Within Josefov, you'll find the remnants of a once-vibrant community that for centuries was forced to fend for itself. Josefov served as the center of Jewish life in Prague from the 14th century to the end of the 19th century, when city authorities cleared the quarter to make way for new blocks of luxury apartment buildings (that are still standing). By that time, most of Prague's Jews had moved to other parts of town and Josefov had become a slum.

The Nazi occupation during World War II brought a violent end to much of Jewish life in Prague and around the Czech Republic. Of the more than 118,000 Jews living in the Czech lands of Bohemia and Moravia in 1939, only 30,000 survived to see the end of the war. Today, the Jewish community in the entire country comprises about 3,000 people, most of whom live in Prague.

It should be noted that the former Jewish ghetto is not a Holocaust site per se. By the time Nazis got here, most of the city's Jews had relocated to other, more affluent parts of Prague. Nevertheless, Josefov's synagogues can be seen as monuments to the survival of Judaism in central Europe, and the Old Jewish Cemetery, with generations buried upon one another, as an enduring symbol of the cohesion of Prague's ghetto.

The Jewish Museum in Prague (tel. 221-711-511; www.jewishmuseum.cz) doesn't refer to one building, but rather the organization that manages the main sites of the former Jewish quarter. These include the Old Jewish Cemetery, the Pinkas Synagogue, the Klaus Synagogue, the Maisel Synagogue, the Ceremonial Hall, and the Spanish Synagogue. Each synagogue features a different exhibition on various aspects of Jewish customs and history. It's not possible to visit the sites individually; instead, you have to purchase a combined-entry ticket that allows access to all the main buildings. You'll find ticket counters selling the tickets inside the synagogues and at ticket windows around the quarter. Admission is 300Kc for adults, 200Kc for students, and free for children under 6. The museum's sites are open from April to October Sunday to Friday 9am to 6pm; and November to March Sunday to Friday 9am to 4:30pm. Note the museum is closed on Saturdays and Jewish holidays. Another synagogue, the Old-New Synagogue, is considered separate from the Jewish Museum's main holdings and requires an additional admission ticket.

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