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The Jewish Community of Bouxwiller 

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.

Place Type:
Village
ID Number:
21284748
Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People
Nearby places:

Related items:

Carl Henry Levy (center) in the Museum of the Jewish Heritage, Bouxwiller, Alsace, France, 1985

The museum of the Jewish Heritage of Alsace (Musée judéo-alsacien) is located in the former synagogue restored by architect Gilbert Weil. Carl Henry Levy is the father of photographer Diana Mara Henry

The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot, courtesy of 
Diana Mara Henry Collection ©

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. 

Uhrwiller

In German: Uhrweiler

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

Jews lived in Uhrwiller since the end of the 18th century. The 1784 census of the Jews of Alsace recorded eight Jewish families with a total of 41 people. In 1807 there were 63 Jews in the village and their number peaked to 91 in 1846. After mid-19th century there was a gradual decrease in the number of the Jewish population of Uhrwiller with 58 Jews recorded in 1861 and only 10 in 1910. It seems that the last Jews lived in Uhrwiller in the first decades of the 20th century. No Jews were recorded in the 1936 census.

The Jews of Uhrwiller belonged to the Bouxwiller rabbinate. In the 19th century the community had a synagogue, built in 1827, and a mikveh and a school. A teacher was in charge of the children’s education as well as of the community religious needs.

The community ceased to exist in early 20th century. The building of the synagogue was demolished in the first half of the 20th century and a residential building was erected on the site of the former synagogue at 36, rue Neuve. Fanny Gintzburger, born in Uhrwiller in 1870, was murdered in Auschwitz Nazi death camp in 1944, after having been deported to southern France in 1940.

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. 

Saverne

In German: Zabern

A town in the department of Bas-Rhin, eastern France.

The presence of Jews in Saverne is confirmed from at least 1334. The community suffered during the Armleder persecutions in 1338. At the time of the Black Death in 1349 there was only one Jewish family in Saverne, which was compelled to leave the town. By 1622 there were again a few Jews living in Saverne; there were seven families in 1716 and 21 in 1784. The community numbered over 300 persons at the close of the 19th century. It maintained a Jewish primary school (founded in 1857). A new synagogue was opened in 1898. Its population subsequently declined. During World War II, 30 Jews of Saverne died during deportation. The community numbered about 100 in 1970.

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.

Haguenau

A town in the Bas-Rhin department, France.

21st Century

Synagogue
3, rue du Grand-Rabbin Joseph Bloch
Haguenau
France

HISTORY

The earliest information on the presence of Jews in Haguenau dates from 1235; in that year a blood libel was perpetrated against the Jews of the town, but thanks to the protection of the emperor, whose servi camerae they were, they escaped harm. The Jews had to pay taxes to both the emperor and the municipality. The latter also protected them effectively, especially in 1338 against the Armleder by Feb. 16, 1349, the Jewish community had been destroyed. The first synagogue (the courtyard of which was used in 1352 for the wheat market) stood on the former Rathausplaetzel, later the place de la Republique; the mikveh was situated on the bank of the Moder, on the site of the present municipal hospital. In 1354, the Jews returned to Haguenau and formed a new community. A house (number 8 of the present rue du Sel) was then used as a synagogue. A good deal of Hebrew type was used in books printed in Haguenau between 1517 and 1520, among them works by Reuchlin and Melanchthon. In
1528, Joseph (Josel) b. Gershom of Rosheim obtained from the emperor the abrogation of an expulsion order issued by the town. Haguenau subsequently became a refuge for the Jews of the surrounding district on various occasions. During the second half of the 17th century, several Jews who had fled from Poland settled there. From 1660, there has been a rabbi in Haguenau. Notable rabbis included Meyer Jais, later chief rabbi of Paris, who held office in Haguenau between 1933 and 1938. The community of Haguenau consisted of 34 families in 1735, 64 in 1784, and 600 souls on the eve of World War II. Of these, 148 persons died in deportation or on the battlefield.

In 1968, the community numbered about 300. The present synagogue on the rue des Juifs (plundered by the Nazis and later renovated) was erected in 1821. The cemetery is known to have existed from the 16th century, but it was probably established during the Middle Ages. For a long time, it also served all the Jews of the region. The oldest epitaph preserved dates from 1654.

Ingwiller

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

Jewish settlement began in 1604, but by the end of the 17th century there were still only six families in the town. At the end of the 18th century, however, about 50 Jewish families lived in Ingwiller, and from 1776 they owned a synagogue. Nearly half of them were engaged in the livestock trade. During the middle of the 19th century the community reached its peak, with about 550 members, and began to erect a new synagogue. A primary school was opened in 1836 and a cemetery acquired soon after. From that point, the community began to decline as a result of migration to larger towns and overseas. Under the German occupation during World War II, 12 Jews were deported from Ingwiller. In 1969 the community consisted of fewer than 100 persons.

Weiterswiller

In German: Weitersweiler

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

The beginnings the Jewish community in Weiterswiller date from late 17th and early 18th century when a few Jewish families settled in the village. The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded in Weiterswiller 24 Jewish families with a total of 94 people. In 1807 there were 100 Jews in the village and their number reached a peak of 123 in 1846.  After mid-19th century the Jewish population of Weiterswiller decreased constantly with 109 Jews recorded in 1861, 65 in 1900, 90 in 1910, but only 9 in 1936 and in the same year the last Jewish family left the village.

The community of Weiterswiller belonged to the Rabbinate of Bouxwiller. A synagogue was inaugurated in 1868. The community employed a teacher who also served as a prayer leader and a shochet.  The local Jewish cemetery was opened in 1825 and it served also the neighboring Jewish community of Weinbourg.

The community dissolved in 1925. The synagogue was closed in 1923 and the Torah scrolls were transferred to the Jewish community of Mommenheim that later on took them to Strasbourg. In 1950 the building of the former synagogue was sold to private individuals.  

Eighteen Jews who either were born or lived in Weiterswiller perished in the Holocaust.

After WW II a few Jews lived in the village and in 1953 three was only one Jew living in Weiterswiller.

Since 1996 the building of the former synagogue has been listed as a protected historic monument. Address of the former synagogue: 12 de la rue principale, 67521 Weiterswiller. The cemetery has about 170 graves; in 1988 it was vandalized in an anti-Semitic attack and almost 90 matzevot were damaged.

Sarre-Union

In German: Saarunion

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

Sarre-Union consists of the the town of Bouquenom (Saar Buckenheim, in German) and of the town of Ville Neuve de Sarrewerden (Neu-Saarwerden, in German).

Jews started settling in Saar Buckenheim at the end of the 18th century. In 1807 there were 190 Jewish inhabitants in Saar Buckenheim. Their number increased during the 19th century reaching 335 in 1846, then 343 in 1861 and reached a peak of 354 in 1870. During the second half of the 19th century and in early 20th century the Jewish population declined with 204 Jews recorded in 1900 and 187 in 1910. In 1936 there were of 81 Jewish residents in the village, fewer than during the 19th century, but still relatively a large number in comparison with most of other places of Jewish rural settlement in Alsace at the time.

The Jewish families of Herbitzheim and Sarralbe (Moselle) belonged to the community of Saar Buckenheim.

The community of Saar Buckenheim had its own rabbinate for a long time, although at times it was annexed to the rabbinate of Bouxwiller. Rabbi Joseph Levy (1799-1879) served the community for fifty years from 1829 until his death in 1879. Due to the lower number of Jews in the area, the rabbinate of Saar Buckenheim was closed in 1927. The community also employed a teacher for the local Jewish school who also acted as a prayer leader.  

The building of the synagogue was inaugurated in 1840 and was renovated in 1913. The community also had a Jewish religious and elementary school and a mikveh. The Jewish cemetery was opened in the second half of the 18th century.

After the German occupation of France in WW II, the Jews of Saar Buckenheim were deported to southern France, of them 23 perished in the Holocaust.

After WW II, some of the survivors returned to the village. In 1953 there were 53 Jewish residents in the village. In 1965 their number was about 45.

During the German occupation, the synagogue was desecrated, looted and eventually badly damaged by artillery fire. After 1945 the building was completely restored and inaugurated again in 1950.

The Jewish cemetery contains about 400 graves and a memorial for the Holocaust victims of Saar Buckenheim. The place was victim to a number of anti-Semitic attacks, in 1988, 2001, and in February 2015, when almost 300 matzevot were vandalized and the Holocaust memorial damaged. After the 2015 attack, the place was visited by the French President Francois Holland in an act of solidarity with the Jewish community.

Schaffhouse-sur-Zorn

In German: Schaffhausen ad Zorn

A former commune in the Bas-Rhin department in the historical region of Alsace, France. On 1 January 2017, it was merged into the commune Hochfelden. Schaffhouse-sur-Zorn was annexed by Germany between 1871-1918.

The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded in Schaffhouse-sur-Zorn 12 Jewish families. In 1807 there were 66 Jews in the village. Their number increased to 99 in 1846 and reached a peak of 160 in 1866. During the second half of the 19th century the Jewish population declined to 76 individuals in 1900 and 58 in 1910. In 1936 there were only 2 Jews living in Schaffhouse-sur-Zorn.

The Jews of Schaffhouse-sur-Zorn belonged to the rabbinate of Bouxwiller. A synagogue established around 1770 was replaced by a new synagogue building almost a century later. The community employed a teacher who also was in charge of other religious tasks.

After WW I, the community was disbanded. The building of the synagogue was sold to the local municipality who used it successively as a school (from 1933 to 1940), then as a town hall. It was sold to a farmer in 1962 who turned it into a shed for agricultural machinery.

After the German occupation of France during WW II, ten Jews that either were born or previously lived in Schaffhouse-sur-Zorn perished in the Holocaust.

Schwenheim 

In German: Schweinheim

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

The beginnings of a Jewish community in Schwenheim date back to the 17th century. But it is possible that Jewish families were already in the village two centuries earlier or even temporarily settled there following the expulsion of the Jews from the nearby city of Saverne. There were three Jewish families in Schwenheim in 1670. During the 18th century the Jewish population of the village grew from 6 families in 1716 to 8 families in 1725 and 18 families in 1760. The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded in Schwenheim 22 Jewish families with a total of about 100 people. In 1807 the village had a Jewish population of 108 that increased to a peak of 163 in 1846. After mid-19th century the number of Jewish inhabitants of Schwenheim decreased steadily with 117 Jews recorded in 1870, 52 in 1895, 35 in 1900, and 4 in 1910. Isidor Levy, the last Jewish resident who served as the teacher and prayer leader of the community since 1882, left the village in 1913.

The Jewish community of Schwenheim belonged to the rabbinate of Marmoutier. The first synagogue was built in 1762. It was replaced by a new building, that was inaugurated in 1868. The community employed a teacher who also was a prayer leader. The community also had a well, located inside the Jewish quarter, which provided its water supply. There is also mention of a second well, located inside a house on the edge of the Dorfgrabe, probably the location of the mikveh. The community opened its own cemetery in 1781, previously the deceased were buried in Saverne.

Following the disbanding of the community, the building of the synagogue was sold before WW I. The building was converted into a residential building (at times with a shop) and still exists today. The Jewish cemetery was restored at the initiative of the local mayor in the late 1990s. Address of the former synagogue: 114, rue des Juifs, 67469 Schwenheim.

Struth

In German: Strutt

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

The beginnings of the Jewish community of Struth gate back to the end of the 17th century. By mid-18th century there were 7 Jewish families in the village. The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded in Struth 17 Jewish families with a total of 70 people. In 1807 there were 108 Jews in the village and their number increased to 148 in 1846 reaching a peak of 161 in 1870. During the first half of the 20th century the Jewish population decreased from 146 individuals in 1900 to 92 in 1923 and 45 in 1936.

The Jewish community of Strutt belonged to the rabbinate of Sarre-Union until 1936 and then to the rabbinate of Saverne. The synagogue was inaugurated in 1836 and enlarged in 1903. In 1862 a Jewish school was opened. The school building also housed mikveh located in the basement. The community employed a teacher who also served as a prayer leader and shochet. The Jewish cemetery was established in 1756.

After the German occupation of France during WW II, the remaining Jews of Struth were deported to southern France and then most of them were sent to the Nazi death and concentration camps in Eastern Europe. A total of about 8 Jews from Struth perished in the Holocaust.

After WW II, some survivors returned to Struth and founded a new community. Due to the small number of local Jews, regular prayers at the synagogue were discontinued in 1969.

The exterior of the synagogue was renovated in 1997 and the interior in 2002. Built in a neo-Romanesque style, the building is recognized as a historic monument. Prayers are held once a year at High Holidays.

The Jewish cemetery, located west of the village on a steep slope, contains a memorial for four Jewish soldiers of Struth who fell in action during WW I and the eight members of the community who were murdered in the Holocaust. Address of the synagogue: rue Principale (opposite house # 43), 67290 Struth. 

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The Jewish Community of Bouxwiller 

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.

Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People

Struth
Schwenheim
Schaffhouse-sur-Zorn
Sarre-Union
Weiterswiller
Ingwiller
Haguenau
Ettendorf
Saverne
Pfaffenhoffen
Buswiller
Uhrwiller
Alsace
France

Struth

In German: Strutt

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

The beginnings of the Jewish community of Struth gate back to the end of the 17th century. By mid-18th century there were 7 Jewish families in the village. The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded in Struth 17 Jewish families with a total of 70 people. In 1807 there were 108 Jews in the village and their number increased to 148 in 1846 reaching a peak of 161 in 1870. During the first half of the 20th century the Jewish population decreased from 146 individuals in 1900 to 92 in 1923 and 45 in 1936.

The Jewish community of Strutt belonged to the rabbinate of Sarre-Union until 1936 and then to the rabbinate of Saverne. The synagogue was inaugurated in 1836 and enlarged in 1903. In 1862 a Jewish school was opened. The school building also housed mikveh located in the basement. The community employed a teacher who also served as a prayer leader and shochet. The Jewish cemetery was established in 1756.

After the German occupation of France during WW II, the remaining Jews of Struth were deported to southern France and then most of them were sent to the Nazi death and concentration camps in Eastern Europe. A total of about 8 Jews from Struth perished in the Holocaust.

After WW II, some survivors returned to Struth and founded a new community. Due to the small number of local Jews, regular prayers at the synagogue were discontinued in 1969.

The exterior of the synagogue was renovated in 1997 and the interior in 2002. Built in a neo-Romanesque style, the building is recognized as a historic monument. Prayers are held once a year at High Holidays.

The Jewish cemetery, located west of the village on a steep slope, contains a memorial for four Jewish soldiers of Struth who fell in action during WW I and the eight members of the community who were murdered in the Holocaust. Address of the synagogue: rue Principale (opposite house # 43), 67290 Struth. 

Schwenheim 

In German: Schweinheim

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

The beginnings of a Jewish community in Schwenheim date back to the 17th century. But it is possible that Jewish families were already in the village two centuries earlier or even temporarily settled there following the expulsion of the Jews from the nearby city of Saverne. There were three Jewish families in Schwenheim in 1670. During the 18th century the Jewish population of the village grew from 6 families in 1716 to 8 families in 1725 and 18 families in 1760. The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded in Schwenheim 22 Jewish families with a total of about 100 people. In 1807 the village had a Jewish population of 108 that increased to a peak of 163 in 1846. After mid-19th century the number of Jewish inhabitants of Schwenheim decreased steadily with 117 Jews recorded in 1870, 52 in 1895, 35 in 1900, and 4 in 1910. Isidor Levy, the last Jewish resident who served as the teacher and prayer leader of the community since 1882, left the village in 1913.

The Jewish community of Schwenheim belonged to the rabbinate of Marmoutier. The first synagogue was built in 1762. It was replaced by a new building, that was inaugurated in 1868. The community employed a teacher who also was a prayer leader. The community also had a well, located inside the Jewish quarter, which provided its water supply. There is also mention of a second well, located inside a house on the edge of the Dorfgrabe, probably the location of the mikveh. The community opened its own cemetery in 1781, previously the deceased were buried in Saverne.

Following the disbanding of the community, the building of the synagogue was sold before WW I. The building was converted into a residential building (at times with a shop) and still exists today. The Jewish cemetery was restored at the initiative of the local mayor in the late 1990s. Address of the former synagogue: 114, rue des Juifs, 67469 Schwenheim.

Schaffhouse-sur-Zorn

In German: Schaffhausen ad Zorn

A former commune in the Bas-Rhin department in the historical region of Alsace, France. On 1 January 2017, it was merged into the commune Hochfelden. Schaffhouse-sur-Zorn was annexed by Germany between 1871-1918.

The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded in Schaffhouse-sur-Zorn 12 Jewish families. In 1807 there were 66 Jews in the village. Their number increased to 99 in 1846 and reached a peak of 160 in 1866. During the second half of the 19th century the Jewish population declined to 76 individuals in 1900 and 58 in 1910. In 1936 there were only 2 Jews living in Schaffhouse-sur-Zorn.

The Jews of Schaffhouse-sur-Zorn belonged to the rabbinate of Bouxwiller. A synagogue established around 1770 was replaced by a new synagogue building almost a century later. The community employed a teacher who also was in charge of other religious tasks.

After WW I, the community was disbanded. The building of the synagogue was sold to the local municipality who used it successively as a school (from 1933 to 1940), then as a town hall. It was sold to a farmer in 1962 who turned it into a shed for agricultural machinery.

After the German occupation of France during WW II, ten Jews that either were born or previously lived in Schaffhouse-sur-Zorn perished in the Holocaust.

Sarre-Union

In German: Saarunion

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

Sarre-Union consists of the the town of Bouquenom (Saar Buckenheim, in German) and of the town of Ville Neuve de Sarrewerden (Neu-Saarwerden, in German).

Jews started settling in Saar Buckenheim at the end of the 18th century. In 1807 there were 190 Jewish inhabitants in Saar Buckenheim. Their number increased during the 19th century reaching 335 in 1846, then 343 in 1861 and reached a peak of 354 in 1870. During the second half of the 19th century and in early 20th century the Jewish population declined with 204 Jews recorded in 1900 and 187 in 1910. In 1936 there were of 81 Jewish residents in the village, fewer than during the 19th century, but still relatively a large number in comparison with most of other places of Jewish rural settlement in Alsace at the time.

The Jewish families of Herbitzheim and Sarralbe (Moselle) belonged to the community of Saar Buckenheim.

The community of Saar Buckenheim had its own rabbinate for a long time, although at times it was annexed to the rabbinate of Bouxwiller. Rabbi Joseph Levy (1799-1879) served the community for fifty years from 1829 until his death in 1879. Due to the lower number of Jews in the area, the rabbinate of Saar Buckenheim was closed in 1927. The community also employed a teacher for the local Jewish school who also acted as a prayer leader.  

The building of the synagogue was inaugurated in 1840 and was renovated in 1913. The community also had a Jewish religious and elementary school and a mikveh. The Jewish cemetery was opened in the second half of the 18th century.

After the German occupation of France in WW II, the Jews of Saar Buckenheim were deported to southern France, of them 23 perished in the Holocaust.

After WW II, some of the survivors returned to the village. In 1953 there were 53 Jewish residents in the village. In 1965 their number was about 45.

During the German occupation, the synagogue was desecrated, looted and eventually badly damaged by artillery fire. After 1945 the building was completely restored and inaugurated again in 1950.

The Jewish cemetery contains about 400 graves and a memorial for the Holocaust victims of Saar Buckenheim. The place was victim to a number of anti-Semitic attacks, in 1988, 2001, and in February 2015, when almost 300 matzevot were vandalized and the Holocaust memorial damaged. After the 2015 attack, the place was visited by the French President Francois Holland in an act of solidarity with the Jewish community.

Weiterswiller

In German: Weitersweiler

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

The beginnings the Jewish community in Weiterswiller date from late 17th and early 18th century when a few Jewish families settled in the village. The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded in Weiterswiller 24 Jewish families with a total of 94 people. In 1807 there were 100 Jews in the village and their number reached a peak of 123 in 1846.  After mid-19th century the Jewish population of Weiterswiller decreased constantly with 109 Jews recorded in 1861, 65 in 1900, 90 in 1910, but only 9 in 1936 and in the same year the last Jewish family left the village.

The community of Weiterswiller belonged to the Rabbinate of Bouxwiller. A synagogue was inaugurated in 1868. The community employed a teacher who also served as a prayer leader and a shochet.  The local Jewish cemetery was opened in 1825 and it served also the neighboring Jewish community of Weinbourg.

The community dissolved in 1925. The synagogue was closed in 1923 and the Torah scrolls were transferred to the Jewish community of Mommenheim that later on took them to Strasbourg. In 1950 the building of the former synagogue was sold to private individuals.  

Eighteen Jews who either were born or lived in Weiterswiller perished in the Holocaust.

After WW II a few Jews lived in the village and in 1953 three was only one Jew living in Weiterswiller.

Since 1996 the building of the former synagogue has been listed as a protected historic monument. Address of the former synagogue: 12 de la rue principale, 67521 Weiterswiller. The cemetery has about 170 graves; in 1988 it was vandalized in an anti-Semitic attack and almost 90 matzevot were damaged.

Ingwiller

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

Jewish settlement began in 1604, but by the end of the 17th century there were still only six families in the town. At the end of the 18th century, however, about 50 Jewish families lived in Ingwiller, and from 1776 they owned a synagogue. Nearly half of them were engaged in the livestock trade. During the middle of the 19th century the community reached its peak, with about 550 members, and began to erect a new synagogue. A primary school was opened in 1836 and a cemetery acquired soon after. From that point, the community began to decline as a result of migration to larger towns and overseas. Under the German occupation during World War II, 12 Jews were deported from Ingwiller. In 1969 the community consisted of fewer than 100 persons.

Haguenau

A town in the Bas-Rhin department, France.

21st Century

Synagogue
3, rue du Grand-Rabbin Joseph Bloch
Haguenau
France

HISTORY

The earliest information on the presence of Jews in Haguenau dates from 1235; in that year a blood libel was perpetrated against the Jews of the town, but thanks to the protection of the emperor, whose servi camerae they were, they escaped harm. The Jews had to pay taxes to both the emperor and the municipality. The latter also protected them effectively, especially in 1338 against the Armleder by Feb. 16, 1349, the Jewish community had been destroyed. The first synagogue (the courtyard of which was used in 1352 for the wheat market) stood on the former Rathausplaetzel, later the place de la Republique; the mikveh was situated on the bank of the Moder, on the site of the present municipal hospital. In 1354, the Jews returned to Haguenau and formed a new community. A house (number 8 of the present rue du Sel) was then used as a synagogue. A good deal of Hebrew type was used in books printed in Haguenau between 1517 and 1520, among them works by Reuchlin and Melanchthon. In
1528, Joseph (Josel) b. Gershom of Rosheim obtained from the emperor the abrogation of an expulsion order issued by the town. Haguenau subsequently became a refuge for the Jews of the surrounding district on various occasions. During the second half of the 17th century, several Jews who had fled from Poland settled there. From 1660, there has been a rabbi in Haguenau. Notable rabbis included Meyer Jais, later chief rabbi of Paris, who held office in Haguenau between 1933 and 1938. The community of Haguenau consisted of 34 families in 1735, 64 in 1784, and 600 souls on the eve of World War II. Of these, 148 persons died in deportation or on the battlefield.

In 1968, the community numbered about 300. The present synagogue on the rue des Juifs (plundered by the Nazis and later renovated) was erected in 1821. The cemetery is known to have existed from the 16th century, but it was probably established during the Middle Ages. For a long time, it also served all the Jews of the region. The oldest epitaph preserved dates from 1654.

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.

Saverne

In German: Zabern

A town in the department of Bas-Rhin, eastern France.

The presence of Jews in Saverne is confirmed from at least 1334. The community suffered during the Armleder persecutions in 1338. At the time of the Black Death in 1349 there was only one Jewish family in Saverne, which was compelled to leave the town. By 1622 there were again a few Jews living in Saverne; there were seven families in 1716 and 21 in 1784. The community numbered over 300 persons at the close of the 19th century. It maintained a Jewish primary school (founded in 1857). A new synagogue was opened in 1898. Its population subsequently declined. During World War II, 30 Jews of Saverne died during deportation. The community numbered about 100 in 1970.

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.

Uhrwiller

In German: Uhrweiler

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

Jews lived in Uhrwiller since the end of the 18th century. The 1784 census of the Jews of Alsace recorded eight Jewish families with a total of 41 people. In 1807 there were 63 Jews in the village and their number peaked to 91 in 1846. After mid-19th century there was a gradual decrease in the number of the Jewish population of Uhrwiller with 58 Jews recorded in 1861 and only 10 in 1910. It seems that the last Jews lived in Uhrwiller in the first decades of the 20th century. No Jews were recorded in the 1936 census.

The Jews of Uhrwiller belonged to the Bouxwiller rabbinate. In the 19th century the community had a synagogue, built in 1827, and a mikveh and a school. A teacher was in charge of the children’s education as well as of the community religious needs.

The community ceased to exist in early 20th century. The building of the synagogue was demolished in the first half of the 20th century and a residential building was erected on the site of the former synagogue at 36, rue Neuve. Fanny Gintzburger, born in Uhrwiller in 1870, was murdered in Auschwitz Nazi death camp in 1944, after having been deported to southern France in 1940.

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.

Carl Henry Levy in the Museum of the Jewish Heritage, Bouxwiller, Alsace, France, 1985

Carl Henry Levy (center) in the Museum of the Jewish Heritage, Bouxwiller, Alsace, France, 1985

The museum of the Jewish Heritage of Alsace (Musée judéo-alsacien) is located in the former synagogue restored by architect Gilbert Weil. Carl Henry Levy is the father of photographer Diana Mara Henry

The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot, courtesy of 
Diana Mara Henry Collection ©