This and That

Random bits of my life

Posts Tagged ‘Jewish Museum’

More on the Altneu Synagogue

Posted by Avital Pinnick on November 3, 2013

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Here’s the view from the women’s section. I read somewhere that these slits in the wall were made in the 17th century. The acoustics within the synagogue are not great and if you’re more than a few inches from the openings, it’s very difficult to hear. If someone is chatting, it’s nearly impossible to follow the services. I discovered the radiators only at the end of the service. It was cold in there.

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These two stone structures originally held the money collected for taxes. The broken stone pillar in front originally supported the lectern of the prayer leader. If you look closely, you can see the letters “shin” and “tsade,” for “shaliach tsibbur”.

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The stone Torah ark was elaborately carved.

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Details of the parochet (curtain in front of the ark).

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Altneu Synagogue

Posted by Avital Pinnick on November 3, 2013

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The Altneu Synagogue or Altneushul is Europe’s oldest active synagogue. It was completed in 1270. The name means “old-new,” and references an older synagogue that was destroyed in 1867 and replaced by the Spanish Synagogue. According to legend, the remains of the Golem are hidden in the attic. Its design is classically Gothic. The photos above and below show the two gables of the synagogue building. I wasn’t able to get a good photo of the entire building because of the tree branches and parked cars.

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The tympanum carved above the entrance of the nave has 12 grape clusters and 12 vines, representing the 12 tribes of Israel. There are also four rivers representing the rivers of Gan Eden.

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The synagogue, although part of the Jewish Museum, is not included in the general admission. If you go to evening prayers on a weekday, you can get in for free and even take photos after prayers. The bimah (below) is surrounded by a cage-like structure of wrought iron with lamps hanging from it. Note the oil Shabbat lamp in the center of the photo below, for holding the wicks.

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This metal container is an eruv holder. Often matzah was used and the eruv would be changed once a year.

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Banner above the bimah. This banner is a modern reproduction of the banner that Ferdinand III, Holy Roman Emperor, awarded the Jewish community for helping to defend Prague during the Thirty Years War.

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High Synagogue in the Jewish Town Hall

Posted by Avital Pinnick on October 27, 2013

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The High Synagogue wasn’t part of our tour of the Jewish Quarter. In fact, I didn’t know what it was when I photographed it, so I took only a few quick shots. We were buying cheese and meat in the store in the Jewish Town Hall. On the way out, I noticed a lovely synagogue and took these photos. Although it dates back to 1568 (the same year as the Jewish Town Hall’s completion), it was destroyed in the great fire of 1689 and rebuilt in 1883.

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Prague’s Klausen Synagogue

Posted by Avital Pinnick on October 24, 2013

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My favourite synagogue in Prague’s Jewish Quarter is the Klausen (= “small,” from Latin claustrum), because of its light and elegant interior. The original building was constructed in 1573 and destroyed by fire in 1689. The current building was built in 1694, although most of its current architecture dates from the reconstruction undertaken in the 1880s. The Nazis destroyed much of the interior and used the building for storage. Now part of Prague’s Jewish Museum, it houses an exhibit of objects associated with the life cycle and festivals. Normally I would have photographed this building with a much wider lens but since photography isn’t allowed, I used my normal zoom lens, shot from the hip and hoped for the best.

The shot below was taken from the women’s gallery and shows the baroque 17th century Torah ark.

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Closer view of the Torah ark, taken from the ground floor. The spiral columns are typically baroque.

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This gate leads to the Altneu synagogue. The emblem of the Prague Jewish community, a yellow hat within a Star of David, appears in many places.

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Gothic gabled facade of the Altneu synagogue.

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The Jewish Town Hall, built in 1586, has two clocks. The one with Hebrew letters runs counter-clockwise. If you need kosher food in Prague, the Jewish Town Hall has a small store. Just remember that it opens midday and that you have to allow time for the security interview.

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Prague’s Old Jewish Cemetery

Posted by Avital Pinnick on October 15, 2013

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Prague’s Old Jewish Cemetery is a daunting subject to photograph. The sheer number of graves gathered in such a small area (although it’s larger than you might think) can be overwhelming. The cemetery contains around 12,000 tombstones, although the number of burials could be as many as 100,000. When they ran out of space, more earth was brought in, creating layers. It’s generally accepted that there may be as many as twelve layers of burials. The cemetery was in use from the late 15th century to the late 18th century. Rabbi Loew of Prague is buried here, along with other prominent Jewish residents of Prague, such as David Oppenheim and Mordechai Maisel.

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The stones of cohenim (priests) are often adorned with carved hands, a symbol of the priestly blessing.

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In these photos I was experimenting with colours and textures. The mix of cool blues and warm browns is an appealing combination.

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The sun was bright that day and hit these stones at a diagonal angle.

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The cemetery is a surprisingly peaceful place, if you can ignore the hordes of tourists crowding the paths, behind a rope. You’re not allowed off the outside paths, so I took a lot of photos with a zoom lens. This photo reminded me of people sleeping, with their heads resting on the shoulders of their neighbours.

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In this photo I emphasized the bluish tinge of the stones and earth.

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Pinkas Synagogue, Prague

Posted by Avital Pinnick on October 14, 2013

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The Pinkas Synagogue is a memorial to the 80,000 Jews from Bohemia and Moravia who were murdered by the Nazis during World War Two. The building was built in 1535 by Aaron Meshullam Horowitz between his house and the Old Jewish Cemetery.

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View of the interior of the synagogue, with the names and dates of the victims inscribed on the walls. The work was designed and executed from 1954 to 1959 (for more details, see the Jewish Museum site). Because the synagogue is close to the river and very low, it has suffered extensive flood damage in the past and the names have been repainted.

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On either side of the Torah ark are inscribed the names of the ghettos and camps to which the Jews of Bohemia and Moravia were deported.

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On the second floor is an exhibit of some of the children’s drawings from Terezin (1942-1944), created during a course of art classes taught by  Mrs. Friedl Dicker-Brandeis (1898-1944). Before she was deported to Auschwitz, she filled two suitcases with 4,500 drawings and hid them. They were recovered after the war. See the Jewish Museum site for more details.

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View of the sanctuary from the women’s gallery on the second floor.

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Maisel Synagogue, Prague

Posted by Avital Pinnick on October 14, 2013

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The photo above shows the interior of the Maisel Synagogue. I was certain I’d also photographed the exterior of the synagogue but I can’t find the photo at the moment. It might turn up later! We booked a tour of Prague’s Jewish Quarter through Precious Legacy Tours and found it very worthwhile. The guide was knowledgeable and our group was small–just us and a German family with two grown daughters. The Jewish Museum of Prague is housed in several synagogues and a ceremonial hall for the burial society.

The Maisel Synagogue was originally constructed in 1590. Around 1900 it was rebuilt in a pseudo-Gothic style.

The heavily illuminated document below is a legal document granting rights to the Jews.

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The silver objects in the bottom of the next photo are silver “breastplates” that adorn a Torah scroll.

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The white letters at the top of this 16th century Torah ark curtain are actually embroidered with hundreds of tiny pearls. The other threads are tarnished gold thread. Sorry about the reflections. Photography isn’t permitted in the Jewish Museum, so all these photos were taken surreptitiously.

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This Torah ark curtain, also 16th century, was done in an “Italian technique,” according to the guide, although she wasn’t sure what that meant. The parokhet appears to be elaborate appliqued velvet and smooth silk. The edges of the appliqued motifs are covered with a heavy couched cord.

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This elaborate linen robe (ca 1530) belonged to Solomon Molcho, a messianic figure and kabbalist who was burned at the stake in 1532. The Jewish Museum site has a detailed description of the construction of this robe. The body comprises 28 pieces of fabric, flaring outwards, which accounts for the extravagant dimensions of this robe. I can’t even imagine how heavy it must have been to wear.

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The Venetian Ghetto

Posted by Avital Pinnick on July 15, 2012

Sign, Old Venetian Ghetto

The Jews of Venice were compelled to live in the ghetto from the 16th to the 18th centuries. The Venetian ghetto was the source of the English word, which actually means “foundry,” in reference to a foundry that was located close to the ghetto.

The sign above, “Gheto Vechio,” means “Old Ghetto,” but the name is a bit misleading because the “Old” and “New” ghettos refer to the foundries themselves, not to the Jewish communities. Jews inhabited the New Ghetto first (around 1516), before Levantine Jews began moving to the Old Ghetto (around 1541). The Jewish Virtual Library site has a comprehensive history of the Venetian ghetto.

The photo below is one of the tunnel-like entries into the ghetto. This particular entrance is beside Gam Gam, the popular kosher restaurant, on the Cannaregio Canal.

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If you visit the ghetto, be sure to take a guided tour at the Jewish Museum in the courtyard. It’s the only way you will be able to see the interior of some of the five synagogues in the ghetto. When we were there, the two large Sephardi synagogues were undergoing repairs, but we did see the other three synagogues. You can’t photograph the interior (and the group was too small for me to surreptitiously take pictures), but the Jewish Museum site has photos of the sanctuaries.

It’s also worth knowing that the Jewish Museum has a kosher cafe and is reasonably priced, much cheaper than Gam Gam. Since it is only open during museum hours, you have to plan to be there for lunch or in the late afternoon, no later than six. The couple who run it don’t speak much English but they’re very nice. I had an excellent piece of fish there. It was small, but seasoned with great care. The azzimi dolce (sweet wine matzah cookies), probably from the Volpe bakery around the corner, are excellent.

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The Levantine synagogue, below, was founded in 1541.

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Across the small courtyard from the Levantine synagogue is the Spanish synagogue (below), founded around 1580. It is the largest of the five synagogues in the ghetto.

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Spanish synagogue, frontal view:

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Door of Spanish synagogue:

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Courtyard of the ghetto:

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The photo below shows the Canton Synagogue, which occupies the top floor  of a residential building. When synagogues and apartments were in the same building, the synagogue was always above the dwelling spaces. The origin of the name is uncertain but the most popular theories are that the synagogue was built by the Canton family or that it was called Canton (= corner) because it is located in the corner of the courtyard.

Canton Synagogue, Venetian Ghetto

Courtyard, Venetian Ghetto

The German Synagogue (also called Tedesca) is trapezoid-shaped (the Jewish Ghetto of Venice site has floor plans for all the synagogues).  The Ashkenazi synagogues tend to have five windows, which we were told was a deliberate design choice, commemorating the Five Books of Moses. The Levantine and the Spanish synagogues, however, have four windows on their front facades.

German Synagogue, Venetian Ghetto

The Italian synagogue (below) was founded in 1575 and is built over apartments. It is the simplest of the five synagogues and quite austere in its decoration, without the lavish gold interiors that you find in the other synagogues.

Italian Synagogue, Venetian Ghetto

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