Outside of the Pinkas Synagogue is the the city’s Old Jewish Cemetery. It has about 20,000 gravestones dating all the back to the 15th century (1400s). If it seems impossible for so many graves to fit in such a small place, it’s because they are buried in layers one on top of the previous set of graves.
Because of this piling, the cemetery is a meter or so above the street right outside its walls.The Jewish Community had to put their graves in layers because they had such limited space in which to live — remember, for hundreds of years this section of the city was the only place were Jews were allowed to live.
A new space was given to the Jewish community for a cemetery outside of the Jewish Quarter at the end of the the 19th century (1800s). That one is called the New Jewish Cemetery.
Perhaps the most important role that one could play in European Jewish communities was to be on the Burial Society, which was the group of Jews responsible for comforting a person in their last days, then preparing a body for burial (washing, clipping nails, combing hair, dressing, etc.) and doing the burial. Below are paintings of members of the Burial Society doing their work:
Old New Synagogue
The next stop after the cemetery and the Ceremonial Hall is the Old-New Synagogue, one of the oldest synagogues in Europe and the main synagogue of the Jewish community in Prague. It was built towards the end of the 13th Century — almost 700 years ago!
Behind me in the picture above is the locker in the Old-New Synagogue where the Jewish Community kept its money for hundreds of years.
The legend of the Golem, a monster made of mud from the Vltava River that was created to protect the Jewish people of Prague. There are images of him everywhere, including on the sidewalks of the Jewish Quarter.
The Old-New Synagogue looks a lot like a church, and that’s because if was built by Christians, much like the Alcazar in Sevilla, Spain, a Catholic fort, looks like a mosque because it was built by Muslims.
The final stop in Prague’s Jewish Museum is the Spanish Synagogue. What a beautiful building. Can you see the Star of David behind me above the door?