Our capital has always been connected with a Jewish community. The Jewish Quarter, which is situated in the Old Town next to the Old Town Square, consists of six synagogues, Jewish Museum, Old Jewish Cemetery and two big halls.
It supposes the first Jewish settlers came to Prague around 10th century. During the next centuries, their community expanded and in the 17th century more than seven thousand Jews lived in the old Jewish Ghetto. Jewish life has been made difficult by many troubles as fires, persecutions or plundering – Jews haven´t been accepted well. The first release came with the Emperor Rudolf II. He was an art, science and education lover and invited many famous artists and alchemists to his court. Therefore the Jews became rich and their living improved. When Maria Theresa was in power in the 18th century, she decreed the Jews should be expelled. This changed with the Emperor Joseph II at the same century. He commanded to pull down the walls of the Ghetto, renovate the Jewish Quarter and restore the Jews´s status. The Ghetto was named Josefov to honor him. In 1848 the Jews granted civil rights. The Second World War (1939-1945) meant the darkest period of their lives, they were persecuted and deported to concentration camps. It´s estimated that circa 90 per cent of Czech Jews were killed. The group of buildings in the Old Town now serves as open-air museum.
The Old Jewish Cemetery is one of the most visited places in this area and makes all quarter such an interesting site – there are 12 000 gravestones. It´s atmosphere is so fascinating due to the fact the cemetery lacks space so the graves are packed tightly together. The Hebrew epigraphs give you an image of the community.
The Old-New Synagogue is the world´s longest serving synagogue and also the second oldest synagogue in the world. It´s built in Cistercian Gothic style and comes from the 13th century. Also a legend is connected with this building – in 16th century, Rabi Löw, rabbi, alchemist, scientist and friend of Rudolf II, had a dream and made a huge human figure from clay – a Golem, who was supposed to guard the Jews. Golem did his work well but one day he went crazy, started damaging the buildings and Rabi had to destroy him. He locked him in this synagogue and for many years no one has been allowed to go inside.
Klaus Synagogue´s name refers to the term klausen, which signs Jewish prayer houses. In this Baroque building you can find a collection of prints and manuscripts. It also hosts the exhibition of Jewish Customs and Traditions.