The exhibition is based on the ground floor of the Maisel Synagogue.
In the entrance area of the main hall, visitors can find out about the
first settlements of the Jews in the Czech lands. The focus here is
on the topic of old Czech glosses in early medieval Hebrew manuscripts
of Czech provenance. Noteworthy exhibits include Czech denars from the
10th and 11th centuries; it is assumed that Jewish masters of the mint
were involved in their coinage. A separate vitrine is devoted to the
medieval and early modern depiction of Jews from the Czech lands.
A vitrine featuring synagogue silver can be seen in the
centre of the platform in the middle of the main nave. Among the most
precious and noteworthy items is a Levite laver and basin from the Pinkas
Synagogue which was made in 1702 by Jan Jiří Lux, master silversmith
of the Lesser Town.
Various aspects concerning the legal status of the Jewish population
are highlighted in vitrines around the platform - featuring facsimiles
of a 15th century parchment codex with copies of privileges granted
to Jews by Přemysl Otakar II and Charles IV and a 1378 debt certificate
(secured by Jan Žižka of Trocnov). Of particular interest are copies
of documents and depictions which contain various forms of anti-Jewish
discrimination and illustrate anti-Semitic stereotypes. The vitrines
on the pillars facing the area of the main nave are devoted to the life
and work of scholars from the 12th to the 18th centuries, whose activities
are connected with the Czech lands. These include rabbis Isaac ben Moses
of Vienna, Avigdor Kara, Judah Loew ben Bezalel (known as Rabbi Loew
or the Maharal), Mordechai Yaffe, Solomon Ephraim Luntschitz, Shabbtai
Sheftl ben Akiva Horowitz, Yeshaya Horowitz, Yom Tov Lipman Heller,
Shabbtai ha-Kohen (Shakh), Menahem Mendl Krochmal, David Oppenheim,
Jonatan Eybeschütz and Ezekiel Landau. Those dealing with secular sciences
include the historian and astronomer David Gans, the polymath Josef
Solomon Delmedigo and the physician Issakhar Beer Teller. A place of
honour among the scholars is given to the first known Jewish female
writer Rebekah Tiktiner. Bohemian and Moravian synagogue curtains from
the 17th and 18th centuries are on display between the two main pillars.
The two most precious objects of the exhibition - late
16th century Torah curtains donated respectively by the Perlsticker
family and Mordechai Maisel - are located on the raised platform by
the Ark . The personality of Mordechai Maisel and the history of his
synagogue are highlighted in a vitrine that divides this part of the
synagogue from the main nave. The second side of this vitrine is devoted
to Hebrew manuscripts and prints from the Czech lands (exhibits include
a rare Pentateuch from 1530).
The south aisle is thematically focused on the development
of Jewish settlement. The conditions in Prague, Bohemia and Moravia
are treated separately and the subject matter is highlighted primarily
by means of effective coloured plans from the 17th and 18th centuries.
A special vitrine deals with Jewish self-government and related documents.
A prominent place in the north aisle is held by various
art objects associated with outstanding Jewish personalities - notably
a gilt silver cup which, according to tradition, belonged to Rabbi Loew
and a gilt silver Torah crown which was made in 1783 by Ondřej Dejl
and donated to the Old-New Synagogue by Rabbi Ezekiel Landau. A separate
area is given over to the work of Jewish goldsmiths and silversmiths;
worthy of special attention is a silver Torah shield made in 1753 by
Joshua Tzoref. A separate vitrine points to the role of court Jews,
featuring above all a facsimile
of the 1628 privilege of Jacob Bassevi with a depiction of his coat
of arms (this banker was the first ennobled Jew in the Habsburg Empire).
Heraldic articlec are featured in avitrine devoted to Jewish banners,
symbols and public celebrations. Engravings depicting processions of
Prague Jews from 1716 and 1741 are the centre of interest. Among the
most precious exhibits in the north aisle is the key-shaped emblem of
the Prague Jewish Butchers’ Guild, dating from 1620.
The final part of the exhibition deals with the period
of Maria Theresa’s rule, when, the position of Jews gradually began
to improve following the revocation of the expulsion decree. Loyalty
to the state and the ruling house is highlighted by Pesach plates, synagogue
textiles with patriotic motifs and prayers for the sovereign.