Friday, October 10, 2014

Oh Josefov!

With the increasingly restive religious conservatives in the country perpetually painting the Jews as the unseen bogeymen, is it any wonder that the number of existing Jews here probably number in the low hundreds? If there are even that many! Though the unfortunate Jewry here erroneously get the blame for almost every existing problem in the country from rising inflation to economic troubles, very few Malaysians have ever laid eyes on any of these presumed troublemakers.

Even some of my sadly anti-Semitic colleagues who bear such ill-placed rancor against them don't actually know very much about them!

Colleague : We hate the Jews. 
Paul : Why?
Colleague : Because of Israel.
Paul : And?
Colleague : And the Jewish conspiracy
Paul : And?
Colleague : Our book tells us to hate them.
Paul : Have you actually met any of them?
Colleague : No. But I still hate them.
Paul : Good to see that you actually gave some deliberation to that. 
Colleague : What?

The heedless animosity can be quite palpable.

Closing the door on mindless prejudice

Obviously the endless indoctrination by our state-sanctioned media has produced some alarming effects so it doesn't surprise me that the few Jews left here in the country have remained relatively discreet for fear of reprisals. But I'm far less convinced. Hate is a strong word - and to arbitrarily hate a community without even knowing anything about them seems preposterous to say the very least.

In fact I've never even set foot in a known synagogue here in the country. Last one we had was the one sole synagogue in Nagore Road, Penang - and even that closed down several decades back due to a lack of quorum.

So you can imagine how intrigued I was to be in Prague, one of the oldest and most well-known cities in Europe with a previously thriving community of Jews. One that gave birth to the infamous artificial man made out of clay called the Golem - reportedly created by a Rabbi Loew in the late 16th century to protect the quarter from anti-Semitic attacks.

So we took a lovely autumn morning to join the tour around the historical Jewish quarter in Prague, otherwise known as Josefov, bringing us around the beautiful art nouveau buildings there now - built after the modernization of the ancient quarter - with the few synagogues left standing. Even without the tour repeatedly drumming it into our heads, it was quite obvious that the Holocaust - and the subsequent relocation of many of the Jewry - had decimated what was left of the quarter.

However not all is lost since I did manage to spy several Jewish boys in kippahs hurrying down the streets with stuffed bookbags in tow.

Obviously it's for good reason that the Jews are known for their sharp business acumen! Souvenir shops abound in that area as well - with far more convivial shopkeepers which made such a lovely change from the usual dour Czechs - which is why I came home with a rabbi marionette, a Jewish themed nesting doll and even a shiny new menorah!

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