PRAGUE—The Czech guard leans against the doorway of the Staranovà Sinagoga (Old New Synagogue), Europe’s oldest active synagogue, and stares with crossed arms. A visitor has shown him an identification card with an irreproachably Jewish name, and yet the guard remains unconvinced. Fourteen rapid questions range from the visitor’s biography to that of her rabbi to religious habits and traditions, followed by a careful search for arms. The second Czech guard opens the door, finally, and points to the women’s section. The service has already begun.

By contrast, the largest place of Jewish worship in Istanbul, Neve Salom Sinagogu Vakfi, rejects any guest, Jewish or not, armed or not, who has not called in advance. That synagogue survived a shooting incident in 1986 and bombings in 1992 and 2003. Now, no one answers any of the seven steel doors that line...

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