Jewish figures.
In the evening hours, the exhibition area is often transformed into an auditorium and used as a venue for concerts, recitals and solo theatre performances.


Spanish Synagogue
The second part of the permanent exhibition History of the Jews in Bohemia and Moravia - from Emancipation to the Present follows on from the exhibition in the Maisel Synagogue Upper-floor prayer hall - Synagogue Silver from Bohemia and Moravia. On the ground floor, visitors can become acquainted with the history of the Jews from the late 18th to the early 20th centuries, when the Czech lands formed part of the Habsburg Empire. The gradual broadening of Jewish freedoms from the reforms of Joseph II to the proclamation of full political emancipation in 1867 are illustrated primarily through archive documents and small printed books of the day. Portraits of prominent figures, together with examples of their works, highlight traditional Jewish learning, enlightenment, education and science from the late 18th and first half of the 19th centuries. A separate vitrine is dedicated to attempts at service reform, which in the 1830s were focused on the Old Shul, where several of the most prominent representatives of Jewish enlightenment and science were active as preachers. The part of the exhibition that is located in the west gallery deals with the Jews in the Czechoslovak Republic founded in 1918 that existed untl 1938. During this time, Jewish nationhood was recognized by the state and the Jews played a major role in the political and economic life of the country. The exhibition spotlights, above all, prominent figures from the world of culture - writers and poets who wrote in German and Czech, scientists and artists. The connected part of the exhibition in the north gallery is dedicated to the Holocaust of Bohemian and Moravian Jews in the years 1939-1945. The last two vitrines contain a brief outline of the history of Jews in the Czech lands after 1945 and a look at relations between Czechoslovakia and Israel. The exhibits featured in the southern gallery deal with the history and rebuilding of the Prague ghetto, together with other Jewish sites in Bohemia and Moravia. The remaining part of the exhibition includes a brief introduction to the history of the Jewish museums in Prague and Mikulov in the period before the Second World War, the war-time Central Jewish Museum and related activities of the Jewish Museum in Prague from 1945 until the present day.
The Spanish Synagogue was built in 1868 on the site of the oldest Prague Jewish house of prayer. It was designed in a Moorish style by the architect Ullmann. The remarkable interior decoration features a low stucco arabesque of stylized Islamic motifs which are also applied to the walls, doors and gallery balustrades. The interior, together with the stained glass windows, were designed by architects A. Baum and B. Munzberg and completed in 1893.
Pinkas Synagogue
Memorial to the Jewish Victims of the Holocaust from Bohemia and Moravia. Children´s Drawings from Terezín 1942-1944. The present building is the work of the Horowitz family. In 1535 Aaron Meshullam Horowitz had it built beween his house and the site of the Old Jewish Cemetery. After the Second World War, the synagogue was turned into a Memorial to the Jews of Bohemia and Moravia murdered by the Nazis. On its walls are inscribed the names of the Jewish victims, their personal data, and the names of the communities to which they belonged. In 1968, however, the Memorial had to be closed because ground water had penetrated the building´s foundations, thus endangering the structure. During work on the underground waterproofing of the building, a discovery was made of vaulted spaces with an ancient well and ritual bath. The Communist regime deliberately held up renovation work and the inscriptions were removed. Not until 1990 was it possible to complete the building alterations. Finally, in 1992-1994, the 77,297 names of the Jewish victims of Bohemia and Moravia were rewritten on its walls.

Old Jewish Cemetery
The Old Jewish Cemetery was established in the first half of the 15th century. Along with the Old-New Synagogue, it is one of the most important hictoric sites in Prague´s Jewish Town. The oldest tombstone, which marks the grave of the poet and scholar Avigdor Karo, dates from the year 1439. Burials took place in the cemetery until 1787. Today it contains some 12,000 tombstones, al though the number of persons buried here is much greater. The cemetery was enlarged a number of times in the past. In spite of this the area did not suffice and earth was brought in to add further layers. It is assumed that the cemetery contains several burial layers placed on top of each other. The picturesque goups of tombstones from various periods emerged through the raising of older stones to the upper layers.

Klausen Synagogue
The permanent exhibiton Jewish Customs and Traditions, which is housed in the main nave of the synagogue, highlights the significance of the synagogue and of specific Jewish festivals. The gallery of the Klausen Synagogue contains exhibits associated with the everyday life of the Jewish family and customs connected with birth, circumcision, bar mitzvah, wedding, divorce and the Jewish household. The main nave of the Klausen Synagogue houses the first part of the exhibition, Jewish Customs and Traditions, which deals with weekday services, the Sabbath and festivals. You are first acquainted with the basic characteristics and sources of Judaism, i.e. the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud. In the central space - the area of the original bimah - is displayed an unwrapped Torah scroll, the reading of which forms the most important part of synagogue liturgy. The scroll is accompanied by its usual appurtenances - pointer, mantle, binder, shield and finials. The vitrines in the central section contain prayer books and ritual items used during weekdays and on the Sabbath (prayer shawl, phylacteries, head covers, candles, spice boxes). A prominent feature of the east wall is the Baroque Holy Ark , in which wrapped scrolls of the Torah are kept. The area near the Holy Ark is set aside for the synagogue and its appurtenances, which include, in addition to the above mentioned items, a curtain and valance. Special attention is placed on highlighting the symbolic relationship between the synagogue and the Temple of Jerusalem. The vitrines around the perimeter of the hall feature the High Festivals, such as New Year, Day of Atonement and the Pilgrim Festivals, such as Pesah, Shavuot, Succot, Shemini Atzeret and Simhat Torah. Use has been made primarily of manuscript and printed books and rare synagogue curtains for the presentation of subject matter. The intimate space under the west gallery is dedicated to the most important fasts and religious ceremonies, Hanukkah and Purim. Particularly worthy of mention is the collection of Hanukkah candelabra and Esther scrolls. The gallery of the Klausen Synagogue houses the introductory section of the second part of the exhibition, entitled The Course of Life. This focuses, in particular, on circumcision and the redemption of the first-born. Exhibits that stand out include an illuminated manuscript of regulations and blessings for circumcision from 1727 and decorated Torah binders donated in honour of a birth. Another milestone in life recalled here is the attainment of adulthood, during the celebration of which a boy is declared a bar mitzvah and a girl becomes a bat mitzvah. Customs related to betrothal and wedding are covered by a number of exhibits, including illuminated wedding contracts and pewter plates serving as gifts for learned grooms. Divorce and the halitzah ceremony are illustrated by a bill of divorcement, as well as a ceremonial shoe. The west gallery focuses on the Jewish household with emphasis on typical ritual items - mezuzah and mizrah. Special vitrines are dedicated to kashrut and ritual slaughter and to the specialities of Pesah cuisine.

Ceremonial Hall
On the ground and upper floors of the Hall is housed the part section of the permanent exhibition, Jewish Customs and Traditions. The Ceremonial Hall of the Burial Society houses the concluding section of part two of the exhibition “The Course of Life” with the main theme is that of illness and death. Individual topics are accompanied by examples from the unique series of Prague Burial Society paintings from the 1880s. The main hall features descriptions and illustrations of assistance provided by the Society to the ill and the dying, ritual washing of the dead, and the burial ceremony. Exhibits worthy of particular note include a pitcher belonging to the Mikulov Burial Society, a number of illuminated manuscripts, and a collection of silver alms boxes. In the next room, focus is placed on Jewish cemeteries and tombstones, exhibits include fragments of tombstones from the 14th century and a wooden tomb structure from 1836. Another room is devoted to memorial prayers for the dead and engravings and paintings depicting the Old Jewish Cemetery of Prague. The upper-floor room focuses on burial society organization, domestic life and public representation. Noteworthy exhibits include portraits of representatives, a parchment document of the statutes from 1759, a ballot box and beakers used during the annual celebrations of the Burial Society.

The Old-New Synagogue
The Old-New Synagogue was built in early Gothic style around the middle of the 13th century. It was originally called the “New” or “Large” Synagogue, as opposed to the older house of prayer which did not survive. It was not until the 16th century, when other synagogues were built in Prague, that it became known as the “Old-New” Synagogue. The main hall is the only existing medieval-type hall of its kind, represented originally by the Romanesque synagogue in Worms (dating from the 12th century) and the early Gothic synagogue in Regensburg. The hall is vaulted by six five-partite vault compartments supported by two octagonal pillars. The Old-New Synagogue, which is not part of the Jewish Museum, is one of the three Prague synagogues, together with the High and Jerusalem Synagogues, in which divine services are held.

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"The oldest edifice in the Prague Jewish Quarter, the Old-New Synagogue, built in 1280, is also the oldest Jewish holy site in Europe. Rabbi Jehuda Low Bezalel (1520-1609) himself used to sit by the special compartment where the sacred Torah is kept. Low was not only a holy man but he was a scholar and an expert in the Jewish mystical system, Cabala. The legendary rabbi first lived in Moravia and Poland and then moved to Prague, where he knew many of city´s astrologers and alchemists, he also knew Tycho de Brahe. It is said that he had been introduced to the ways and principles of the Brotherhood of the Rose and Cross.
As the most important rabbi in the Czech (Bohemian) kingdom Low could not help, but he draw the attention of Emperor Rudolph II. The emperor´s relationship with the Jewish community had always been utilitarian, the Jews were a good source of capital, which it was possible to procure through pogroms, special taxes, or loans. In this Rudolph was no exception to other rulers, but at the same time he displayed a genuine curiosity in Jewish mysticism. He was so drawn by Rabbi Low´s reputation thathe demanded the rabbi visit him at his court, an act that was without precednt in the monarchial tradition.
The meeting is said to have taken place in 1592. NObody ever did find out the true topic of the conversation, but it imagined that the subject was the Cabala, which interested Rudolph II greatly. The unnusual meeting became the perfect stuff of dreams and legend, spawning many different theories, versions, describing all manners of secret details. One tale describes how the rabbi used laterna magica - magic lanterns, to bring deceased figures of the Old Testament to life, including Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his sons. The emperor and others present sat speechless, watching the shadows of the long departed, when suddenly, during one of the images, Rudolph laughed. He laughed despite an earlier warning by Low. In a flash the images disappeared and with a great creaking sound the ceiling began to bend and cave in. Rabbi Low lifted his hands over his head, muttered several phrases and stopped the ceiling from falling."

"The Jewish cemetery is one of the most visited tourist sites in the former Jewish Quarter. It contains countless gravestones, strewn over each other and leaning in mysterious ways, including the tombstone of Rabbi Low, which always set with many pebbles and stones, signs of respect, and perhaps, hope."
"Without doubt the most interesting and mysterious figures, for tourists and artists aliike, is the figure of the GOLEM. According to legend his creator Rabbi Low, who used clay to create his body and a magical formula, written on parchment and placed in a hole in the creatúre´s forehead, to bring it to life. The fantastic story describes how the Golem served his master until the fateful day when Low forgot to use the magic formula, and the creture went suddenly wild. In the end Low was able to stop his furious creation, but only at high cost, it would never awaken again.
The phenomenon of the Golem, an artificial humanoid, a homunuculus ruled by his master, has a long tradition in alchemy."
text - Jiri Kuchar - "Praha esotericka"

"Although it has been proven that the legend about the Golem and his scholarly creator did not emerge until the 19th century and the alleged "historical" writings about the Golem are fake, we are still waiting for an explanation why to this day Psalm 92 is sung twice in the Old-New Synagogue during the Friday service. According to legend, rabbi Loew was interrupted during his reading with a plea to stop his clay-made servant from running amok around ghetto."
"Jewish Prague" Jan Bonek

"A new situation for the Jewish community started in 1648 right before the end of the Thirty-Year War when Prague was invaded by the Swedish army again - the first attempt in 1639 was not successful. The occupational army conquered the Prague Castle and the Lessor Town and stole Rudolf II´s collections and treasures from the palaces in the Lessor Town. The same lucrative loot was awaiting the soldiers in teh Old Town and the New Town, and the Jewish Town also looked very tempting, but the local people managed to protect it. This was really appreciated by the chief commander of the Prague Garrison, field marshal Count Rudolf Colloredo of Wallsee, who sent a special certificate to the Jewish City Hall. The Jews first served in the patrols. Their task was to walk the streets, pull down roofse on fire with hooks and extinguish the fire with water in buckets that they carried. When the city was under the biggest threat, they were sent for to build a bulwark. One of the bulwarks at the White Mountain was later on called "judenschantz" - Jewish Bulwark. When the ghetto was under an immediate therat, the Jews fought with arms and some of them died. "
"Jewish Prague" Jan Bonek

"Mordechai ben Samuel Maisel (1528 - 1601), a mayor of the Prague Jewish Town, a court Jew, an unbelievably rich banker and Rudolf II´s benefactor, deserves special attention. He was a major stakeholedr of many construction projects in the ghetto, changing once and for all the look of this part of Prague. He had financed the construction of the Jewish City Hall and the High Synagogue that served as a private house of prayer for Jewish councilors, both these dificies were near the Old-New Synagogue. He had all streets of the ghetto paved and many houses rebuilt and helped to redo the surroundings of the Old-New Synagogue and to found a hospital for the poor. Thanks to him, it was possible to expand the Old Jewish Cemetery. In the vacant lot on the southern side of the ghetto, he had a family synagogue bulit. He financed the construction of a ritual bath called mikvah and the construction and operation of a Talmudic academy called Yeshiva (it literally means session, gathering), which provided higher education. Its graduates usually became rabbis. The main and, in fact, only subject was the Talmud i.e. rabbinical discussions on Jewish law, ethics and traditions supported with many legends and stories. It was not as single-sided as it may seem since it focused on many different fields of study, including natural science, astrology and literature. Every Jewish community strived to find the best teachers, and Prague was lucky to have rabbi Loew."
"Jewish Prague" Jan Bonek

"At the turn of the 17th century the Prague Jewish Town enjoyed a short period of time, often called the Golden Age. It was mainly a result of the friendly attitude of the Habsburgs as the highest authority in the land who liked having open bank accounts with prosperous Jewish bankers and merchants. Ferdinand I, Rudolf II, his brother Matthias and Ferdinand II always needed money to pay for the embellishment of their residences, the wars against Turks or the fighting with the Czech estates."
"Jewish Prague" Jan Bonek

Opening hours to the Prague Jewish Museums in 2017
The museum's visitor sites – monuments, permanent exhibitions and the Robert Guttmann Gallery – are open every day except Saturdays and the Jewish holidays.
The opening hours in the main season change with daylight saving time:
1 January – 24 March 2017 9 a.m. - 4.30 p.m.
26 March – 27 October 2017 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.
29 October – 31 December 2017 9 a.m. - 4.30 p.m.

The Jewish Museum sites are closed on the following days in 2017:
All sites are closed on Saturdays.
11 April 2017 1st day of Pesah closed
12 April 2017 2nd day of Pesah closed
17 April 2017 7th day of Pesah closed
18 April 2017 8th day of Pesah closed
31 May 2017 1st day of Shavout closed
1 June 2017 2nd day of Shavout closed
21 September 2017 1st day of Rosh Hashanah closed
22 September 2017 2nd day of Rosh Hashanah closed
30 September 2017 Jom kipur closed
5 October 2017 1st day of Sukkot closed
6 October 2017 2nd day of Sukkot closed
12 October 2017 Shemini Atzeret closed
13 October 2017 Simchat Torah closed
1 January 2018 open from 11 a.m.

The Old-New Synagogue is open every day except Saturdays and Jewish holidays
Sunday – Thursday:
January – March 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
April – October 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.
November – December 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Friday The synagogue closes an hour before the Sabbath see below
Friday:
The synagogue closes an hour before the Sabbath see below
6 January 2017 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.
13 January 2017 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.
20 January 2017 9 a.m. - 3.15 p.m.
27 January 2017 9 a.m. - 3.30 p.m.
3 February 2017 9 a.m. - 3.45 p.m.
10 February 2017 9 a.m. - 3.45 p.m.
17 February 2017 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
24 February 2017 9 a.m. - 4.15 p.m.
3 March 2017 9 a.m. - 4.30 p.m.
10 March 2017 9 a.m. - 4.45 p.m.
17 March 2017 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
24 March 2017 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
April – September 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.
20 October 2017 9 a.m. - 4.45 p.m.
27 October 2017 9 a.m. - 4.30 p.m.
3 November 2017 9 a.m. - 3.15 p.m.
10 November 2017 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.
17 November 2017 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.
24 November 2017 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.
December 2017 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.
The Jewish holidays:
11 April 2017 1st day of Pesah closed
12 April 2017 2nd day of Pesah closed
17 April 2017 7th day of Pesah closed
18 April 2017 8th day of Pesah closed
31 May 2017 1st day of Shavout closed
1 June 2017 2nd day of Shavout closed
21 September 2017 1st day of Roš ha-šana closed
22 September 2017 2nd day of Roš ha-šana closed
30 September 2017 Yom Kipur closed
5 October 2017 1st day of Sukkot closed
6 October 2017 2nd day of Sukkot closed
12 October 2017 Shemini Atzeret closed
13 October 2017 Simchat Torah closed

The Jerusalem Synagogue is open every day from April to October, except Saturdays and Jewish holidays.
Sunday – Friday 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.
11 April 2017 1st day of Pesah closed
12 April 2017 2nd day of Pesah closed
17 April 2017 7th day of Pesah closed
18 April 2017 8th day of Pesah closed
31 May 2017 1st day of Shavout closed
1 June 2017 2nd day of Shavout closed
21 September 2017 1st day of Roš ha-šana closed
22 September 2017 2nd day of Roš ha-šana closed
30 September 2017 Yom Kipur closed
5 October 2017 1st day of Sukkot closed
6 October 2017 2nd day of Sukkot closed
12 October 2017 Shemini Atzeret closed
13 October 2017 Simchat Torah closed




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Last updated on Mar 20, 2017