After the famous rabbi, Judah Loew ben Bezalel, created a Golem out of clay from the banks of the Vltava River to protect the Prague ghetto from anti-Semitic attacks and programs, he eventually immobilized the creature when the job was done.
The Golem’s name was Josef and his body was stored in the attic Genizah of the Old New Synagogue, where it stayed until needed again. Centuries passed…
Rabbi Leopold ben Bezalel finished reading a book – The Golem: Legends of the Ghetto of Prague (English edition 1925) by Chayim Bloch’s (1881–1973) – and sat it down on the end table.
He was frustrated, but not about to give up on his search for his ancestor’s Golem. He discovered that the attic where the Golem was put had been renovated in 1883, and there was no evidence of the Golem there at that time.
Not even a pile of sand on the floor. For whatever reason the Golem must have been moved by someone Leopold concluded, after reading about a Nazi agent who went up in the synagogue attic during World War II and tried to stab the Golem but he died instead.
To Leopold, that suggested that the Golem was still in the attic regardless of the 1883 renovation where searchers couldn’t find the body.
Getting into that attic was a problem. It was closed up again after WW II and no visitors were allowed. It was still closed.
He looked out the window and watched the snow steadily fall on the towns main street. Bar Nune, population 3,209, in Natrona County, Wyoming had become a bad place for Jews to live. His congregation was constantly being harassed by neo-Nazis and other white supremacists.
The authorities turned their backs on what was happening. They were part of the problem. They weren’t interested in protecting Jews anymore than the neo-Nazis. Their hatred seemed to increase in the last year and their attacks against the Jewish population increased.
Leopold saw what was happening and was determined to do something about it.
It took every last bit of his savings, but Leopold came up with the money to fly to the Czech Republic. Once he arrived at Prague he went right to the Jewish Corner, which was once a ghetto, and looked up an old friend.
Rabbi Franz Philippson’s friendship with Leopold began two decades ago when he was a studying in a New York synagogue. For the observant Jew like Leopold, the study of sacred texts is a life-long task. The New York synagogue was famous for its well-stocked library of sacred Jewish texts.
The two old friends greeted warmly and Rabbi Philippson invited Leopold to stay with him. The house was within walking distance of the Old New Synagogue. The two men talked throughout most of the night.
The next morning after prayer services the two friends strolled around the small courtyard outside of the Old New Synagogue.
“So you see my dear Leopold, Josef was never in the attic. That story was created by historians who didn’t have their facts right. If you need Josef I’ll help you in the rituals that it takes to summon him,” said Rabbi Philippson.
“Thank you! What do we do first?”
“We go down to the banks of the Vltava river for clay. That is where Josef has been all along. Let’s go to my house and get the book of Hebrew incantations in my library.”
Hours later the two men were standing on the river bank and Leopold was gathering a lump of clay. When the Golem appeared he addressed it – calling it Josef – and hung a necklace with a plaque on it with the name of Shem.
“Remember my friend,” Rabbi Philippson cautioned, “On Friday evenings you must remove his necklace before Sabbath begins and let him rest.”
Bar Nune, Wyoming
Rabbi Leopold ben Bezalel walked out of the synagogue’s candle lit interior with a light heart. It was nearly a year since any of his congregation had been harassed with anti-Semitic remarks.
The population did shrink by about four hundred residents, but no one seemed worried about it.
As It Stands, on the fringes of legends and myths there are certain cryptic truths.