Sunday, August 12, 2018

Paths Jews Followed to Prague

Nadene Goldfoot                                             
The Arch of Titus in Rome
Forcing Jewish slaves to carry the loot Romans took out of the Temple
before burning it down
70 CE was  a momentous date for Jews.  That's when the Romans, who had been occupying Jerusalem since 40 BCE, decided to burn the city along with the Jewish 2nd Temple and turn it into a Roman Temple site.  It had been that "in 37 BCE, Herod, a son-in-law of Hyrcanus II, was appointed King of Judea by the Romans." Judah had been without their own kingly dynasty since their last king, Zedekiah, who ruled from 597-586 BCE.  

After 632 when Mohammed died, a mosque was built over the Roman Temple built in the very center of the Temple area in Jerusalem, called the Mosque of Omar  by Calph Omar, which was a temporary structure.  Then in about 738,  It was rebuilt by the Caliph Abd al-Malik also known as (Dome of the Rock) to replace the temporary structure set up by Caliph Omar.  The 2 mosques were built about a century apart on Mt. Moriah.  Today this is called the Temple Mount area and Moshe Dayan, Israeli general, gave the Jordanians rule over the mount due to the Muslim temples being there.  The problem remains that they sit over the site of our first Temple built by King Solomon and the 2nd Temple rebuilt by the Israeli returnees from Babylonian exile.  The temples were centers of Jewish learning and the Jewish religion, the first monotheistic religion in the world.  

Jews were taken captive and marched to Rome as shown by the ARCH OF TITUS  in Rome that depicts the event.  The Jews are forced to carry the loot the Romans have taken out of the Temple.  

They were used as prisoners in building in Rome and even in their army.  Eventually they worked their way to France and Germany.  These are the Jews who eventually became those called the Ashkenazi Jews, those who had been in Germany.  

Others had escaped from Jerusalem and had gone to the Iberian Peninsula, known about in past trading routes.  Before 1492, problems arose with the spread of Christianity and it's first formal presentation with Catholicism.  By 1492, Jews were expulsed from Spain if they didn't convert to Christianity.  They moved to Portugal and Central Italy,  then later to Western Europe in their  commercial cities.  The Ottoman Empire with Islam was more tolerant towards Jews though they had intolerant writing about them in their Koran, and they were treated as 2nd class people there, only occasionally attacked for being Jewish.  Istanbul and Salonica became Jewish centers.

The Jews in Rome thus wound up in Northern Italy, and from there spread out to Bohemia, Moravia and Poland.  Prague, Bohemia/Czechoslovakia, Cracow, Poland which is near the Czech Republic  and Lublin, Poland became Jewish centers after such German centers in Worms and Mainz, Germany in the 1000s.  

.  The area of Prague  became the seat of the dukes, and later kings of Bohemia.  Prague contained an important slave market.  Jews had come to Prague in the 10th century as traders.    Prague was an important seat for trading where merchants from all of Europe settled, including many Jews, as recalled in 965 by the Hispano-Jewish merchant and traveller Ibrahim ibn Ya'qub Under Holy Roman Emperor Otto II the area became a bishopric in 973. Jews fought against the attacks of the Crusaders there in 1096.  They suffered from severe persecution and many were forcibly baptized by the Christians.  Things got a little better by the 12th century.  

Until Prague was elevated to archbishopric in 1344, it was under the jurisdiction of the Archbishopric of Mainz, Rhineland (Germany) The Old New Synagogue of 1270 still stands.   Today of course,  Prague is the capital of the Czech Republic.  It used to be called Czechoslovakia. Many Jews had fled to Czechoslovakia from eastern Europe at the time of the Chmielnicki pogroms of 1648 in Poland when 744 Jewish communities were wiped out, but ghetto regulations continued to be enforced and even the number of marriages were restricted by law.  Maria Theresa decreed in 1744 the general expulsion of Jews. Jews were then fully exiled from 1745 to 1748, and were only allowed to return after promising to pay exorbitant taxes.  They had to continue to live in ghettos.  By 1848, the Jews of Prague were granted full equality and 4 years later in 1852 the ghetto was abolished.  

This is when Jews became interested in the German culture and less about the Czech culture.  Then the geography changed, because in 1938, 15,000 Jews from the Sudenten district (The Sudetenland is the historical German name for the northern, southern, and western areas of former Czechoslovakia which were inhabited primarily by Sudeten Germans) ceded to Germany and sought refuge in Prague.  Anti-Semitism was running rampant in Germany by then.  A month later, the liquidation of the Prague Jewish community began.  There were 65,000 Jews in Prague in 1942 with about 25,000 being refugees and all were exterminated by 1945.  

What amazes me is that there was a small Jewish community there with 1,400 Jews , subservient to the Communist regime who had taken over until the 1989 revolution.  Since 1989, Jews have been living without malice, probably up until now since it's spreading all over the world again.  Tourists have been coming and viewing the magnificently preserved synagogues and cemeteries, rare finds in Europe as the 2nd World War destroyed so many.  

The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia


  1. Thank you, Rooman. Every time I write an article with an idea to start with, I wind up learning more in researching about it. Like they say, truth is stranger than fiction.