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Jewish Quarter and Capitalism

July 3, 2011

This morning when we got up, we were a little bit worried. The ground was wet, the sky was ominous, and it was COLD outside. Today was the day we planned to go to the Jewish Quarter.

So we set off, me wearing a long sleeved shirt, light sweater, and borrowed jean jacket, along with my jeans, and carrying an umbrella (unfortunately, I was also wearing sandals, as I do not have proper cold weather shoes with me. Who knew the high would be around 65 degrees Farenheit on 3 July?) After waiting in line for half hour, we were able to purchase the tickets that gained us access to four synagogues, the Jewish cemetery, and the Ceremonial Hall.

The first synagogue brought me to tears, much in the same way I was brought to tears when I went to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. (MUST SEE museum). It was powerful, to say the least. This is a synagogue which, after WWII, was turned into a memorial to the Jews of Bohemia and Moravia who were murdered by the Nazis. On its walls are inscribed the names of the Jewish victims, their personal data, and the names of the communities to which they belonged.

I am sad to say that all of the walls were covered, and not in large print.

Upstairs at the first museum, which is called the Pinkas Synagogue, is a permanent exhibition called “Children’s Drawings from Terezin 1942-1944”. Among the prisoners of Terezin were more than 10,000 children under the age of 15 at the time of their imprisonment. Of the 8,000 who were deported to the east (i.e., concentration camps), a mere 242 survived.

As I said, it was powerful.

After that, we walked through the cemetery, saw the Ceremonial Hall, which, as it is attached to the cemetery, houses part of an exhibition dedicated to Jewish customs and traditions (dedicated to customs and traditions related to death and burial).

The next synagogue we visited was the Klausen synagogue. This synagogue was once the largest in the Jewish ghetto of Prague, and it held a very important place in the community as it served as Prague’s Burial Society. This synagogue houses more items that are related to Jewish customs and traditions, and I was able to tell Linda a bit about them as we walked through.

We saw the outside of the Old-New synagogue, but did not go inside (it required a separate entrance fee). We also saw a clock with Hebrew numbers, which runs “backward” to how normal clocks run (I saw such watches in the synagogues and REALLY want one).

At this time we had visited two synagogues and the cemetery, but Linda was still game to visit the others. The next synagogue we saw was the Maisel synagogue.

Just in case people were wondering, these are synagogues that were built before the U.S. became a country.

The Maisel synagogue and the Spanish synagogue jointly exhibit “History of the Jews in Bohemia and Moravia from the establishment of Jewish settlements up to the period of emancipation”.

The Jewish Museum of Prague has one of the most extensive collections of Judaic art in the world, and it was wonderful to see not only some of the pieces of art, but the ritual objects, and to read the history connected with what used to be the largest Jewish community in Europe.

After finishing our tour, we were subdued but hungry, and tried a true Czech dish for lunch – goulash. The goulash was rich, flavorful, and served with a soft pretzel.

Properly fortified, we were not ready to spend a great deal of time in the rain so Jen brought us to an American style shopping mall. Truly, it was American style. We stopped in a good many stores and I tried on some things, but whether it was lack of enthusiasm for the fashion, lack of funds to go on a spree, or another reason, I did not purchase anything. I even wanted to buy some new jeans and visited the Levi’s store, but could not justify nearly $200 for them. Just couldn’t.

So our second full day ended at the grocery store, with us purchasing ingredients for salad for dinner. I made Jen promise I could have salad because I have not had a proper lettuce salad since leaving the U.S. Last night I splurged on a proper hamburger, tonight it is salad. Yum!

**I don’t have photos to post because the only place I was allowed to take them (for a fee) was in the cemetery.


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