Prague Jewish Cemeteries

During the reign of emperor Rudolph II at the turn of the 16th and 17th century, Jewish culture in Prague was experiencing the golden age of the Jewish Ghetto.

The economic and cultural flourish of Prague's Jews took off in the wake of the confirmation of Jewish privileges. The population increased several-fold and there was a lot of building activity. It was at that time that the Maisel, Pinkas and High (Vysoka) synagogues were built.

Also a part of the boom, the final resting places and therefore Jewish cemeteries were also being established during those times.

The oldest Jewish cemetery located within Prague was in present day Misenska Street. The second medieval cemetery called the Jewish Garden was in the location of the future-day New Town at Vysehradska Street. This cemetery was most likely abolished in the second half of the 15th century and some of its Gothic tombstones were transferred to the Old Jewish Cemetery which was established in the first half of the 15th century. This in turn became the only burial place for Prague’s Jews.

The Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague is one of the most significant preserved Jewish cemeteries in the world.

Many prominent personalities from the Prague Ghetto are buried at the Old Jewish Cemetery: Rabbi Avigdor Karo, a Prague rabbi, Rabbi Jehuda Liva ben Becalel, so-called Loew, a rabbi, scholar and educator, David Gans, an astronomer, mathematician and chronicler, the astronomer and physician Josef Šelomo Delmedigo, or Mordechai Maisel, a financier and Ghetto benefactor, to mention a few. The tomb of Rabbi Loew attracts the most attention: visitors place small stones on the tombstone in Jewish fashion, often including small notes with a secret wish that is sure to be granted by the creator of the Golem.

The New Jewish Cemetery is a part of the Prague Olsany Cemetery complex in Zizkov. The cemetery was established in 1889 and inaugurated on 6 July 1890. The event took place after the Old Jewish Cemetery was closed down.

About 25,000 tombstones are preserved on the cemetery grounds. Many notable personalities from politics, culture and industry find their final resting place here, for example members of the Petschke, Waldes and Bondy families, the writers Franz Kafka, Jiri Orten and Ota Pavel, and artists Jiri Kars, Max Horb, and many others.

 

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