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The Jewish Community of Basel

Basel

Alternate spelling: Basle
French: Bale

A city in northwestern Switzerland

Basel is located on the Rhine River, near the French and German borders

Baleph, a smartphone and tablet application that was launched in 2014, provides travelers with a walking tour detailing Basel's Jewish history. The Jewish Museum of Switzerland, which is located in Basel, also provides visitors with information and exhibitions on the history of the Jewish community in Switzerland. Another museum of Jewish interest is the Kunstmuseum Basel, which includes several works by the artist Marc Chagall.

The Great Synagogue, which was originally built in 1868 and expanded in 1892, is one of five synagogues located in Basel. The Jewish Primary School Leo Adler (JPS), which was founded in 1961, provides Jewish children with a religious and secular education, and also offers extracurricular activities.

The Great Synagogue includes a kosher fine-dining restaurant in the basement. Tourists staying at the Hilton Basel can also request kosher food.

Israel Park, a grove of 40 trees planted by the sixth president of Israel, Chaim Herzog, is located in Basel.

As of 2015 there were approximately 2,000 Jews living in Basel.

HISTORY

Jews first settled in Basel during the 12th century. One hundred years later the Jewish community of Basel was chiefly responsible for funding the construction of the Bridge over the Rhine (1225-1226). During this period the Jews were also permitted to buy and sell land.

Eventually, however, the Jews of Basel became victims of anti-Jewish violence. During the Black Death epidemic they were accused of poisoning the wells. Though the members of the town council attempted to defend the Jewish community, in January 1349 tensions boiled over; 600 Jews, along with the community's rabbi, were burned at the stake and 140 children underwent forced baptisms. These events temporarily put an end to the Jewish community in Basel.

In 1362 a Jew from Colmar (in Alsace) was permitted to settle in Basel; he was soon followed by others. In spite of restrictions imposed on the Jews by the church, the second half of the 14th century was a period of prosperity for the Jewish community of Basel. However, in 1397 the Jews were once again accused of poisoning the local wells. Fearing for their lives, the Jews fled and the community once again ceased to exist. This time it would be a few hundred years until Jews returned to Basel.

From the mid-16th century on the authorities of Basel alternately issued individual residence permits and expulsion edicts. At the end of the 16th century Basel became a center for Hebrew printing. Though the printing houses were owned by Christians, residence permits were granted to Jewish proofreaders. Johannes Froben published the Book of Psalms in 1516. His son Jerome published a copy of the Bible in Hebrew in 1536. Between 1578 and 1580 Ambrosius Froben was permitted to print a censored edition of the Talmud, which had been banned under Pope Julius III in 1553. The works of Johannes Buxtorf, who taught Hebrew at Basel University (1591-1664) were also printed in Basel.

In 1789, when anti-Jewish propaganda was rife in Alsace, many Alsatian Jews fled to Basel and were permitted to stay there temporarily. Following a request from the French government in 1797, the local authorities exempted French Jews entering Basel from paying the special tax that was levied on Jews, and in 1798 the tax was abolished completely.

Under Napoleon several Jews, mainly French citizens from Alsace, settled in Basel. They numbered 128 in 1805 and organized their own community. They were expelled in 1845 when the French government broke off relations with the canton (administrative subdivision). Some returned shortly thereafter, only to be forced to leave again in 1854. The Jews of Switzerland were granted full civil rights in 1866. This also meant that Jews from Alsace could return to settle in Basel. The community grew, and a synagogue was consecrated in 1868.

ZIONISM

The First Zionist Congress was held in Basel in 1897; in total the World Zionist Congress would meet in Basel ten times. In the wake of the first Congress, Theodor Herzl wrote: "Were I to sum up the Basel Congress in a word…it would be this: At Basel I founded the Jewish State."

WORLD WAR II

During World War II Swiss Jews were protected by Switzerland's neutrality. Basel served as a temporary refuge for a number of Jews fleeing the Nazis, most of whom left after the war. Nonetheless, during the war many Jews were unable to escape to Switzerland, as a result of government policies designed to keep them out. Evidence suggests that Swiss banks collaborated with the Nazis, and withheld, laundered, and looted, many victims' and survivors' assets.

POSTWAR

In 1960 Basel was home to 2,291 Jews, making it the second-largest Jewish community in Switzerland. 838 Jewish families lived in the city in 1969. In 1997 there were 2,600 Jews living in Basel, out of a total Swiss Jewish population of 18,000.

NOTABLE FIGURES

Among the notable figures from Basel were Z. Dreyfuss-Brodsky, the representative for Swiss Jewry at the Jewish Agency, and the lawyer Marcus Mordecai Cohn (1890-1953), an active Zionist and rabbinical scholar who later became adviser on Jewish law to the Ministry of Justice in Israel.The chemist Markus Guggenheim and Nobel laureate Tadeus Reichstein were also from Basel.
Place Type:
City
ID Number:
123720
Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People
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The Jewish Community of Basel
Basel

Alternate spelling: Basle
French: Bale

A city in northwestern Switzerland

Basel is located on the Rhine River, near the French and German borders

Baleph, a smartphone and tablet application that was launched in 2014, provides travelers with a walking tour detailing Basel's Jewish history. The Jewish Museum of Switzerland, which is located in Basel, also provides visitors with information and exhibitions on the history of the Jewish community in Switzerland. Another museum of Jewish interest is the Kunstmuseum Basel, which includes several works by the artist Marc Chagall.

The Great Synagogue, which was originally built in 1868 and expanded in 1892, is one of five synagogues located in Basel. The Jewish Primary School Leo Adler (JPS), which was founded in 1961, provides Jewish children with a religious and secular education, and also offers extracurricular activities.

The Great Synagogue includes a kosher fine-dining restaurant in the basement. Tourists staying at the Hilton Basel can also request kosher food.

Israel Park, a grove of 40 trees planted by the sixth president of Israel, Chaim Herzog, is located in Basel.

As of 2015 there were approximately 2,000 Jews living in Basel.

HISTORY

Jews first settled in Basel during the 12th century. One hundred years later the Jewish community of Basel was chiefly responsible for funding the construction of the Bridge over the Rhine (1225-1226). During this period the Jews were also permitted to buy and sell land.

Eventually, however, the Jews of Basel became victims of anti-Jewish violence. During the Black Death epidemic they were accused of poisoning the wells. Though the members of the town council attempted to defend the Jewish community, in January 1349 tensions boiled over; 600 Jews, along with the community's rabbi, were burned at the stake and 140 children underwent forced baptisms. These events temporarily put an end to the Jewish community in Basel.

In 1362 a Jew from Colmar (in Alsace) was permitted to settle in Basel; he was soon followed by others. In spite of restrictions imposed on the Jews by the church, the second half of the 14th century was a period of prosperity for the Jewish community of Basel. However, in 1397 the Jews were once again accused of poisoning the local wells. Fearing for their lives, the Jews fled and the community once again ceased to exist. This time it would be a few hundred years until Jews returned to Basel.

From the mid-16th century on the authorities of Basel alternately issued individual residence permits and expulsion edicts. At the end of the 16th century Basel became a center for Hebrew printing. Though the printing houses were owned by Christians, residence permits were granted to Jewish proofreaders. Johannes Froben published the Book of Psalms in 1516. His son Jerome published a copy of the Bible in Hebrew in 1536. Between 1578 and 1580 Ambrosius Froben was permitted to print a censored edition of the Talmud, which had been banned under Pope Julius III in 1553. The works of Johannes Buxtorf, who taught Hebrew at Basel University (1591-1664) were also printed in Basel.

In 1789, when anti-Jewish propaganda was rife in Alsace, many Alsatian Jews fled to Basel and were permitted to stay there temporarily. Following a request from the French government in 1797, the local authorities exempted French Jews entering Basel from paying the special tax that was levied on Jews, and in 1798 the tax was abolished completely.

Under Napoleon several Jews, mainly French citizens from Alsace, settled in Basel. They numbered 128 in 1805 and organized their own community. They were expelled in 1845 when the French government broke off relations with the canton (administrative subdivision). Some returned shortly thereafter, only to be forced to leave again in 1854. The Jews of Switzerland were granted full civil rights in 1866. This also meant that Jews from Alsace could return to settle in Basel. The community grew, and a synagogue was consecrated in 1868.

ZIONISM

The First Zionist Congress was held in Basel in 1897; in total the World Zionist Congress would meet in Basel ten times. In the wake of the first Congress, Theodor Herzl wrote: "Were I to sum up the Basel Congress in a word…it would be this: At Basel I founded the Jewish State."

WORLD WAR II

During World War II Swiss Jews were protected by Switzerland's neutrality. Basel served as a temporary refuge for a number of Jews fleeing the Nazis, most of whom left after the war. Nonetheless, during the war many Jews were unable to escape to Switzerland, as a result of government policies designed to keep them out. Evidence suggests that Swiss banks collaborated with the Nazis, and withheld, laundered, and looted, many victims' and survivors' assets.

POSTWAR

In 1960 Basel was home to 2,291 Jews, making it the second-largest Jewish community in Switzerland. 838 Jewish families lived in the city in 1969. In 1997 there were 2,600 Jews living in Basel, out of a total Swiss Jewish population of 18,000.

NOTABLE FIGURES

Among the notable figures from Basel were Z. Dreyfuss-Brodsky, the representative for Swiss Jewry at the Jewish Agency, and the lawyer Marcus Mordecai Cohn (1890-1953), an active Zionist and rabbinical scholar who later became adviser on Jewish law to the Ministry of Justice in Israel.The chemist Markus Guggenheim and Nobel laureate Tadeus Reichstein were also from Basel.
Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People