The Jewish Quarter (Josefov) is the Jewish Ghetto neighbourhood of Prague where is located between Old Town Square and Vltava River. Unfortunately, for a very long time, Jews only allowed to live a specific part of Prague. Around the 13th century, Jewish ordered to vacate their houses and settle in the area of Prague, Josefov; The Jewish Quarter. Over the years, Jews could only live within the Jewish Quarter. In addition to this, many expelled Jews from Germany, Austria, Spain and Moravia joined them.
History of The Jewish Quarter (Josefov)
Actually, the history of Jews is quite sad in Prague. The name of this quarter mentioned with Jews first time in 1096. In that year, settlements of the Jews were destroyed during a pogrom. A little more than one hundred years later, the Fourth Council of the Lateran ordered the segregation of Jews and Christian population of the city. After this, Jews of Prague started to live in “Quarter or Ghetto”. Sadly, there was another pogrom in 1389 and most of the people who were living in the ghetto were killed. In addition to this pogrom, there were two more in the 15th and 16th century. Until the Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II, the situation continues more or less the same. But he emancipated Jewish population and given them equal citizen right with anyone else.
During World War II, Jews ere forced to wear a yellow star of David on their clothes, taken to the concentration camps and brutally killed as a result of the Holocaust. Because of the Holocaust The Jewish Quarter (Josefov) were almost deserted and houses of Jews were used as a storage space. After the war, The Jewish Quarter (Josefov) became one of the biggest open-air museum and the 2nd biggest Jewish museum in the world. Since from the 1950s, the population of The Jewish Quarter (Josefov) and today around 1400 Jews are living in the neighbourhood. The Old Jewish Cemetry is on top places to see in The Jewish Quarter (Josefov) with 6 historical synagogues; Maisel, Spanish, Klausen, High, Old and New.
Where is The Jewish Quarter (Josefov)?
As I mentioned above, The Jewish Quarter (Josefov) is located between Old Town Square and the Vltava River. Old Town of Prague or Stare Mesto is the home of The Jewish Quarter and other important places to like the most of the things in Prague. Because of its location, you can just take walk to The Jewish Quarter from both National Museum and Wenceslas Square or Prague Castle, Charles bridge and Clementinum. Both routes will be a historical journey for you and give a change experience the past of this magnificent city. For the public transport options, you can use buses, trams or metro to go to The Jewish Quarter. You can find the public transport options below;
- Metro line A: Staroměstská metro station is very close to the Maisel Synagogue
- Tramlines 17 and 93: Právnická fakulta tram station is very close to the Old-New Synagoga
- Bus line 194: Pařížská bus station is almost just next to the Old-New Synagoga
Places to Visit in The Jewish Quarter (Josefov)
Just only in The Jewish Quarter, there are tons of places should be visited. I just summarized the most important and famous one for you. Based on my experience you should share at least a day to fully experience The Jewish Quarter (Josefov). Because each of the places has its own importance for both Czech and Jews.
Old Jewish Cemetery
One of the most important places in Prague even maybe in Europe is the Old Jewish Cemetery. Old Jewish Cemetery accepted as national cultural heritage in 1995. There are more than 12000 gravestones inside the cemetery. Of course, there are many graves without gravestones. Old Jewish Cemetery was in service between the 15th and 18th centuries. Also, a couple of very important figures of the Jewish people was buried here. David Oppenheim (chief Rabbi of Prague) and Rabbi Loew (creator of The Golem of Prague). Old Jewish Cemetery is very close to the Staroměstská metro station of metro line A or green line. You can also visit Pinkas, Maisel, Klausen and Old-New synagogue located around the Old Jewish Cemetery.
The Golem of Prague
I think it will be nice to tell a couple of words about The Golem of Prague. Based on Jewish folklore there is a golem statue brought to life by a human. Rabbi Loew created the famous golem names as Josille from clay by inserting “shem” (a roll) in its forehead. The duty of the Josille was to protect the Jewish ghetto from the Christians. In time Josille became stronger and Rabbi Loew had to take the shem from its forehead to weaken him.
But in one day he forgot to remove the shem from its forehead Josille got very stronger even it can’t control itself. Josille started to run on the streets and crush everything. When Rabbi Loew found it one of the streets of The Jewish Quarter (Josefov) he ordered it to stop and get into the Old-New Synagogue. While Josille was sleeping Rabbi Loew removed the magic and Josille started to crumble until disappearing in the dust.
Six Synagogues of Prague
In addition to Old Jewish Cemetry in The Jewish Quarter (Josefov) there are 6 important synagogues to visit. Each of them has impressive history and importance for the Jewish community both in Prague and Europe.
The most famous synagogue in the Jewish Quarter (Josefov) is the Spanish Synagogue because of its Moorish interior design and similarity of the exterior to the Alhambra in Spain. Spanish Synagogue was built in 1868 and there is a permanent exhibition you can visit about the life and history of the Jews in Prague.
Just after the construction of Maisel Synagogue at the end of the 16th century, it burned during the ghetto fire in 1689. After the fire, Maisel Synagogue rebuilt with Baroque style. Around at the end of the 19th century, it was reconstructed in Neo-Gothic style. Also, Maisel Synagogue holds a very large collection of books, objects and silver belong to the Jewish community of Prague since 1960.
The second oldest temple in Prague is the Pinkas Synagogue. Pinkas Synagogue was built in 1479. After World War II Pinkas Synagogue was turned into a memorial for the Jewish people who lost their lives under the holocaust. 77.297 names of the murdered Jews cover the walls of the Pinkas Synagogue. Also, there is a permanent exhibition about the children who were under captive at the Terezin concentration camp.
The biggest of the Six Synagogues in The Jewish Quarter (Josefov), Klausen Synagogue was built in 1694. Klausen Synagogue holds a very large collection of Hebrew texts about the source of Judaism, Hebrew Bible and the Talmud.
Mordechai Maise funded the construction expenses of High Synagogue. High Synagogue constructed during the 16th century. It has two floors. On the second floor of the High Synagogue, you can see the collection of fabrics, curtain and relics made by using the silver. There is a little souvenir shop on the first floor of the High Synagogue.
Old-New Synagogue is the oldest synagogue in Europe and is also one of the first building with gothic style in Prague. The construction date of the Old-New Synagogue is 1270. If you want to visit Old-New Synagogue you have to buy its ticket separately. I will give information about visiting the Six Synagogue of The Jewish Quarter (Josefov) in a minute.
Visiting The Jewish Quarter (Josefov)
If you want to visit the places in The Jewish Quarter (Josefov) in Prague please take a look at the table below. All of the places will be open during the week except Saturday, the holy day of the Jews. Also, on Friday because of the Sabbath synagogue will be closed for an hour. In addition to the Old Jewish Cemetery and Six Synagogue in Jewish Quarter (Josefov) you can also visit the Prague Jewish Museum and Franz Kafka Monument. Prague Jewish Museum is one of the oldest Jewish museums in Europe. The monument of Franz Kafka is a really big one, 3.75 meters tall and 800-kilogram weight.
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|Old Jewish Cemetery|
|Old Jewish Cemetery|
Actually you can just buy a ticket from Old Jewish Cemetery or one of the six synagogues in The Jewish Quarter (Josefov) from this website. But I’m strongly suggesting to you take a look to the tour on the widget below. Because if you join a tour, you can learn all the details and history of the this unique district of Prague. For example if you buy the Prague: Walking Jewish Quarter Tour with Museum Entry ticket from this link you will benefit with couple of things. You can explore the Old Jewish Cemetery and visit 3 synagogues in The Jewish Quarter (Josevof) with a guide, see the naive house of Franz Kafka and discover the old streets. Tour tickets also include the admission fee of visiting the Jewish Museum. You can check the widgets for more details.
Pay Your Respects
Besides of all of these please, just walk through the old street of The Jewish Quarter (Josefov), imagine life and pain of the Jewish people who were lived in here for centuries. Also, you can find very good Kosher restaurent to eat. Don’t forget to share your experiences and suggestion for the people who are planning to visit The Jewish Quarter (Josefov), Old Jewish Cemetery and Six Synagogue of Prague. By the way, please feel free to ask your question on the comment section.