Tuesday, we decided to explore Prague by ourselves rather than to take a group tour. I have always believed that learning about other cultures enriches our lives and teaches us respect for and acceptance of others' beliefs. When I was teaching, I especially enjoyed reading multicultural stories to children. Isaac Bashevis Singer, a Polish-born American whose works are translated from Yiddish, adapted traditional Jewish stories for children. My favourite children's book about Prague specifically is The Golem, a picture book by David Wisniewski
We decided that a visit to the Prague Ghetto would be interesting to us. The Jewish settlement in Prague dates from the 11th century. Today, six synagogues, the Old Jewish Cemetery, and a museum can be visited on a single ticket. We were not allowed to take photos except outside in the cemetery. It is ironic that Jewish religious items were stockpiled in Prague to create a museum of an "extinct race."
The Pinkas Synagogue is a memorial to the 80,000 Jewish residents of Bohemia and Moravia who were killed by the Nazis. Both my sister and I were moved by the seemingly endless list of names. Young people, old people, families...Family names and prénoms repeating over and over.
Another heart-wrenching display was the artwork of the children of Terezin, the "model" ghetto. Friedl Dicker-Brandeis taught art to the children while they were awaiting their final deportation. Materfamilias wrote a few days ago about the art of her grand-daughter. The art of these children with their rainbows, flowers and hair bows contrasts with the physical setting of the camp. Dicker-Brandeis and 550 of the 660 children were killed. Fireflies in the Dark, a book by Susan Goldman Rubin tells the story of the Terezin children.
The visit taught us both a lot about Jewish ritual and ceremony and about the magnitude of the Shoah.