Josefov, also known as the Jewish Quarter or the Prague Jewish Ghetto, dates back to the thirteenth century and presents visitors with the opportunity to see a little of what life was like for Jews of that era.
History of Josefov
The Jewish Ghetto was created when the Jewish community in the city of Prague was ordered to leave their homes in various parts of town and settle in one single area. As centuries past, the area grew and grew and became more crowded as Prague continued to impose laws that forbid the Jews to live anywhere else in the city.
There were also restrictions placed on the movement of the Jews that settled in this community as well as on trades they were allowed to conduct. These restrictions changed every now and then but greatly affected the lifestyle of the Jewish settlers here.
Structural changes were made in Josefov throughout the centuries, with the last occurring at around the turn of the twentieth century, specifically from 1893 until about 1913. Those exploring the area will find that many buildings date from those years, though every attempt was made to document the history of the area by saving significant structures from other eras.
What to See
The Jewish Quarter in Prague contains the most well-preserved Jewish historical monuments in Europe. Six synagogues still stand in this region in addition to the historic Jewish Town Hall and the Old Jewish Cemetery, considered one of the most remarkable burial grounds of its kind in Europe.
Several of the synagogues feature museum-like exhibits outlining the history of the Jews in this region of Europe. After World War II, the Pinkas Synagogue was turned into a Memorial to the Jews of Bohemia and Moravia who were murdered by the Nazis and its walls are inscribed with 80,000 names of Jewish victims.
Josefov’s Old-New Synagogue is the oldest preserved synagogue in Central Europe. Built in the late thirteenth century, it is of early Gothic style and features marvelous intricate stonework. All interior furnishings are originals. This synagogue now serves as the main house of prayer for Prague’s Jewish community.
It’s easy to see nearly all the sights of the Jewish Quarter by purchasing just one ticket, as most of the attractions are run by the local Jewish Museum. The Old-New Synagogue is the exception. It’s also possible to book an informative walking tour of the Prague Jewish Quarter, available in a variety of languages.