Here, Shalmi teaches us that the use of star of David as a Jewish symbol originated in Prague. Displayed proudly in The Old-New Synagogue is the flag that the emperor allowed the Jews to hoist. The symbol on the flag is the star of David, or Jewish star which was the family symbol of the Cohen family, a prominent family in the congregation when the Jews made the flag. The flag also displays the yellow hat, which was a derogatory symbol because the king made the Jews of Prague wear the yellow hat whenever they left the ghetto. Although it was originally meant to be disrespectful--it was the color yellow because that was a symbolic color of the plague--it later becomes a symbol of pride for the Jews, as they chose to take a negative and turn it into something positive that connected the community.
Before World War II began, when the Nazis came into Prague in April of 1939, occupying the remainder of Czechoslovakia, they required all Jews to register. According to Nazi law, any person who had one grandparent who was Jewish was classified as a Jew. Many Czech Jews, who were highly assimilated, did not identify themselves as Jewish, but they did register. Then one day they received a letter telling them they had been summoned, and needed to bring a suitcase. They were being sent to Theresienstadt,a former garrison town, outside Prague, where we will visit tomorrow.
Outside the Pinkas Synagogue is one if the most famous Jewish cemeteries in the world, made famous by the false document, "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion." In this pamphlet used as antisemitic propaganda, it states that the rabbis supposedly conspired to take over the world at a meeting here in this cemetery.
Our last synagogue in the Jewish quarter was the Spanish synagogue. This was an ornate synagogue in the Moorish style. Many Jews were apparently embarrassed by its opulence. Shalmi said some Jews felt it was less a place to pray than a place to be seen. He pointed out the massive organ which might equally be found in a large cathedral.
Today we visited the Pinkas Synagogue which has been converted to a memorial to victims of the Holocaust and a museum. One of the exhibitions upstairs contained drawings created by children who were living in ghettos. One of the drawings that touched me was by an 8 year old who drew a picture of herself playing with her friends before she was deported to a ghetto. The overwhelming part of it was that she had scribbled it all in black: there were no faces, just blank circles for heads.