The Jewish City Hall is one of the centres of the Jewish community in Prague. Its history reflects the history of the Jewish ghetto, which had burnt down many times, then it was rebuilt again and finally demolished in the 19 th century. Only few buildings were kept and the Jewish City Hall is one of them.
The oldest part of the Jewish City Hall in the basement was probably built in the 13 th century together with the Old – New Synagogue nearby. The existence of a Jewish city hall is mentioned in some documents from the 16 th century, but it is not sure, if it was this building.
Blossom of the Jewish Quarter
The Jewish ghetto in Prague flourished in the 16 th century thanks to very rich primate Mordechai Maisel. It is unknown how he became so rich, but he used to lend money even to Emperor Rudolph II. He had spent a lot of money on improving the Jewish Quarter and also on extending and rebuilding the Jewish City Hall. The City Hall Synagogue (also called High Synagogue) bordering with the city hall was built at the time as well. The Jewish City Hall burned down in 1689 and it was rebuilt in Baroque style.
Maria Theresa ordered Jews out of Prague in 1740s and they left with all their possessions, including windows and doors. They could return to the deserted quarter several years later, but another disaster came soon: the Jewish ghetto burned down again in 1754.
Jewish clock with Hebrew dial
After the fire, Prague Jews borrowed money for radical rebuilding of the ghetto, including the Jewish City Hall. It was rebuilt in Rococo style and the City Hall Synagogue was ostentatiously decorated with stuccoes and the Star of David. A corner tower was built at the top of the city hall. At the main frontage there is a Jewish clock with Hebrew dial, and its hands go from right to the left, just as the Hebrew script does. Another clock at the top of the Jewish City Hall has a dial with Roman numerals.
Demolition of the Jewish town
The Jewish ghetto was added to Prague in 1850 as the fifth city quarter and it was called Josefov to remind the Enlightenment Emperor Joseph II. The quarter was demolished in 1893 except for several buildings, mainly synagogues. Demolishing the Jewish City Hall was considered as well, but it was kept at the end.
During the World War II., a “Jewish council” was set up in the city hall by the Nazis and it was supposed to help them with registering and then liquidating the Jews. The transports to the detention camp in Terezin were made up there.
Jewish City Hall at the present time
Nowadays, the Jewish City Hall is used for its original purpose: it is the centre of the Jewish community and a seat of the Jewish rabbi. There is a large Jewish library and a ritual dining room in the ground floor.