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The Jewish Community of Ettendorf

Ettendorf

A commune  in the Bas-Rhin department in Alsace, France.  Ettendorf was annexed by Germany between 1871-1918.

Two Jewish families were recorded in the town in 1449. It seems that during the following centuries Ettendorf was home to a rather large Jewish community. The community maintained a synagogue built in the 17th century and replaced by a new building in the 1860s, a Jewish school, a mikve and a yeshiva established in mid-18th century that attracted tens of students of students from the other communities in Alsace. The community belonged to the rabbinate in Buchsweiler.  

The census of 1784 recorded 124 Jewish inhabitants in Ettendorf. After the French Revolution, the Jewish population of Ettendorf decreased significantly with only 37 Jews living in the town in 1868. In 1900 there were 8 Jews in Ettendorf, 5 in 1910 and only 4 in 1936.

The Jewish community of Ettendorf was dissolved towards the end of the 19th century. The building of the synagogue was sold twenty years after its inauguration and consequently it was used as a barn.

The Jewish cemetery of Ettendorf was opened in the 15th century at the same epoch as the Jewish cemeteries of Dangolsheim   and Rosenwiller and it served as a regional cemetery for more than twenty neighboring communities. The Jewish cemetery of Ettendorf is one of the largest and oldest in the entire region comprising thousands of graves on an area of 18 hectares. The cemetery is still used by about twelve Jewish communities in Alsace.

Place Type:
Village
ID Number:
127146
Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People
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Related items:

Rosenwiller

In German: Rosenweiler

A village in the department of Bas-Rhin, France. Rosenwiller was annexed by Germany between 1871-1918.

There is evidence of Jews in Rosenwiller from the middle of the 16th century. Although an expulsion order was issued by the local lord in 1563, it does not seem to have been effectively carried out, but the number of Jews there remained small. The Rosenwiller community was important because its Jewish cemetery, dating from at least 1621, served some 20 Jewish communities in the area. In the second half of the 18th century almost 100 burials took place there.

Alsace

A historical region in northeastern France on the Rhine River plain, bordering Germany and Switzerland. 

France

République française

A country in Western Europe, member of the European Union (EU).

21st Century

Estimated Jewish population in 2018: 450,000 out of 65,000,000 (0.6%). France is the home of the third largest Jewish population in the world and the largest Jewish community in Europe. 

Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France - Representative Council of Jews of France
Phone: 33 1 42 17 11 11
Fax: 33 1 42 17 11 13
Email: infocrif@crif.org
Website: www.crif.org

Consistoire Central de France – Union des Communautés Juives de France
19, rue St Georges
75009 Paris
France
Phone: 01 49 70 88 00
Fax: 01 42 81 03 66
Website: https://france.consistoire.org/consistoire-central/
e-mail : administration@consistoirecentral.fr

 

HISTORY

The Jews of France

1040 | In Rashi Veritas

Brain drain is not a new phenomenon. Between the eighth and tenth centuries a mass movement began of Jewish merchants from Babylon – then the largest Jewish population center in the world – migrating to Western Europe, where international trade centers began to emerge. These Jews joined a larger and older group of fellow Jews, who had migrated back in 2nd Temple times, through the Mediterranean to Gaul, the land that we know as France.
As befits a goose laying golden eggs, the Jews received special rights and sheltered under the protection of French nobles, who shielded them from the maws of the Catholic Church. The economic prosperity allowed them to establish yeshivas and Torah centers which produced many scholars. One of these, a genius who made his living as a vintner, was born in 1040 in the province of Champagne in France, and bequeathed to posterity a comprehensive commentary on the Torah. Legend has it that the incomparable Rashi script was invented by his daughters, who were scholars themselves, but the truth is that it's the font of a Sephardi cursive script that was used in the Jewish printing presses in 16th century Italy to distinguish it from the biblical text itself. His name was Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (Rashi), and his monumental work is still the authoritative commentary on Holy Scripture in the rabbinical world.

1240 | Where They Burn Books...

The crusades, which spread from Europe beginning in 1096, ended the idyll of Jewish existence in the lands of Ashkenaz in the early second millennium. Blood libels, persecutions and expulsions were the lot of the Jews for hundreds of years afterward.
One of the low points was reached in the year 1240 and is known as “The Trial of Paris”. At this trial, initiated by King Louis IX and Pope Gregory IX, the defendant was not a person, but a work of literature - The Talmud, to be precise, which according to the Catholic Church holds messages of hatred towards all gentiles and disparagement of Jesus.
One fine day an incited mob gathered in front of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, to watch the condemned criminal – 12,000 hand-written copies of the Talmud – burned at the stake. 600 years later Jewish-German poet Heinrich Heine would comment on this event: “Where they burn books, they will eventually burn people.”

1481 | The Provenance of Provence

When speaking of the Jews of France, one cannot help but pay special attention to a singular group of Jews who lived in what is now the south of France and was called “The Sages of Provence”.
These sages were the advanced placement class of the Jewish world. They created a unique brand of thought and Bible exegesis and also engaged in philosophy and Kabbalah. The teachings of these sages was spread throughout Europe, Spain and North Africa, and their genius was a byword among Jewish intellectuals of Western Europe.
Among the main writers of this group are Hameiri, Rabbi David Kimchi (aka Rada”k), Rabbi Zarhia HaLevi (aka Raza”h), Abraham Ben David (aka Raba”d) and his son, Rabbi Isaac the Blind, and of course the great translator Judah ibn Tibbon, the man who disseminated the thought of Maimonides after translating it from Arabic into Hebrew.
The Jews of Provence as a cultural phenomenon came to an end in the year 1481, when King Louis XI of France annexed Provence to his realm.

1498 | The Odyssey of Expulsions

To the Jews of France, the late Middle Ages were an agonizing ping-pong affair of expulsions and recalls. In 1306 King Phillip IV issued an edict banning the Jews from residence in French territory. 11 years later his son, Louis X, recalled the Jews – provided they wear an identifying patch on their clothes. A mere seven years went by and the Jews were expelled again. This time it was King Charles IV, who claimed that the Jews, in their temerity, failed to pay their full amount of taxes to him.
In 1357, under Jean II and later under Charles V, the Jews returned to France, but once again suffered persecution, restriction of their freedom of occupation to the sole field of money-lending, and finally – abduction of their children.
The odyssey of expulsions ended on September 17th, 1394, when Charles VI succumbed to the pressure of the masses and issues an edict of expulsion for all Jews in his domains. To his credit, it must be noted that he gave the expelled Jews ample time to sell their property and decreed that any Christian who borrowed money from them must repay it. By 1498 there was not a Jew left anywhere in France, save for a smattering of small communities that lived in Avignon and its environs in the south of France, which was then under Papal control.

1791 | No Bread? Eat Challa

The French Revolution, which broke out in 1789, costing many their lives through the services of “Madame Guillotine”, heralded the idea of the liberal democratic state as we know it today. From a tyrannical class-based society France transformed (albeit through much bloodshed), to a democratic regime in which each person can be master of their own fate.
The first to enjoy the fruits of emancipation were the Jews of Alsace-Lorraine, an area conquered by France back in 1630. The Jews of France, then numbering some 40,000 people, were as mentioned above the first in Europe to enjoy the fruits of the revolution, but their release from the burden of being the “other” and “alien” was not easy. At first the leaders of the revolution claimed that the Jews were “a nation within a nation” and as such not eligible for treatment as equal citizens. But in 1791 the General Law Relating to the Jews was issued, granting the Jews full equality, and there was much rejoicing in the Jewish quarter of Paris.

1806 | The Twelve Question Program

It would not be off the mark to characterize the history of Europe's Jews in general and those of France in particular as a series of “almosts”. Almost equality. Almost Emancipation. Almost liberty.
As though the Law Relating to the Jews had not been passed 15 years prior, in 1806 the question of Jewish status was raised once again, this time under Napoleon, the legendary general known for his unlimited ambition.
Napoleon took a creative approach. In 1806 he gathered an assembly of leading Jews and presented them with the “12 Question Test”, designed to assess their loyalty to France. Among other things the Jews were asked how Jewish halacha views mixed marriages, whether a Jew may charge interest from a gentile, how the Jews view France and more.
The answers the Jews gave, declaring France their motherland and non-Jewish Frenchmen their brothers, did not satisfy Napoleon, and a year later he issued the “Shameful Edict”, limiting the Jews' freedoms of occupation and movement, yet forced them to enlist in the army. Shameful indeed.

1860 | All Israel Are Friends

The story of the first global Jewish organization, Alliance Israelite Universelle, established in Paris in 1860, begins with a Jewish 3 year-old from Bologna named Edgardo Levi Mortara, who one day was kidnapped from his parents and taken to the Vatican, where he was “reeducated” in Catholic institutions.
The Mortara affair created great furor throughout liberal circles in Europe and was the main impetus for the founding of “Alliance”, a Jewish cultural organization meant to protect Jewish rights, which was active mainly in education.
During this period, 12 years after the “Spring of Nations” revolution, a wave of nationalism broke out and swept over France. As though through Pavlovian conditioning, the Jews were once again blamed for all the ills that had befallen the land of good taste. 12 years later, one of the main accusations hurled at the Jews was that they had gotten rich lending money to the French government for the disastrous war against the hated enemy of Prussia.

1894 | A Legendary Story

It was a winter he would never forget, and it seems that neither shall we. He was the Paris correspondent for the Austrian newspaper Neue Freie Presse, a handsome man with a thick black beard and burning eyes. He would not forget the toxic hatred, the obvious lie; he would not forget the shouts of “Death to the Jews” and the pleas of the accused, a Jewish-French military officer named Alfred Dreyfus, reprimanding those who were his subordinates but a moment ago, in a cracked voice: “I forbid you to curse me”, to no avail of course. To this day, the ripped-off ranks of Dreyfus appear in the all-Jewish nightmares.
Many historians believe that it was the Dreyfus trial that pushed the “Visionary of the Jewish State,” Binyamin Zeev (Theodore) Herzl, to dedicate his life to establishing a state for the Jews. For if in France, the country that had committed itself more than any to the ideals of equality, liberty, and fraternity, such anti-Semitism raged – what would become of the Jews huddled in the Pale of Settlement in Eastern Europe?
"If you will it", the young journalist thought to himself, "it is no legend".

1914 | Bloom of Life

On July 31st, 1914, Jean Jaures, leader of the Social-Democrat camp in French politics, sat and ate dinner at the famous Cafe du Croissant in the ninth arrondissement of Paris. All around the tempest was raging. The winds of WW1 began to blow, and Jaures, who had done everything in his power to stop the war, but in vain, was bitterly disappointed. This did not last long. During the meal an assassin appeared behind him and put two bullets in his head.
The murder of Jaures made a deep impact on his pupil and friend, Leon Blum, a socialist Jewish intellectual who would make history 22 years later by becoming the first Jewish Prime Minister of France. Blum, an attorney with a well-developed social conscience, who was defined by his biographer as a “man of words”, embodied the spirit of French Jews between the world wars. He was a man of French culture through and through, and at the same time deeply aware of his Jewish identity, an avowed Zionist, and was admired by the leaders of the Hebrew population in mandatory Palestine, who often sought his advice.

1942 | Vichy-ing The Jews Away

During WW2 France showed its ugly side. The Vichy government, a puppet regime under German protection, took part – and according to German testimony, with great zeal – in the deportation of the Jews of France (mostly Jews without French citizenship, including many who had fled from Nazi-controlled areas) to the extermination camps in the east.
One of the events that will live in infamy in French history was the deportation of 12,500 of the Jews of Paris, who were led in the dark of night, in the middle of July 1942, to the Velodrome d'hiver, where many of them died due to the harsh sanitary conditions and a severe shortage of food and water.
True, proud Francophiles will say – and rightly so – that there was a French resistance movement that abhorred the treatment of the Jews. To strengthen their argument for the republic, perhaps they will also offer the story of the nun Mother Maria Skobtsova, a Righteous Among the Nations, who managed to sneak into the velodrome along with her son disguised as waste removal workers, and hid several dozen Jewish children in the trash cans she took out. But these were the exceptions that did not indicate the rule. The numbers show that some 76,000 of the Jews of France (about a quarter of the Jews in the country) were sent to the death camps, of whom only 2,500 or so survived.

2000 | From Rothschild to Levinas

After the fall of the Iron Curtain and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Jews of France became the largest Jewish community in Europe: Some 600,000 Jews, most of whom migrated to France in the 1950s and 1960s from North Africa, as the French colonies there came to an end. The Six Day War represented a sort of messianic moment for the Jews of France as well. Their identification with Israel following the war was expressed in rallies and marches in the streets of Paris, financial support for Israel and the establishment of the “National Coordination Committee”, which united the vast majority of Jewish organizations in France.
In the 1980s the Jewish community in France was a hotbed of intellectual ferment, that included youngsters considered assimilated as well. Jewish radio stations were launched, departments of Jewish studies at universities received funding and resources, and research and publications on Jewish topics flourished. Among the celebrated Jews of France one may find intellectual Bernard Henri Levi, filmmaker Claude Lelouche, philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, thinker Jacques Derida, the famous Rothschild family and more.
But even in the 21st century France is not yet completely rid of anti-Jewish expressions and actions, this time led mostly by Muslim immigrants. These outbreaks, which included rock throwing, vandalism at synagogues and even murderous terror attacks, have led to another wave of aliyah to Israel.

Pfaffenhoffen

A former commune in the Bas-Rhin department in the historical region of Alsace, France. On 1 January 2016, it was merged into the new commune of Val-de-Moder. Pfaffenhoffen was annexed by Germany between 1871-1918.

First Jewish presence in Pfaffenhofen dates from 1594. In 1626 the Jewish inhabitants of Pfaffenhofen were granted the protection of the counts of Hana-Lichtenberg, the landlords of the village, in exchange for an annual tax. Among a number of privileges, the Jews were allowed to open a prayer house. However, this protection was not always respected by the Christian inhabitants of the village and in 1683 they destroyed the Jewish house of prayer.

After a prayer room in a private house had been used for a long time, the Jews of Pfaffenhofen built their first synagogue in the 1744, which was replaced in 1791 by a new building with a school, mikveh and a matzot bakery. The façade of the new building was identical to that of the neighboring houses, with the exception of a short inscription in Hebrew characters above the entrance. The prayer room on the upper floor had a women's section, which was separated from the men's area by a wooden grille. Nine relatively high, inwardly sloping windows allowed the light into the room. An oculus covered with colored glass panes was inserted above the Holy Ark. On the lower floor there was the meeting room of the community, Kahlstube. The community used the Jewish cemetery of Ettendorf.  A teacher was employed to take care of the religious needs of the community, and he also served as a prayer leader and shochet. The Jews of Pfaffenhofen belonged to the Bouxwiller rabbinate.

The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded 74 Jews in Pfaffenhofen. In 1807 their number reached 131, and then 80 in 1846, 68 in 1861, 77 in 1866, and 104 in 1900. The Jewish population of Pfaffenhofen reached its peak of 148 people in 1910. After WW I, the number of Jews in Pfaffenhofen declined steadily and in 1936 the village had 69 Jewish inhabitants.

After the German occupation of France in 1940, the remaining Jews of Pfaffenhofen were deported to southern France. Eleven Jews of Pfaffenhofen were murdered in the Holocaust.

After WW II, some of the survivors returned to the village. In 1954 there were 34 Jewish residents in Pfaffenhoffen.

The building of the synagogue, recognized as a historical monument in 1992, was restored during 1999/2000 and since 2000 it serves as a museum about Jewish life in Alsace. Among other exhibits, there are several historical Torah curtains from former synagogues and prayer houses in neighboring villages. The Pfaffenhoffen synagogue is one of only two remaining in Alsace that date from the very end of the Ancien Regime era, having been constructed right around the time of the French Revolution. The other synagogue, dating to 1787, is located in Mutzig. Address of the former synagogue: 24, passage du Schneeberg, rue du Docteur Schweitzer, 67350 Pfaffenhofen. 

Buswiller

In German: Büsweiler 

A commune in the Bas-Rhin department in the historical region of Alsace, France. Buswiller was annexed by Germany between 1871-1918.

Jews started settling in Buswiller during the 18th century. In 1784 there were fourteen Jewish families in the village. The number of the Jewish inhabitants was 121 in 1807, afterwards the size of the Jewish population declined. In 1845 there were about 80 Jews in Buswiller, their number was reduced to 56 in 1866, and then to 21 in 1900 and 19 in 1910. The census of 1936 recorded only 3 Jews in Buswiller.

The Jews of Buswiller belonged to the Bouxwiller rabbinate. A synagogue established in the first half of the 18th century and it was re-inaugurated in 1874 after a complete renovation. The community operated a mikveh and a school. During the first half of the 19th century they employed a teacher who also served as a shochet and was in charge of the religious services. The Jews of Buswiller used the Jewish cemetery of Rosenwiller.

The community ceased to exist at the end of the 19th century. The building of the synagogue was closed in 1900 and demolished a short time later.

Bouxwiller 

In German: Buchsweiler 

A commune in the Bas-Rhin department in the historical region of Alsace, France. Bouxwiller was annexed by Germany between 1871-1918.

Jewish presence in Bouxwiller in documented since 1322. The Jews of Bouxwiller are mentioned a number of times later during the 14th century, mainly in conjunction with the taxes they were required to pay to the counts of Lichtenberg, the landlords of the village. In 1689 there were eighteen Jewish families in Bouxwiller, their number increased to 31 in 1725. In 1807 the village had a Jewish population of 275. It peaked to 353 in 1851, but after mid-19th century it declined steadily with 292 Jews recorded in 1866 and 135 in 1910. The census of 1936 mentions 109 Jewish inhabitants in Bouxwiller.

A synagogue from the 18th century, located on rue des Juifs, was replaced in 1844 with a new building that also included a mikveh in the basement. The Jewish community of Bouxwiller also maintained a yeshiva, founded in 1767 with a donation from Seligmann Puttlingen, and a beit-din that extended its authority over the Jews in the region of Hanau-Lichtenberg. Bouxwiller was the seat of a regional rabbinate that included several neighboring rural Jewish communities. The position of rabbi was held by Rabbi J. Wolff, author of a translation of the Book of Job, from 1844 to 1884, then by Rabbi Singer, from 1885 to 1890, Rabbi Nathan Netter, from 1891 to 1898, when he became the great rabbi of Metz, Rabbi Ernest Weill , from 1898 to 1919, when he became the chief rabbi of Colmar, and Rabbi Max Guggenheim, after 1920.

After the German occupation of France in 1940, the remaining Jews of Bouxwiller were deported to southern France. The building of the synagogue was desecrated and turned into a cardboard box plant.

After WW II, the few survivors who returned to the village set up a small prayer room that was used until 1956. The building no longer in use as a synagogue was renovated in 2000 and turned into the Musée Judeo-Alsacien de Bouxwiller, a heritage center about the Jewish history and culture of the region. Address: 62a, Grand Rue, Bouxwiller.

Hochfelden 

A commune in the Bas-Rhin department in the historical region of Alsace, France. Hochfelden was annexed by Germany between 1871-1918.

The Jewish presence in Hochfelden is documented since the end of the 17th century. The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded in Hochfelden 10 Jewish families with a total of 71 people. The number of the Jewish inhabitants grew to 111 in 1807, 219 in 1846, 248 in 1866 and reached a peak of 300 in 1871, the year when the place was annexed by Germany. During the second half of the 19th century and early 20th century, the Jewish population decreased with 188 Jews recorded in 1900, 161 in 1910, and 128 in 1936. In 1940, when Alsace was occupied by Germany, there were 22 Jews in Hochfelden.

The old prayer room of the community was replaced by a new synagogue in 1841 that was renovated in 1893. The community employed a rabbi, but belonged to the Rabbinate of Brumath (Brumpt) and from 1920 were under the authority of the Rabbinate of Saverne. The Jews of Hochfeld employed a teacher who was in charge of the religious instruction of the children and also served as a prayer leader and shochet. A mikveh was housed in the basement of the Jewish schoolhouse.

In 1903 a literary association was founded in the village with the aim of popularizing the Jewish literature to a wider public.

After the German occupation of Alsace in 1940, the Jews of Hochfelden were deported to southern France. About 30 Jews of Hochfeld perished in the Holocaust.

After WW II, only a few survivors returned to Hochfelden. In 1953 there were 53 Jews in the village and in 1965 their number declined to 35.

Since the 1990s, the building of the former synagogue has been recognized as a historic monument.  In 2002 a museum of local history was opened in the building and its exhibits include the Holy Ark and the bima of the former synagogue. The mikveh in the basement of the nearby building of the former school is also part of the museum. Address of the former synagogue and Jewish school: 10 and 12, Place du Général Koenig, 67202 Hochfelden.   

Wittersheim

A commune in the Bas-Rhin department in the historical region of Alsace, France. Wittersheim was annexed by Germany between 1871-1918.

The beginnings of the Jewish community of Wittersheim date from early 18th century. The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded in Wittersheim 30 Jewish families with a total of 160 people. In 1807 there were 135 Jews in Wittersheim. Following a wave of emigration, their number decreased to 67 in 1846. After new Jewish families settled in the village, the Jewish population grew to 124 people in 1861 and 136 in 1870. In 1910 there were 76 Jewish inhabitants in Wittersheim, but by 1930 all Jews left the village.  

The Jewish community in Wittersheim belonged to the Rabbinate of Brumath. A new synagogue, that replaced a previous building, was inaugurated in the 1834. The community employed a teacher who also served as a prayer leader and schochet.

After the German occupation of France in WW II, ten former Jewish residents from Wittersheim perished in the Holocaust. No Jews settled in Wittersheim after WW II.

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The Jewish Community of Ettendorf

Ettendorf

A commune  in the Bas-Rhin department in Alsace, France.  Ettendorf was annexed by Germany between 1871-1918.

Two Jewish families were recorded in the town in 1449. It seems that during the following centuries Ettendorf was home to a rather large Jewish community. The community maintained a synagogue built in the 17th century and replaced by a new building in the 1860s, a Jewish school, a mikve and a yeshiva established in mid-18th century that attracted tens of students of students from the other communities in Alsace. The community belonged to the rabbinate in Buchsweiler.  

The census of 1784 recorded 124 Jewish inhabitants in Ettendorf. After the French Revolution, the Jewish population of Ettendorf decreased significantly with only 37 Jews living in the town in 1868. In 1900 there were 8 Jews in Ettendorf, 5 in 1910 and only 4 in 1936.

The Jewish community of Ettendorf was dissolved towards the end of the 19th century. The building of the synagogue was sold twenty years after its inauguration and consequently it was used as a barn.

The Jewish cemetery of Ettendorf was opened in the 15th century at the same epoch as the Jewish cemeteries of Dangolsheim   and Rosenwiller and it served as a regional cemetery for more than twenty neighboring communities. The Jewish cemetery of Ettendorf is one of the largest and oldest in the entire region comprising thousands of graves on an area of 18 hectares. The cemetery is still used by about twelve Jewish communities in Alsace.

Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People

Wittersheim
Hochfelden
Bouxwiller 
Buswiller
Pfaffenhoffen
France
Alsace
Rosenwiller

Wittersheim

A commune in the Bas-Rhin department in the historical region of Alsace, France. Wittersheim was annexed by Germany between 1871-1918.

The beginnings of the Jewish community of Wittersheim date from early 18th century. The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded in Wittersheim 30 Jewish families with a total of 160 people. In 1807 there were 135 Jews in Wittersheim. Following a wave of emigration, their number decreased to 67 in 1846. After new Jewish families settled in the village, the Jewish population grew to 124 people in 1861 and 136 in 1870. In 1910 there were 76 Jewish inhabitants in Wittersheim, but by 1930 all Jews left the village.  

The Jewish community in Wittersheim belonged to the Rabbinate of Brumath. A new synagogue, that replaced a previous building, was inaugurated in the 1834. The community employed a teacher who also served as a prayer leader and schochet.

After the German occupation of France in WW II, ten former Jewish residents from Wittersheim perished in the Holocaust. No Jews settled in Wittersheim after WW II.

Hochfelden 

A commune in the Bas-Rhin department in the historical region of Alsace, France. Hochfelden was annexed by Germany between 1871-1918.

The Jewish presence in Hochfelden is documented since the end of the 17th century. The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded in Hochfelden 10 Jewish families with a total of 71 people. The number of the Jewish inhabitants grew to 111 in 1807, 219 in 1846, 248 in 1866 and reached a peak of 300 in 1871, the year when the place was annexed by Germany. During the second half of the 19th century and early 20th century, the Jewish population decreased with 188 Jews recorded in 1900, 161 in 1910, and 128 in 1936. In 1940, when Alsace was occupied by Germany, there were 22 Jews in Hochfelden.

The old prayer room of the community was replaced by a new synagogue in 1841 that was renovated in 1893. The community employed a rabbi, but belonged to the Rabbinate of Brumath (Brumpt) and from 1920 were under the authority of the Rabbinate of Saverne. The Jews of Hochfeld employed a teacher who was in charge of the religious instruction of the children and also served as a prayer leader and shochet. A mikveh was housed in the basement of the Jewish schoolhouse.

In 1903 a literary association was founded in the village with the aim of popularizing the Jewish literature to a wider public.

After the German occupation of Alsace in 1940, the Jews of Hochfelden were deported to southern France. About 30 Jews of Hochfeld perished in the Holocaust.

After WW II, only a few survivors returned to Hochfelden. In 1953 there were 53 Jews in the village and in 1965 their number declined to 35.

Since the 1990s, the building of the former synagogue has been recognized as a historic monument.  In 2002 a museum of local history was opened in the building and its exhibits include the Holy Ark and the bima of the former synagogue. The mikveh in the basement of the nearby building of the former school is also part of the museum. Address of the former synagogue and Jewish school: 10 and 12, Place du Général Koenig, 67202 Hochfelden.   

Bouxwiller 

In German: Buchsweiler 

A commune in the Bas-Rhin department in the historical region of Alsace, France. Bouxwiller was annexed by Germany between 1871-1918.

Jewish presence in Bouxwiller in documented since 1322. The Jews of Bouxwiller are mentioned a number of times later during the 14th century, mainly in conjunction with the taxes they were required to pay to the counts of Lichtenberg, the landlords of the village. In 1689 there were eighteen Jewish families in Bouxwiller, their number increased to 31 in 1725. In 1807 the village had a Jewish population of 275. It peaked to 353 in 1851, but after mid-19th century it declined steadily with 292 Jews recorded in 1866 and 135 in 1910. The census of 1936 mentions 109 Jewish inhabitants in Bouxwiller.

A synagogue from the 18th century, located on rue des Juifs, was replaced in 1844 with a new building that also included a mikveh in the basement. The Jewish community of Bouxwiller also maintained a yeshiva, founded in 1767 with a donation from Seligmann Puttlingen, and a beit-din that extended its authority over the Jews in the region of Hanau-Lichtenberg. Bouxwiller was the seat of a regional rabbinate that included several neighboring rural Jewish communities. The position of rabbi was held by Rabbi J. Wolff, author of a translation of the Book of Job, from 1844 to 1884, then by Rabbi Singer, from 1885 to 1890, Rabbi Nathan Netter, from 1891 to 1898, when he became the great rabbi of Metz, Rabbi Ernest Weill , from 1898 to 1919, when he became the chief rabbi of Colmar, and Rabbi Max Guggenheim, after 1920.

After the German occupation of France in 1940, the remaining Jews of Bouxwiller were deported to southern France. The building of the synagogue was desecrated and turned into a cardboard box plant.

After WW II, the few survivors who returned to the village set up a small prayer room that was used until 1956. The building no longer in use as a synagogue was renovated in 2000 and turned into the Musée Judeo-Alsacien de Bouxwiller, a heritage center about the Jewish history and culture of the region. Address: 62a, Grand Rue, Bouxwiller.

Buswiller

In German: Büsweiler 

A commune in the Bas-Rhin department in the historical region of Alsace, France. Buswiller was annexed by Germany between 1871-1918.

Jews started settling in Buswiller during the 18th century. In 1784 there were fourteen Jewish families in the village. The number of the Jewish inhabitants was 121 in 1807, afterwards the size of the Jewish population declined. In 1845 there were about 80 Jews in Buswiller, their number was reduced to 56 in 1866, and then to 21 in 1900 and 19 in 1910. The census of 1936 recorded only 3 Jews in Buswiller.

The Jews of Buswiller belonged to the Bouxwiller rabbinate. A synagogue established in the first half of the 18th century and it was re-inaugurated in 1874 after a complete renovation. The community operated a mikveh and a school. During the first half of the 19th century they employed a teacher who also served as a shochet and was in charge of the religious services. The Jews of Buswiller used the Jewish cemetery of Rosenwiller.

The community ceased to exist at the end of the 19th century. The building of the synagogue was closed in 1900 and demolished a short time later.

Pfaffenhoffen

A former commune in the Bas-Rhin department in the historical region of Alsace, France. On 1 January 2016, it was merged into the new commune of Val-de-Moder. Pfaffenhoffen was annexed by Germany between 1871-1918.

First Jewish presence in Pfaffenhofen dates from 1594. In 1626 the Jewish inhabitants of Pfaffenhofen were granted the protection of the counts of Hana-Lichtenberg, the landlords of the village, in exchange for an annual tax. Among a number of privileges, the Jews were allowed to open a prayer house. However, this protection was not always respected by the Christian inhabitants of the village and in 1683 they destroyed the Jewish house of prayer.

After a prayer room in a private house had been used for a long time, the Jews of Pfaffenhofen built their first synagogue in the 1744, which was replaced in 1791 by a new building with a school, mikveh and a matzot bakery. The façade of the new building was identical to that of the neighboring houses, with the exception of a short inscription in Hebrew characters above the entrance. The prayer room on the upper floor had a women's section, which was separated from the men's area by a wooden grille. Nine relatively high, inwardly sloping windows allowed the light into the room. An oculus covered with colored glass panes was inserted above the Holy Ark. On the lower floor there was the meeting room of the community, Kahlstube. The community used the Jewish cemetery of Ettendorf.  A teacher was employed to take care of the religious needs of the community, and he also served as a prayer leader and shochet. The Jews of Pfaffenhofen belonged to the Bouxwiller rabbinate.

The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded 74 Jews in Pfaffenhofen. In 1807 their number reached 131, and then 80 in 1846, 68 in 1861, 77 in 1866, and 104 in 1900. The Jewish population of Pfaffenhofen reached its peak of 148 people in 1910. After WW I, the number of Jews in Pfaffenhofen declined steadily and in 1936 the village had 69 Jewish inhabitants.

After the German occupation of France in 1940, the remaining Jews of Pfaffenhofen were deported to southern France. Eleven Jews of Pfaffenhofen were murdered in the Holocaust.

After WW II, some of the survivors returned to the village. In 1954 there were 34 Jewish residents in Pfaffenhoffen.

The building of the synagogue, recognized as a historical monument in 1992, was restored during 1999/2000 and since 2000 it serves as a museum about Jewish life in Alsace. Among other exhibits, there are several historical Torah curtains from former synagogues and prayer houses in neighboring villages. The Pfaffenhoffen synagogue is one of only two remaining in Alsace that date from the very end of the Ancien Regime era, having been constructed right around the time of the French Revolution. The other synagogue, dating to 1787, is located in Mutzig. Address of the former synagogue: 24, passage du Schneeberg, rue du Docteur Schweitzer, 67350 Pfaffenhofen. 

France

République française

A country in Western Europe, member of the European Union (EU).

21st Century

Estimated Jewish population in 2018: 450,000 out of 65,000,000 (0.6%). France is the home of the third largest Jewish population in the world and the largest Jewish community in Europe. 

Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France - Representative Council of Jews of France
Phone: 33 1 42 17 11 11
Fax: 33 1 42 17 11 13
Email: infocrif@crif.org
Website: www.crif.org

Consistoire Central de France – Union des Communautés Juives de France
19, rue St Georges
75009 Paris
France
Phone: 01 49 70 88 00
Fax: 01 42 81 03 66
Website: https://france.consistoire.org/consistoire-central/
e-mail : administration@consistoirecentral.fr

 

HISTORY

The Jews of France

1040 | In Rashi Veritas

Brain drain is not a new phenomenon. Between the eighth and tenth centuries a mass movement began of Jewish merchants from Babylon – then the largest Jewish population center in the world – migrating to Western Europe, where international trade centers began to emerge. These Jews joined a larger and older group of fellow Jews, who had migrated back in 2nd Temple times, through the Mediterranean to Gaul, the land that we know as France.
As befits a goose laying golden eggs, the Jews received special rights and sheltered under the protection of French nobles, who shielded them from the maws of the Catholic Church. The economic prosperity allowed them to establish yeshivas and Torah centers which produced many scholars. One of these, a genius who made his living as a vintner, was born in 1040 in the province of Champagne in France, and bequeathed to posterity a comprehensive commentary on the Torah. Legend has it that the incomparable Rashi script was invented by his daughters, who were scholars themselves, but the truth is that it's the font of a Sephardi cursive script that was used in the Jewish printing presses in 16th century Italy to distinguish it from the biblical text itself. His name was Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (Rashi), and his monumental work is still the authoritative commentary on Holy Scripture in the rabbinical world.

1240 | Where They Burn Books...

The crusades, which spread from Europe beginning in 1096, ended the idyll of Jewish existence in the lands of Ashkenaz in the early second millennium. Blood libels, persecutions and expulsions were the lot of the Jews for hundreds of years afterward.
One of the low points was reached in the year 1240 and is known as “The Trial of Paris”. At this trial, initiated by King Louis IX and Pope Gregory IX, the defendant was not a person, but a work of literature - The Talmud, to be precise, which according to the Catholic Church holds messages of hatred towards all gentiles and disparagement of Jesus.
One fine day an incited mob gathered in front of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, to watch the condemned criminal – 12,000 hand-written copies of the Talmud – burned at the stake. 600 years later Jewish-German poet Heinrich Heine would comment on this event: “Where they burn books, they will eventually burn people.”

1481 | The Provenance of Provence

When speaking of the Jews of France, one cannot help but pay special attention to a singular group of Jews who lived in what is now the south of France and was called “The Sages of Provence”.
These sages were the advanced placement class of the Jewish world. They created a unique brand of thought and Bible exegesis and also engaged in philosophy and Kabbalah. The teachings of these sages was spread throughout Europe, Spain and North Africa, and their genius was a byword among Jewish intellectuals of Western Europe.
Among the main writers of this group are Hameiri, Rabbi David Kimchi (aka Rada”k), Rabbi Zarhia HaLevi (aka Raza”h), Abraham Ben David (aka Raba”d) and his son, Rabbi Isaac the Blind, and of course the great translator Judah ibn Tibbon, the man who disseminated the thought of Maimonides after translating it from Arabic into Hebrew.
The Jews of Provence as a cultural phenomenon came to an end in the year 1481, when King Louis XI of France annexed Provence to his realm.

1498 | The Odyssey of Expulsions

To the Jews of France, the late Middle Ages were an agonizing ping-pong affair of expulsions and recalls. In 1306 King Phillip IV issued an edict banning the Jews from residence in French territory. 11 years later his son, Louis X, recalled the Jews – provided they wear an identifying patch on their clothes. A mere seven years went by and the Jews were expelled again. This time it was King Charles IV, who claimed that the Jews, in their temerity, failed to pay their full amount of taxes to him.
In 1357, under Jean II and later under Charles V, the Jews returned to France, but once again suffered persecution, restriction of their freedom of occupation to the sole field of money-lending, and finally – abduction of their children.
The odyssey of expulsions ended on September 17th, 1394, when Charles VI succumbed to the pressure of the masses and issues an edict of expulsion for all Jews in his domains. To his credit, it must be noted that he gave the expelled Jews ample time to sell their property and decreed that any Christian who borrowed money from them must repay it. By 1498 there was not a Jew left anywhere in France, save for a smattering of small communities that lived in Avignon and its environs in the south of France, which was then under Papal control.

1791 | No Bread? Eat Challa

The French Revolution, which broke out in 1789, costing many their lives through the services of “Madame Guillotine”, heralded the idea of the liberal democratic state as we know it today. From a tyrannical class-based society France transformed (albeit through much bloodshed), to a democratic regime in which each person can be master of their own fate.
The first to enjoy the fruits of emancipation were the Jews of Alsace-Lorraine, an area conquered by France back in 1630. The Jews of France, then numbering some 40,000 people, were as mentioned above the first in Europe to enjoy the fruits of the revolution, but their release from the burden of being the “other” and “alien” was not easy. At first the leaders of the revolution claimed that the Jews were “a nation within a nation” and as such not eligible for treatment as equal citizens. But in 1791 the General Law Relating to the Jews was issued, granting the Jews full equality, and there was much rejoicing in the Jewish quarter of Paris.

1806 | The Twelve Question Program

It would not be off the mark to characterize the history of Europe's Jews in general and those of France in particular as a series of “almosts”. Almost equality. Almost Emancipation. Almost liberty.
As though the Law Relating to the Jews had not been passed 15 years prior, in 1806 the question of Jewish status was raised once again, this time under Napoleon, the legendary general known for his unlimited ambition.
Napoleon took a creative approach. In 1806 he gathered an assembly of leading Jews and presented them with the “12 Question Test”, designed to assess their loyalty to France. Among other things the Jews were asked how Jewish halacha views mixed marriages, whether a Jew may charge interest from a gentile, how the Jews view France and more.
The answers the Jews gave, declaring France their motherland and non-Jewish Frenchmen their brothers, did not satisfy Napoleon, and a year later he issued the “Shameful Edict”, limiting the Jews' freedoms of occupation and movement, yet forced them to enlist in the army. Shameful indeed.

1860 | All Israel Are Friends

The story of the first global Jewish organization, Alliance Israelite Universelle, established in Paris in 1860, begins with a Jewish 3 year-old from Bologna named Edgardo Levi Mortara, who one day was kidnapped from his parents and taken to the Vatican, where he was “reeducated” in Catholic institutions.
The Mortara affair created great furor throughout liberal circles in Europe and was the main impetus for the founding of “Alliance”, a Jewish cultural organization meant to protect Jewish rights, which was active mainly in education.
During this period, 12 years after the “Spring of Nations” revolution, a wave of nationalism broke out and swept over France. As though through Pavlovian conditioning, the Jews were once again blamed for all the ills that had befallen the land of good taste. 12 years later, one of the main accusations hurled at the Jews was that they had gotten rich lending money to the French government for the disastrous war against the hated enemy of Prussia.

1894 | A Legendary Story

It was a winter he would never forget, and it seems that neither shall we. He was the Paris correspondent for the Austrian newspaper Neue Freie Presse, a handsome man with a thick black beard and burning eyes. He would not forget the toxic hatred, the obvious lie; he would not forget the shouts of “Death to the Jews” and the pleas of the accused, a Jewish-French military officer named Alfred Dreyfus, reprimanding those who were his subordinates but a moment ago, in a cracked voice: “I forbid you to curse me”, to no avail of course. To this day, the ripped-off ranks of Dreyfus appear in the all-Jewish nightmares.
Many historians believe that it was the Dreyfus trial that pushed the “Visionary of the Jewish State,” Binyamin Zeev (Theodore) Herzl, to dedicate his life to establishing a state for the Jews. For if in France, the country that had committed itself more than any to the ideals of equality, liberty, and fraternity, such anti-Semitism raged – what would become of the Jews huddled in the Pale of Settlement in Eastern Europe?
"If you will it", the young journalist thought to himself, "it is no legend".

1914 | Bloom of Life

On July 31st, 1914, Jean Jaures, leader of the Social-Democrat camp in French politics, sat and ate dinner at the famous Cafe du Croissant in the ninth arrondissement of Paris. All around the tempest was raging. The winds of WW1 began to blow, and Jaures, who had done everything in his power to stop the war, but in vain, was bitterly disappointed. This did not last long. During the meal an assassin appeared behind him and put two bullets in his head.
The murder of Jaures made a deep impact on his pupil and friend, Leon Blum, a socialist Jewish intellectual who would make history 22 years later by becoming the first Jewish Prime Minister of France. Blum, an attorney with a well-developed social conscience, who was defined by his biographer as a “man of words”, embodied the spirit of French Jews between the world wars. He was a man of French culture through and through, and at the same time deeply aware of his Jewish identity, an avowed Zionist, and was admired by the leaders of the Hebrew population in mandatory Palestine, who often sought his advice.

1942 | Vichy-ing The Jews Away

During WW2 France showed its ugly side. The Vichy government, a puppet regime under German protection, took part – and according to German testimony, with great zeal – in the deportation of the Jews of France (mostly Jews without French citizenship, including many who had fled from Nazi-controlled areas) to the extermination camps in the east.
One of the events that will live in infamy in French history was the deportation of 12,500 of the Jews of Paris, who were led in the dark of night, in the middle of July 1942, to the Velodrome d'hiver, where many of them died due to the harsh sanitary conditions and a severe shortage of food and water.
True, proud Francophiles will say – and rightly so – that there was a French resistance movement that abhorred the treatment of the Jews. To strengthen their argument for the republic, perhaps they will also offer the story of the nun Mother Maria Skobtsova, a Righteous Among the Nations, who managed to sneak into the velodrome along with her son disguised as waste removal workers, and hid several dozen Jewish children in the trash cans she took out. But these were the exceptions that did not indicate the rule. The numbers show that some 76,000 of the Jews of France (about a quarter of the Jews in the country) were sent to the death camps, of whom only 2,500 or so survived.

2000 | From Rothschild to Levinas

After the fall of the Iron Curtain and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Jews of France became the largest Jewish community in Europe: Some 600,000 Jews, most of whom migrated to France in the 1950s and 1960s from North Africa, as the French colonies there came to an end. The Six Day War represented a sort of messianic moment for the Jews of France as well. Their identification with Israel following the war was expressed in rallies and marches in the streets of Paris, financial support for Israel and the establishment of the “National Coordination Committee”, which united the vast majority of Jewish organizations in France.
In the 1980s the Jewish community in France was a hotbed of intellectual ferment, that included youngsters considered assimilated as well. Jewish radio stations were launched, departments of Jewish studies at universities received funding and resources, and research and publications on Jewish topics flourished. Among the celebrated Jews of France one may find intellectual Bernard Henri Levi, filmmaker Claude Lelouche, philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, thinker Jacques Derida, the famous Rothschild family and more.
But even in the 21st century France is not yet completely rid of anti-Jewish expressions and actions, this time led mostly by Muslim immigrants. These outbreaks, which included rock throwing, vandalism at synagogues and even murderous terror attacks, have led to another wave of aliyah to Israel.

Alsace

A historical region in northeastern France on the Rhine River plain, bordering Germany and Switzerland. 

Rosenwiller

In German: Rosenweiler

A village in the department of Bas-Rhin, France. Rosenwiller was annexed by Germany between 1871-1918.

There is evidence of Jews in Rosenwiller from the middle of the 16th century. Although an expulsion order was issued by the local lord in 1563, it does not seem to have been effectively carried out, but the number of Jews there remained small. The Rosenwiller community was important because its Jewish cemetery, dating from at least 1621, served some 20 Jewish communities in the area. In the second half of the 18th century almost 100 burials took place there.