First lady visits Prague Jewish Quarter

JERUSALEM (JTA) – Michelle Obama visited Prague’s Jewish Quarter.

The U.S. first lady, accompanied by U.S. Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and political consultant David Axelrod, on Sunday visited the Pinkas Synagogue, where the names of 80,000 Jewish victims of the Holocaust from Bohemia and Moravia are inscribed on its walls. She also viewed a display at the synagogue of more than 200 children’s drawings from the Terezin ghetto on display.

Obama then visited the Old Jewish Cemetery, stopping at the graves of important figures from Prague’s Jewish history, including scholar and poet Avigdor Kara, who died in 1439; patron and mayor of the Jewish community Mordecai Maisel, who died in 1601; and rabbi and kabbalist Judah Loew ben Bezalel, also known by his acronym MaHaRaL, who died in 1609.

The first lady placed a folded piece of paper with a personal wish on the rabbi’s grave.

Obama also visited the Old-New Synagogue, the oldest European synagogue still used for religious purposes. She was greeted there by representatives of the Czech Jewish community, including Efraim Karol Sidon, the chief rabbi of the Czech Republic; Jiri Danicek and Tomas Kraus, the chairman and executive director, respectively, of the Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic; and Frantisek Banyai, the chairman of the Jewish Community in Prague.

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