Posts tagged Jewish Interest
The Big Drama of Winter in Chania, Crete.

I arrived in Crete very early in the day, aboard a ferry from Piraeus. It was dark and cold, I was tired and cranky. The first thing I realized was that I didn’t actually arrive in Chania. The ferry arrives in a small town of Souda, some 12 km away from Chania center.

I am really glad there is a nice, warm café pretty close to the port. I could get a coffee, wi-fi and figure out how to get to the center. I had plenty of time – it was just after 6 am. Soon after I sat down a horrendous storm blasted over the town. Now I had even more time. After two hours the rain and gale strength wind quiet down a bit, enough for me to make the short walk to a bus stop. There is a ticket machine so no problem with buying one.

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The Dohany Great Synagogue in Budapest, Hungary. Simply Marvelous!

I am really happy that sometimes my full-time job sends me to awesome places. A while ago I took part in a conference for teachers run by Centropa. It took place in Budapest where I had never been before. Together with my fellow colleague sharing the trip, we went a day early to wander through the fascinating streets of Hungary’s capital. I was in awe of the architectural beauty of the city. But the best came from the guided tour of the Jewish district. The main point of this tour was a visit to the Dohany Great Synagogue – the biggest synagogue in Europe and second biggest in the world.

Now, I’ve seen many synagogues in my life. I’ve been to old and new ones, prayed in some tiny shuls and huge American temples. But this one… this one is something else! Its uniqueness lies not only in its size but some unprecedented architectural choices. You can learn a lot about the local Jewish community by observing its praying houses – you can see their wealth (or lack thereof), affiliation, praying styles or influences of the local culture.

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A Walk Through Alluring History and Symbolism at the Okopowa Jewish Cemetery in Warsaw

Cemeteries aren’t a typical tourist destination which is a mistake.

You can learn a lot about the place from the final rest of its people. Necropolises show first of all beliefs of the community and relations with a religion (or lack thereof).

But they also teach about the community’s wealth or poverty, artistic styles and fashions, famous people and events.

Warsaw’s Jewish Cemetery at the Okopowa Street is one of the biggest Jewish necropolises in the world. Its place is unique – right next to it is a Catholic Powązki Cemetery (est. 1790) where a lot of famous Poles are laid to rest.

Then there are also the Evangelical-Reformed, Russian-Orthodox, and Tatar (Muslim) cemeteries.

All of them create a clear sign of how diverse Poland, and in particular Warsaw, used to be. If you have the time - visit them all, you will not regret it.

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The New Jewish Cemetery in Prague: Not Just Kafka’s Grave

Beyond the Old Jewish Town

When talking about the Jewish presence in Prague and Jewish cemetery, most tour guides and websites direct you to the Old Jewish Cemetery.

Quite rightly so – it is one of the oldest surviving Jewish necropolises in the world! It was established in the 15th century and together with the AlteNeue Shul (The Old New Synagogue), they make the core of Prague Jewish Town.

It is famous for being the resting place of Rav (Rabbi) Yehudah Loew Ben Bezalel, known as the Maharal, who was a very important philosopher and a commentator.

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