The Jewish Quarter.

Josefov is the actual name of Prague’s Jewish Quarter which lies within Staré Mesto. For a walking tour through Jewish history and life, start at Malé námesti, from here turn left onto U radnice.

First sight along the way is the Franz Kafka house. Today the birth house of the famous writer, houses a restaurant only where once a small gallery and a shop used to be. Thus if you came for Kafka’s life, better visit the Kafka Museum in Hergetova Cihelna instead, since a cast-iron bust of Franz Kafka at the corner of Maiselova and U radnice is the only thing left of the artist’s legacy in this spot.

Chose Maiselova Street; half way down, the next sight is the Maisel Synagogue. The original synagogue was destroyed by a fire in 1689 but was rebuilt into the Neo-Gothic building in front of you. A sad perversion of its function occurred during Nazi’s occupation of Prague as they used the synagogue to store the furniture of deported Jews. Today, it is not longer used for religious services either but functions as a exhibition space for the Jewish Museum's collection of silver ceremonial objects, books, and Torah covers once confiscated from Bohemian synagogues by the Nazis.

Now continue walking down Maiselova and turn left onto Siroká. Along your way is the Old Jewish Cementry walking past the former entrance, you will reach the next destination, the Pinkas Synagogue. After World War Two its walls were painted with the names of the Czech Jews whose lives were taken in concentration camps, only to have this loving memory erased by the Communist regime afterwards. Fortunately, enough money was raised after the fall of Communism to restore the memorial.

In 1997 former U.S. secretary of State Madeleine Albright, born in Prague, visited the site to get in touch with her Czech-Jewish roots; she was raised as Catholic and was for a long time actually unaware of her Jewish relatives’ death in the Holocaust.

On to the Jewish Cemetery which you were already able to get a peek at walking past; it is actually the oldest Jewish burial ground in Europe. First thing you might notice are the different seized stones on top of the tomb stones. Passersby leave them, a tradition supposedly dating back to the times when the Jews wandered in the desert. With the sand whirling around, you wanted to place something heavy onto somebody’s grave in order to weigh it down and thus protect it from the merciless sand storms.

Exit the graveyard and go on to the Ceremonial Hall. This is where rites for the dead once took place and today numerous sketches by children once held in the Terezín concentration camp provide a painful insight into their suffering. Truly horrific in their innocent rendition of the cruelties committed against their families.

Backtrack along U Starého hrbitova, cross Maiselova, then walk into a small alley called Cervená. On your left you will see the Old-New Synagogue. It is the oldest Jewish temple in Europe. For the exeption of merely four years, during 1941 to 1945, the building has been prayed in continuously for more than 700 years. You can attend a service, if you like.

If you have some time to spend, you may want extent the walking tour by visiting all the exhibitions along the way. There is more to discover still.