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Josefov

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Yesterday, we spent the entire morning visiting various synagogues and Jewish museums that stand in what was once the Prague Jewish ghetto, today known as Josefov. The tour consisted of visits to the Old New Synagogue, the Spanish Synagogue, and the old Jewish cemetery.

Our tour guide revealed the history of Jews living in Prague since the early 9th century, and how the Medieval crusades contributed to the construction of Jewish ghettoes across Europe. In 1781, Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II emancipated Jews with the Toleration Edict, and in 1850, the Jewish ghetto changed its name to Josefstadt or Joseph's City to reflect the benevolence of the emperor.

From 1893 and 1913, much of the ghetto was demolished in order to remodel the city of Prague, but several synagogues, museums, and the Jewish cemetery were left standing. During World War II, the Nazis planned to demolish the lasting remnants of the old Jewish quarter, but instead allowed several Jews within Prague to maintain the Jewish museum and create a collection of objects belonging to Jews forced to leave or escape Nazi occupation of Bohemia/Czech Republic. Our guide shared several possible rumors about the Nazi reasoning for allowing the Jewish museum to carry on, one being that they would have a museum commemorating an extinct race should they win the war.

The tour was very enlightening and clarified several misconceptions about Judaism such as the difference between the menorah and the chanukiah. The exhibits themselves were also very informative, and it is no surprise then that nearly 5000 tourists visit the Josefov each day.

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