Jews in Prague

Jul 17 2015 Published by under eastern europe, Uncategorized

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The Czech Republic had the best organized Jewish Tourist Thing going. There is a jewish quarter, filled with synagogues. Although, the guide did say that they were mostly empty, as there are now at most 2-3000 jews living here (half in Prague, the rest elsewhere). I saw more Hassidim here than anywhere else, including Poland.

The experience in the one we saw yesterday, Weds was, at best, unpleasant. It was filled with people, noisy people, clapping people, pushing people, taking photographs people. It was part of the tour of the Jewish quarter that I did not enjoy. I found the tour of that area to be the least affecting, the least moving, to me. Perhaps because it was hot, the crowds were large and very pushy. There were two large and beautiful Moorish-style, but not Sephardic, synagogues, complete with gorgeous deep colors and gold leaf and vaulted cathedralesque ceilings. One was built late 1800s the other early 1900s. That they survived the Nazis is either a miracle, if one believes in such, or quirks of history.

There were two things that did move me. One was on the tour. And it was crowded, noisy and filled with disrespectful people. But what it was transcended that. I dislike the word transcend, but there is nothing else that describes what I felt. This synagogues-museums was nearly empty and the walls painted white. The rooms were small, and covered in script. Black names, with two dates, birth and deportation. No one is quite sure of date of death for these people, but the Nazis with the help of the locals, of course, were meticulous in the deportation records. Yellow place names. Red family names. I saw the name of my sister's husband's family and broke down. Here were walls covered with script. The names of the 100,000 Czech Jews who are no more. And yet in the middle of this list were <slightly odd name>. Olga <slightly odd name. Leo <slightly odd name>.  I could not stop crying and went outside.

While I was here, the World Jewish  Something Or Other announced that the worldwide population of Jews has finally reached the level it was pre-holocaust. I hope that whoever carries the genes of Leo and Olga know this.

The other place was the 2nd Moorish Temple, the Jerusalem Temple. I saw it on Tuesday, by chance, walking around after other things. It was, as many other places, nearly empty. The synagogue was beautiful, inside and out. It was hushed and keeping its secrets to itself. Upstairs there was a exhibit. Two actually, but I had only time to see one. It was the history of Jews post-1945. The communists were not good to the Jews. That  the Jews at the time were surprised by this is amazing.  More subtle and insidious than the Nazis, there are undoubtably more than the  current 2-3000 Jewish Czechs who moved, assimilated and were lost. But to see a newsreel made in the late 40s about the old age homes and orphanages for concentration camp survivors, and than  to read how the Communists shut these down for "imperialist" and "capitalist" tendencies shows that nothing changes.



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