Takes its name after the emperor Josef II, who helped to ease living conditions for the Jewish people. Currently, there is about 1500 registered Jews at Jewish community and it is estimated there is up to 5000 Jews living in Prague. The number used to be much bigger, though many Jews were exterminated in Terezin concentration camp during the World War II., even before they were send to extermination camps all over the Europe. The Prague Jewish community is one of the largest in Czech Republic. The families manage to cooperate and live together and thus bring back the Jewish heritage and legacy. They also run kosher restaurants and even apartments, located in Jewish Quarter - remains of Prague's former Jewish ghetto, where attenders can accommodate themselves and enjoy proper kosher meal for reasonable prices, while visiting the heart of Europe. The famous writer - Franz Kafka and creator of mystical homunculus Golem - Rabbi Loew became over the time synonym for this part of town.
Jewish Historical Sights:
Old Jewish Quarter
The Jewish quarter is the smallest cadastral area in Prague also known as Josefov between the Old Town Square and the Vltava River. It can be easily walked through in single day but further exploration of historical sights, such as: The Jewish cemetery, Old-new synagogue, Klausen Synagogue and the Pinkas synagogue; takes time. Jews are believed to have settled here as early as the 10th century. The first pogrom was in 1096 (the first crusade) and eventually they were concentrated within a walled Ghetto. Most of the quarter was demolished between 1893 and 1913 as part of an initiative to model the city on Paris. The catastrophe was expected to be complete during Nazi German occupation, however the area was preserved in order to provide a site for 'exotic museum of an extinct race', where Nazis gathered many important artifacts from all over the central Europe to be displayed in Josefov. Currently it is overbuilt with modern buildings.
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 main sights in Jewish Prague. The oldest tombstone, which marks the grave of the poet and scholar Avigdor Karo, dates back to 1439. Today it contains approximately 12.000 tombstones, although it is expected that the number of people buried here is up to 100.000, because the cemetery was enlarged couple of times and people were buried in 12 different layers in the ground, placed on top of each other. So the tombstones mark only coffins in the very top layer. Among with other major Jewish figures, such as: Mordechai Maisel, David Gans or Joseph Solomon Delmedigo, lies here Rabbi Loew, creator of mystical homunculus Golem.
The Pinkas Synagogue is dedicated to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust from Bohemia and Moravia; their names are written on the walls of the main nave and adjoining areas. Acurate dates of deaths are in most cases uknown, so the deportation dates to extermination camps are stated instead. Jews from Prague are listed in the main nave and the adjoining areas commemorates victims from towns and villages ouside the Prague. On both sides of the Holy Ark are captured the names of concetration and extremination camps, where jews were send to.
The Klausen Synagogue, located by the entrance to the Old Jewish Cemetery, takes its name from the German word "Klaus" meaning 'small building'. It had been erected by Mordechai Maisel from three those buildings: first - Talmud school (where Rabbi Loew used to teach), second building was used for religious purposes and the third one (where ritual baths and health care took place); before it burned down in 1689. After the fire, it was rebuilt as one building in Baroque style and used to be largest synagogue in Prague. Unfortunately the interior equipment was shamelessly destroyed during the Nazi occupation.
The Old New Synagogue, that dates back to the middle of the 13th century is Europe's oldest active synagogue as well as the oldest surviving medieval synagogue of twin nave design. It was built in gothic style as one of Prague's first Gothic building, which is giving the idea how many of buildings once looked like. The synagogue was renovated in the 19th century and nowadays it is used for religious services. Interesting is the separation of men and woman. During the service the synagogue itself is reserved just for the men, while the women, in case they want to follow the service as well, must look through small windows in the wall.
The high Synagogue was built in the 16th century with the financial help of Mordechai Maisel, mayor of the Jewish Town. The synagogue is in fact not very high, its name has a simple explanation - it comes from the fact that the prayer hall is situated on the first floor. The lower chamber houses a kosher restaurant. Last reconstruction is dated to 1892.
The Maisel Synagogue was built in 1590-1592, designed by Josef Wahl and Juda Goldsmied and funded by Mordechai Maisel, the former Mayor. The synagogue burned down in 1689 and then it was rebuilt in baroque style. In the end, it was considerably rebuilt to a pseudo-Gothic design by Prof. A Grott in 1893-1905. It serves today as an exhibition venue and depository for the Jewish Museum.
The building housing the former Ceremonial Hall and mortuary of the Old Jewish Cemetery was built in a pseudo-Romanesque style in 1911-12 to a design by architect J. Gerstl. As part of the Jewish Museum, the Ceremonial Hall of the Prague Burial Society Hevrah Kaddishah (founded in 1564) later became an exhibition venue.
Church of the Holy Ghost
The Church of the Holy Ghost is a Gothic single aisle building from the second quarter of the 14th century. What was not destroyed later, during Hussite Wars took away the vast fire in 1689. Still the exterior of this church preserves the original Gothic buttresses and high windows, but the vault of the nave was rebuilt in Baroque style. Inside the church there is a statue of St. Ann and busts of St. Wenceslas and St. Adalbert. In front of the church stands a stone statue of St. John Nepomuk.
The Spanish Synagogue, designed in a Moorish style, was built in 1868 on the site of the oldest Prague Jewish house of prayer. The synagogue has a regular square plan with a large dome surmounting the central space. On three sides there are galleries on metal structures, which fully open onto the nave. 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 Spanish Synagogue is by far surely the most spectacular synagogue in Prague and it was the last one to be built in the old Jewish quarter. In 1998, it was reopened after over 20 years of being closed to the public.
St. Agnes's Convent
The convent was built in 1234 by Agnes, a sister of King Wenceslas I. There are two churches present: the St. Salvator Church, where the tomb of St. Agnes has been found and the St. Francis Church, where King Wenceslas I rests in peace. Nowadays, the convent is used by the division of The National Gallery to exhibit a collection of European medieval art.
Built between 1876 and 1884 the Rudolfinum, which was named in honor of Crown Prince Rudolf of Habsburg, is a representative example of Czech Neo-Renaissance style. Between the wars and short period of time after the second one it housed the Czechoslovak parliament. Currently it serves as a home of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and the Rudolfinum Gallery, where temporary art exhibitions are held. Many concerts of the Prague Spring and Autumn Music Festivals take place here as well.