Saturday, August 6, 2011

Jewish Memories in Prague

Relative to Paris, Berlin, London and Los Angeles, Prague is a very monocultural city. While there are a smattering of people of Asian and African descent, most of the faces are white. Considering the ethnic cleansing agenda of the Third Reich, Prague stands as a success. In that Czekloslovakia had a significant Jewish population prior to 1939, I felt driven to explore the Jewish centers in the old city. I'd gotten off the tram a bit soon and ended up visiting a local head/grow shop -- apparently it's legal to grow up to five cannabis plants for personal pleasure. Drying excessive amounts of buds is illegal...sounded a like mix of tolerance and confusion:) Suddenly somewhere east of the St. Charles Bridge, the streets were flooded with tourists...and soon after I was in the midst of Jesova, the old city and home of the Jewish Quarter.

Eventually I found my way to the Jewish Museum complex and purchased a ticket. It included visits to several locations. One was a series of rooms which contained floor to ceiling, the names of Jews who had perished during WWII. It was difficult to spend much time there--just looking filled my heart with tears. Many were believed to have died in 1942. In another location there were drawings made by children held in death camps...and then other drawings made by contemporary children after being told about the atrocities that befell the Czek Jewish children. The energy in the drawings was intense.

Then I wandered through a Jewish cemetery -- there were stone markers nearly on top of each other of Jews who had lived out their lives between the 16th and 18th centuries. In all of my travels, I'd never before seen remnants of Jewish a way it was quite beautiful.

Next I went into a synagogue that housed a huge collection of what the Nazi's believed would be the cultural artifacts of an extinct race. It contained burial dresses, alms cups for which widows would receive funds following the deaths of their husbands, circumcision knives and small cups for holding foreskins, sabbath candles, spice boxes, wedding scrolls, mezuzahs, passover plates, matzoh presses and more. I sighed a breath of relief that nothing there looked particularly foreign or extinct...Judaism did live on!

Finally I looked over dioramas of Jewish living and dining rooms at the time of the holocaust. On display was beautiful furniture and attractively decorated tables. No doubt an artful and highly civilized people...

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