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Josefov (Czech Republic)

Praha-mesto okres, Prague capital

Last modified: 2005-07-23 by jarig bakker
Keywords: josefov | magen david | prague jews |
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[Josefov flag] by Jan Kravčik, 10 July 2000
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Josefov flag

Josefov was a Jewish ghetto, erased completely and rebuilt. It is associated with a lot of stories, some rather gruesome, such as those dealing with the 'Gholem'. The flag points at this past.
Jarig Bakker, 11 July 2000

Flag of Prague Jews

Naturally, it is not a mullet but a Magen David. It was not "completely erased" since some of the synagogues and the ancient graveyard still exist. It should be also mentioned that Prague witnessed the first recorded appearance of the MD as a Jewish symbol, when the Jewish community in Prague received the right to have a flag of its own and chose in 1354 the MD as the symbol on the flag. The Monarch that granted this right was Charles IV (a.k.a Charles IV of Luxemburg), King of Bohemia since 1347 and emperor since 1355.
BTW - the word "ghetto" means "foundry" which was the name of the Jewish quarter in Venice.
Dov Gutterman, 11 July 2000

I guess that this is modern version of the original historical flag of Josefov (or better said of the Jewish Community of Prague) that is considered to be the first Jewish flag to use Magen David. In this manner this can be considered the predecessor of the Zionist flags and the current flag of Israel.
Željko Heimer, 11 July 2000

The very first Jewish flag with a six-pointed star was that of the Jewish community of Prague, circa 1450. It remains their flag
to this day. The flag is rather complex- it's dark red with a gold Magen David (six-pointed star), but that's a relatively small part of the flag. This was the Middle Ages, after all, and the flag, as you'd expect, has quite a few design elements- borders, curlicues, and so on, along with a bunch of Biblical verses in Hebrew. I believe the flag is swallowtailed as well. I have a picture someplace and might be able to hunt it down. Also, the flag has actually been remade a few times as it's worn out. I imagine many of the details may have changed in those remakings.
Nathan Lamm, 17 Jan 2005

Not exactly swalowtailed, but ending triangulary (like some modern Polish local flags).
The important flag is now in Altneuschul synagogue in Prague.
Željko Heimer, 17 Jan 2005

In several books (owned by my father) I found photos of the flag:
- Landisch, B (1968) Praha/Prag/Prague. Olympia (Praha), p. 27 (b/w photo)
- Vilímková, M (1990) Die Prager Judenstadt. Dausien (Hanau), p. 39 (colour photo)
- Meek, HA (1995) The Synagogue. Phaidon (London), p. 89 (colour photo), p. 95 (reverse, colour photo)

The flag is red with golden embroiderings; these show a lot of Hebrew inscriptions and a Magen David with a cap in the center. The reverse is (at least nowadays) plain red. The flag staff is spirally coloured black and yellow.

The Magen David with a cap was used as a common symbol of the Prague Jewish community, for instance in a coat-of-arms-like manner on the Jewish Town-Hall (around 1763), b/w photo in:
- Jíru, V (1973) Praga Prag Praha Prague Prague - mesto fotogenické. Orbis (Praha), p. 78.

The book "Die Prager Judenstadt" (p. 123) (cited above) claims, that the flag was donated by Mordechai Meisl, when he erected the Meisl Synagogue in 1592. As the book points out, the usage in the synagogue of the flag with the Magen David was granted as a privilege in 1598.

Engravings from 1716 and 1741, respectively, show processions of Prague Jews on occasion of the birth of heirs-apparent.
The 1716 engraving shows two flags quite similar in shape to the flag in Altneuschul, i.e. flags with two long swallow-tails, with a Magen David in the center, carried by four men each. Another flag shown is a vexillum-type (hanging from a cross-bar).
The 1741 engraving shows two flags even more similar to the Altneuschul flag, namely ending as a triangle, with Magen David and further embroiderings in the center, having spirally coloured staffs. These are carried by about ten men each. Furthermore there are two vexillum-type flags and three rectangular "normal" flags on the engraving. Several objects on staffs might perhaps be called vexilloids.
Especially interesting seems to me the practice of having another man (in addition to the four to ten carrying the flag), who is keeping the flag unfurled with a long line attached to the triangular or swallow-tailed point of the flag.
Marcus E.V. Schmöger, 17 Jul 2005