Experiencing Prague Madeleine Boireau '17
Over winter break, I had the amazing opportunity to explore Prague with my mother and my brother. The entire trip was a once in a lifetime experience-not to say I will never go back to Prague, but I may never be able to go back with my two best friends, and I surely will never again feel how I felt while touring the Jewish Quarter for the first time. I found something uneasy about walking through a neighborhood with such a history.
a beautiful synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of Prague. image courtesy of Prague Guided Tours
e had done very little research on the area. There was a general consensus that a tour of Josefov, the Jewish Quarter, was a must-partially because we are Jewish but mainly because of the history behind the area. We walked up to the gates of the Pinkas Synagogue not really knowing what to expect; we opted for the self-guided tour. We were handed our tickets and a map with a path traced around the whole neighborhood.
The Pinkas Synagogue is now a memorial gallery with names of tens of thousands of Jewish-Czechoslovakian Holocaust victims inscribed on each wall, from floor to ceiling. It was hard to believe that these names, towering over everyone, were just a fraction of those killed during World War II.
The tour continued through the Old Jewish Cemetery, the oldest surviving Jewish Cemetery in Europe. I was particularly struck by this portion of the tour. This cemetery was the only piece of land "given" to the Jewish people to bury the dead. Due to this restriction, and as the cemetery began to fill, there was no choice but to continue adding soil and layering gravestones upon gravestones.
The tour continued through three more synagogues. I cannot say that I would do it again but I believe it is an essential experience not only for Jews but also just as a learning experience. Looking back, "uneasy" may not be the right word; rather, walking these streets with so much history was, for lack of a better word, incredible.