By Neta Sela, ynetnews.com
PRAGUE – The Czech capital of Prague, once a center of thriving Jewish life, still boasts numerous synagogues, many of which now serve as museums commemorating a Jewish community that has largely disappeared.
But a new institute recently opened in Prague seeks to become a focal point for Jewish life and culture in the city. The Maharal Institute, named after the great Talmudic scholar Judah Loew ben Bezalel, serves as a yeshiva for male students and offers Torah lessons for members of the local Jewish community, including women.
The studies at the place concentrate on the teachings of Torah scholars who were part of Prague’s Jewry throughout the generations, and most prominently, of course, those of the Maharal.
The institute is the brainchild of Rabbi Manis Barash, Chabad’s emissary in the city. “Everybody knows the story about the Golem from Prague and have heard of the Maharal, but not everybody is familiar with his teachings and writings,” Barash explained.
“For many years now we’ve been thinking about establishing an institute that would bring back to life the Maharal and the other great Torah scholars who lived and worked in Prague.
“This year, in honor of the 400th anniversary of the Maharal’s death, we finally realized this idea.”
The Jewish community in Prague has 1,800 registered members today, although according to estimates the number of Jews in the city is at least twice as many.
Rabbi Barash feels that the founding of the Maharal Institute serves as a great contribution to Jewish life in the city, as it attracts Jews who do not necessarily attend the weekly prayers, but are nevertheless interested in Jewish tradition and the Torah.
“Unfortunately, the synagogues in Prague have turned into museums, and for us it is important to bring some true, contemporary Jewish spirit to this place,” he concluded.