First lady visits Prague Jewish quarter

Michelle Obama places prayer on Maharal's tomb, says visit was "wonderful, but much too short."

April 5, 2009 18:13
1 minute read.
First lady visits Prague Jewish quarter

michelle obama jew quarter prague 248.88. (photo credit: AP)


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US First Lady Michelle Obama spent two hours on Sunday touring Prague's Jewish Quarter synagogues and unique cemetery. Her visit included a stop at the Pinkas synagogue, whose walls bear the names of more than 80,000 Czech Holocaust victims - including the ancestors of Madeleine Albright, the Czech-born former US secretary of state. Leo Pavlat, the director of Prague's Jewish Museum, said Mrs. Obama liked the inside of the synagogue, "especially the exhibit of children's drawings from the Theresienstadt ghetto." There were a few somber moments at the tiny cemetery, jammed with some 12,000 family gravestones crowded into a little garden near the Vltava River, and about 100,000 dead buried in several layers beneath them. Mrs. Obama stood briefly by the oldest gravestone - that marking the resting place of poet Avigdor Kara, who died in 1439 - before moving to the grave of the legendary 16th century rabbi Yehuda Loew, the Maharal, considered one of the greatest Jewish scholars and philosophers. In keeping with local custom, she placed a prayer on a piece of paper and weighted it down with a little stone. Her last stop was the Old New Synagogue, built around 1270 - the oldest synagogue in Europe, and one of the earliest Gothic buildings in Prague. Saying goodbye to the leaders of Prague's Jewish community, Mrs. Obama appeared moved. "It was a wonderful visit, but much too short," she said. "I'll be back."

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