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Jewish Quarter

Due to my studies I visited Jewish educational centre of Prague. It is inside one of Prague’s most popular tourist area – in Jewish Quarter at Josefov. A real Jew lectured us in the educational centre. There were few other Jews also in neighbourhood so apparently not all of them are moved away. Lecture was in Czech but few nice Czech students who had been in exchange students translated most of the lecture in English. Two students were exceptionally smart but its no wonder since they had been in exchange in Finland (Joensuu) and Sweden (Umeå).

The Lecturer was able to stand me all hour even though I made some nasty questions for him, although most of the blame went to my translator. Well, anyway the lecturer was a really nice fellow. We asked much about Jewish education and Judaism in general. Jewish education is very traditional one. Boys and girls are educated different ways but nowadays differences are smaller. Usually father teach his son until hi is eight. The teaching is mostly based on Old Testament and its commentary books but there is also a book that tells fathers what they should tell their little ones. After year of eight boys go school. Studies used to take place in synagogues but nowadays they are in normal schools. There are special schools for Jews in Czech that also non-jews can attend. Though they have to know some basics on Hebrew.

Old Synagogue

When learning took place in synagogues also fathers were there to learn. This was good for their father son relations since they had a lot of common time. Boys or at that time men were encouraged to found a suitable business after the school so that they could feed their family. Girls had a chance to go to school but they were mostly encouraged to stay at home to learn housekeeping. Nowadays girls go to school though we have to remember that concept of Jew is varied a lot. Especially Israel Orthodox Jews behave traditionally but modern Jews are more open-minded. After the school men and women in Israel go to army. Women have to serve two years and men three years. But how is this possible since women are supposed to be at home. Well, Orthodox Jews have a privilege so that they don’t have to go to army and men and women can stay at home. Others have to go long training and it irritates many that Orthodox has this kind of privilege.

Jewish education is mostly based on the reading and analysing of Old Testament. Jews don’t like New Testament. It is a sort of ‘black book’ for them. They don’t like Jesus ether. He is not even a prophet to Jews but only a man that was wrong by declaring to be the God. Well, in this case also we have to remember that there are different Jews about this matter also. Jew rabbis have made commentary books about the Old Testament that have expanded to a quite many books. Position of rabbis is important in all Jewish societies.

After the lecture we were introduced to the Old Synagogue, the Jewish cemetery and museum and the Spanish Synagogue. The Old Synagogue is one of only buildings still left about the old Jewish Quarter. Josef II ordered the Jewish Quarter to be demolished since there were very few Jews living in it and lots of non-welcome people were inhabited the place. He built new buildings to replace Old small ones and the Quarter was named after him as Josefov. Old synagogue is quite plain appearance from inside and outside. The entrance fee is quite much but Jews have always been good with money. We didn’t have to pay that much though.

Traditional synagogue has seven windows. This one has also two small round ones and one small yellow one. Morning preys are only during the time when the first morning light comes through yellow window. Girls were very amused because men had to have a hat inside synagogue and since we didn’t have one we had to keep these traditional Jewish ones made of paper. According to Jewish tradition men have to pray in synagogues and they only prey with their hat on. Women don’t have to prey in synagogues so they don’t have to keep hats. According to Jews men are that sort of that they have to prey. Women just are naturally so smart and they have it inside them so they don’t have to prey. Sounds somehow familiar.

Jewish synagogue has no pictures. There are only seats and bible holders. In the middle is stand where rabbi sometimes works. Mostly rabbi reads the Old Testament in the front section in a small hole on ground. According to Judaism preys rise up from very deep down so that’s why when you enter synagogues you probably go down and that’s also why rabbi stand in a hole. Besides the hole there is few seats. First one from left is for the boys whose willies are to be cut. Prophet Elias has made a reservation for the second one. Other seats can be reserved for small price. This is the way to make sure that you have good views for the whole season. Traditionally all the best places go to rich and important people and you are only able to have seats from last rows. In front of rabbi hole there is curtains and behind them are doors and behind them are kept the holy books. Old synagogue tries to imitate the one in Jerusalem. Word synagogue means originally something like ‘gathering together’, which tells that synagogues were used also to public meetings. I would not recommend Old Synagogue unless you aren’t really interested about Judaism. Instead go to Spanish Synagogue. It is much prettier and with the same payment you are able to see some history of Judaism and anti-Semitism and you even get a little peak to some treasures.

Jewish cemetary

Jewish cemetary was a very special place. Because Jewish Quarter was very small place also the cemetary is quite small. Many people were buried in the same places until due to hygiene reasons deaths were buried outside the city. Nowadays there are only old gravestones in the Jewish cemetary. Oldest are from 15th century. All wooden ones have decayed. Well, stone ones were a sign of ones wealthy. Not all people are from middle ages. For example Franz Kafka is buried there. They have not looked up for the gravestones and they are covered by vegetation. It felt weird being there since there were constant flow of tourists going in the small allays of the cemetary. I would not wonted to be there and I hope no one else will go there. Graveyards are not amusement parks. They should be left alone. This matter didn’t bother the local Jewish community. They said that no relatives of death ones are alive and no one goes there to remember those who have passed. I think that only reason is money.

There is also another well-known grave of rabbi Löw. Legend tells that Löw created a Golem which is a monster often used in Middle European fairy tales. This one was a shape of human but a giant. Rabbi Löw gave him life by putting some kind of small ball of life in to the small hole in Golems head. Golem was peaceful monster when he had things to do. He made lot of good because of he was very strong. Once he was with out anything to do and he went enraged to the city doing a lot of damage. Rabbi was called to calm him down. Löw took Golem back to home and took his magic ball out of Golems forehead and he never put it back again. Löws grave is most popular site in the graveyard. People go there to put their wishing list on his stone and they put a smaller stone beneath it so that their dreams would come true. Although I very much suspect that those written behind local bus ticket have to wait a bit longer than proper ones. Legend also tells that the Golem was buried somewhere to the graveyard or near it. I volunteered to search for it but somehow they weren’t so exited about the idea.