At the center of the Prague ghetto sits the Altneuschul, Europe’s oldest extant synagogue. Built to serve Bohemian Jews in the 13th century, worshippers whispered that angels loaned bricks from the destroyed Temple. Writer Peter Marshall appropriately described this Prague as “an ancient city of flying buttresses and dreaming spires… a center of occult and magical knowledge.” Surrounded by newer, pastel-colored buildings , the paradoxically named “Old New Synagogue” is the earthen color of a clay man; a red-tiled portico above the entrance is the hue of the dirt from which Adam was formed. The roof tapers to a serrated brick arrow, the location of the attic that contains Prague’s geniza.
Since at least the 19th century, though possibly conveyed by word of mouth for longer, it has been said that the attic of the Altneuschul is the place where the Renaissance Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel (commonly known as “the Maharal” by the honorific Hebrew anagram of his name) kept the earthly remains of an artificial clay creature, the golem. No coffin of red earth and no mound of mud from the Vlatava River, where Loew gathered the clay from which he made this Adam, can be found in the Altneuschul’s attic. Perhaps this isn’t the golem’s place of final repose after all. Far from inert, the artificial man lumbers through our history, his unsteady stride slowly paces though not just folklore, but literature, comics, and film.
In James Sturm’s graphic novel The Golem’s Mighty Swing, he aids a turn-of-the-century Jewish baseball team.