Prague Jewish Quarter

Between the Vltava River and the Old Town Square in Old Town Prague lies the Prague Jewish Quarter. The first Jewish people streamed into Prague as early as the tenth century from surrounding countries. Also called "Josefov," the area's history begins in the thirteenth century when the Jewish population was forcefully isolated into a single community and barred from living in any other area of the city. Throughout the following centuries, many more were cramped into the Jewish Quarter in Prague, creating extremely congested living situations. During this time all trade and movement was extremely restricted making life even more difficult. These restrictions were constantly changed and reorganized, creating an unsteady existence for all with little hope in what the future held.

The Jewish Quarter in Prague underwent a barrage of structural amendments, the most recent happening in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Many of the buildings throughout Josefov date back to this specific time period though many of the greatest buildings from previous periods were salvage. These buildings stand as a living testament to the rich past of the Jewish community in Prague. Some of the most significant historical buildings within the Prague Jewish Quarter were built during the fifteenth century, utilizing aid from Mordecai Maisel, a successful businessman who eventually took the seat of Finance Minister. It's from this seat that Maisel began pumping funds into the area, building the High Synagogue, the Maisel Synagogue, and the Jewish Town Hall, among many other buildings, which saw the area flourish for a period.

There are many things to do and see throughout Josefov. There is an admission cost for anyone wishing to visit and explore. Tickets to enter the Jewish Quarter in Prague include passes to the six remaining synagogues and other historical buildings within the quarter. These buildings form the most comprehensive compound of Historical Jewish monuments in Europe today. Visitors can take tours of Josefov, enjoy upscale shopping, and find many dining establishments offering traditional Jewish food.

One of the most famous attractions in the area is the Jewish Cemetery in Prague. The cemetery was first established in the fifteenth century as a place for Jews to bury their dead as they were forbidden to do so anywhere outside of the designated area. With incredibly limited space for graves, bodies were buried one on top of the other and rumored to contain about twelve layers in total. Renowned author Franz Kafka, who was born in the Jewish Quarter, often sat inside the Jewish Cemetery, enjoying moments of solitude and reflection. Today visitors can find Kafka's grave site in the New Jewish Cemetery. Inside the Old Josefov Cemetery, tombs are evidently lopsided, fallen into each other and mostly illegible.

In the Prague Jewish Quarter, the remaining synagogues include Pinkas, Klausen, Maisel, the High Synagogue, and the esteemed Spanish Synagogue. The Old-New Synagogue is also on the sacred list, and is the oldest working Jewish chapel in Europe as well as one of the city's oldest Gothic structures. Other noteworthy buildings to include in Jewish tours are St Agnes's Convent, the fourteenth-century Church of the Holy Ghost and The Rudolfinum, which exemplifies Czech Neo-Renaissance architecture. It is also home to the Rudolfinum Art Gallery and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra.

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