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In the 13th century, the Prague Jewish settlement expanded into the area around Dušní street and the Old-New Synagogue. This settlement was called the Jewish Quarter, or the ghetto. In 1851, it became a district of the city and was renamed Josefov. From the original quarter full of winding alleys, the town hall and six synagogues have survived. One of the surviving synagogues is the Neo-Gothic Maisel Synagogue (Maiselova synagoga), which was built in the Renaissance style in 1590–92 at the behest of Mordechai Maisel, the mayor of the Prague Jewish Community at that time. Today it houses an exhibition on the history of Bohemian and Moravian Jews. The exhibition continues in the Spanish Synagogue (Španělská synagoga), which was built on site of the city’s oldest synagogue, called the Old School. The second oldest surviving synagogue in Prague is the Pinkas Synagogue (Pinkasova synagoga). On its walls are inscribed almost 80,000 names of victims of the Nazi Holocaust, or Shoah. Adjacent to the synagogue is the Jewish cemetery (Starý židovský hřbitov), where the oldest tombstone, that of Avigdor Kara, dates to 1439. Also located here is the tomb of the famous Rabbi Löw, creator of the legendary Golem. On the right-hand side, in the direction of the cemetery, is the early Baroque Klausen Synagogue (Klausova synagoga).

In addition to the sheer size of the Plzeň synagogue, proof that there has always been a large Jewish community around the city of Plzeň is the number of preserved monuments. As elsewhere, the Jewish population was decimated by the Nazi occupation in the first half of the 20th century. Jews lived in Plzeň in scattered settlements until 1848, when the modern Jewish Community was established. In the years 1858–59, the Old Synagogue (Stará synagoga) was built in the Neo-Romanesque style according to the new rite. When the Great Synagogue was built in the years 1888–92, the importance of the Old Synagogue gradually declined. Since the autumn of 2013, it houses an exhibition. The Great Synagogue (Velká synagoga) is one of the largest in the world, blending Neo-Romanesque and Neo-Renaissance elements with oriental motifs. After the Second World War, it fell into disrepair and was used only occasionally. It underwent renovation in the 1990s and became a cultural centre of Plzeň.
Josefov - Spain synagoguePrague - Oldnew synagogue Pilsen - Old synagogue
Pilsen - Old synagogueHoly Hill near Mikulov


One of the most important Jewish sites in the Czech Republic is the preserved Jewish Quarter in Třebíč, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It is composed of 116 surviving houses and two synagogues – the Rear and the Front. The Rear Synagogue houses an exhibition on the appearance of the city in the 19th century. After following a former cart way, you can also visit the Jewish cemetery. In its extent and the number of preserved buildings, the Třebíč Jewish quarter is the biggest in the Czech Republic.

Before the Second World War, Brno, the metropolis of South Moravia, was home to around 12,000 Jews, who could visit four synagogues. Only one survives – a Functionalist-style synagogue by the architect Otto Eisler dating from 1934–36. It still serves its original purpose and is the only one in the entire region. In the Židenice (meaning Jewish town) district, there is a cemetery which was established in 1852. In its Neo-Romanesque ceremonial hall, fragments of tombstones from the Middle Ages are embedded in the walls. Behind the ceremonial hall is a Holocaust memorial.

There was also a significant Jewish community in Boskovice, where a famous school (yeshiva) and centre for Talmudic research were in operation at the turn of the 19th century. In the mid-19th century, more than one-third of the population was of Jewish origin. The local cemetery has more than 2,400 graves. Of the original 138 buildings, 79 are still standing today, including a school spa, a hospital, a mikveh (ritual bath) and a Baroque synagogue.

Up to 90 surviving Jewish buildings, of which 45 are designated cultural monuments, can be found in Mikulov. From the 16th century until 1851, this was the seat of the Moravian regional rabbi. You can follow a kilometre-long educational trail with stops at 13 important sites in the Jewish district’s history, ending at the medieval mikveh. Mikulov occupies a prominent place on the religious map of Moravia. This is mainly thanks to Cardinal František Dietrichstein, who in the mid-17th century established an outstanding collegiate chapter in the city and commissioned the first Loretto church to be built in the Czech lands. He also started the tradition of religious pilgrimages to Holy Hill (Svatý kopeček) above the town, which continue to this day.

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