Pursuing the Golem of Prague

Hillel J. Kieval

in Languages of Community

Published by University of California Press

Published in print December 2000 | ISBN: 9780520214101
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520921160 | DOI:
Pursuing the Golem of Prague

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)


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This chapter traces the career of a well-known folkloristic and literary motif that purports to speak to the cultural life of Jewish Prague during the northern European Renaissance and locates its “modern” origins within elite Jewish circles in the city during the first half of the eighteenth century. It notes that the “recovery” of this tradition as an element of the modern folk identity of both Jewish and non-Jewish Bohemians dates to the 1830s and 1840s. It further notes that the sixteenth century rabbi and communal leader Judah Löw ben Bezalel (known by the acronym Maharal) and the creature that he was credited—posthumously—with making entered the pantheon of Czech folk tradition as markers of local identity and historical memory. It emphasizes that the version of the Golem legend, which ascribes to the artificial being a redemptive role in saving the Jewish community in Prague from Gentile accusations of ritual murder, is the most recent creation of all.

Keywords: Jewish Prague; European Renaissance; folk identity; rabbi; Judah Löw ben Bezalel; Maharal; Golem; ritual murder

Chapter.  8356 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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