L’ Shana Tova

Tonight is the beginning of one of the most sacred holidays in Judaism: Rosh Hashanah. I can’t help but wonder what services would look like in the beautiful Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam is known for its Red Light District, Canals, Coffee Shops and Museums. Nestled in this backdrop is one of the great Synagogues of the world. It was built by Spanish Jews escaping the Spanish Inquisition. Since Holland and Spain were at war with one another, those escaping persecution said they were Portuguese to gain entry in to the country. Many Synagogues in Europe today restrict access due to persistent anti-Semitic feelings. However the Portuguese Synagogue is open for visitors for a small fee. You can also attend services on Friday or Saturday without paying a fee. The entire Synagogue is lit by candles and there is an excellent Judaica store where you can buy beautiful souvenirs and find out about the history of the building.L’shanah Tovah (Happy New Year!)

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Portuguese Synagogue Amsterdam Holland

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The Jewish Cemetery in Praha

The old Jewish Cemetery in Praha (Prague) is one of the important Jewish historical monuments in Prague. It served its purpose from the first half of 15th century till 1786. Renowned personalities of the local Jewish community were buried here. Today the cemetery is administered by the Jewish Museum in Prague.

During the more than three centuries in which it was in active use, the cemetery continually struggled with the lack of space. Piety and respect for the deceased ancestors does not allow the Jews to abolish old graves. Jews were forbidden from land purchases and from owning gold. Hatred of Jews was not invented by Nazis.

To gain space if necessary, a new layer of soil was heaped on top of an old grave. For this reason, there are places where as many as twelve layers now exist. Thanks to this solution the older graves themselves remained intact but the cemetery looks like none other with tombstones stacked on top of each other.

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The Jewish Cemetery in Praha