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The Jewish Community of Hoenheim

Hoenheim

In German: Hönheim

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

The beginnings of the Jewish community of Hoenheim are documented in the first half of the 18th century with three Jewish families mentioned in 1746. The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded in Hoenheim six Jewish families. There were 57 Jewish inhabitants in Hoenheim in 1807, their number grew to 103 in 1946. During the second half of the 19th century the Jewish population of Hoenheim started to decline with 97 Jews recorded in 1870, 87 in 1887, and 46 in 1910. In 1936 the Jewish population stood at 30 individuals.

The Jewish community of Hoenheim belonged to the Rabbinate of Bischheim. The first synagogue of Hoenheim dates from the 18th century. It was replaced by a new building in 1865. The Jewish community employed a teacher who also served as a prayers leader and a shochet. The Jews of Hoenheim were buried in the Jewish cemetery of Bischheim.

After the German occupation of Alsace in 1940, the remaining Jews of Hoenheim were deported to southern France, of them four perished in the Holocaust.  

After WW II, a handful of Jews returned to Hoenheim. In 1953 there were 14 Jews in Hoenheim. The building of the former synagogue is located on Rue des voyageurs. La maison juive de Hœnheim is a historic monument located at 21, rue de la République, Hoenheim. 

Place Type:
Village
ID Number:
21373637
Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People
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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. 

Bischheim

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

Jews settled there after their expulsion from Colmar in 1512. H. Cerfberr, one of the general syndics of Alsace Jewry in the second half of the 18th century, lived in Bischheim, as did his brother-in-law, David Sinzheim. Cerfberr set up a foundation on behalf of the community with a capital of 175,000 livres for charitable activities and education. There were 473 Jews living in Bischheim in 1784. The wooden synagogue, built in 1781, was replaced by a new one in 1838. It was sacked during the German occupation in World War II, destroyed in 1944, and rebuilt in 1959. The Jewish community in 1968 had 360 members. It has a mikveh which belonged to David Sinzheim.

Strasbourg

The capital of Alsace, Eastern France

The earliest evidence of a Jewish presence in Strasbourg dates from 1188; Jews fled from the area during the anti-Jewish persecutions of the Third Crusade, but they appear to have returned after a short while. The size of the Jewish community, as well as its economic power, is reflected in the fact that in 1242 it paid the highest tax of all of the Jewish communities of the empire. In 1306, the Jewish population numbered about 300. Moneylending appears to have been their sole economic activity, and their customers included Christian religious institutions and noblemen.

The patrician municipality sought to protect the Jews during the Black Death persecutions, pogroms in European cities that began in 1348, after rumors spread that Jews were poisoning the wells in order to spread the plague. Unlike the majority of local governments, the city council attempted to protect its Jewish residents. Nonetheless, a new council arose in 1349 after a rebellion by the local population, who became convinced that the previous council was protecting the Jews because the council had been bribed by them. After the coup, the Jews of Strasbourg were no longer protected. Beginning St. Valentine's Day, Saturday, February 14, 1349, and lasting for approximately 6 days, at least 1,000 Jews were killed, many of whom were burned alive. The only people spared were those who chose to accept baptism. Jewish property was distributed among those who carried out the massacre. On September 12, 1349, Emperor Charles IV officially pardoned the town for the massacre of the Jews and the plunder of their possessions. Jews were not allowed to settle in the city. Every evening at 10:00pm the tolling of the cathedral bell and a municipal herald blowing a horn reminded any Jews in the city that it was time to leave.

In spite of the town's decision to prohibit the settlement of Jews, a number of Jews were authorized to reside there from 1369 onward, but only if they paid extremely high fees. The Jewish population numbered at least 25 families when they were again expelled from Strasbourg at the end of 1388. Those who had been banished settled in surrounding villages, where they continued to maintain commercial relations with the inhabitants of Strasbourg.

One of the most important figures from the area is Josel of Rosheim, (also known as Joselin, Joselmann, Yoselmann, Josel von Rosheim in German, Joseph ben Gershon mi-Rosheim or Joseph ben Gershon Loanz in Hebrew), who advocated for the Jews of Germany and Poland, and who was eventually appointed by the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I as governor of all Jews of Germany. Among his numerous activities on behalf of the Jews of Alsace in general, and Strasbourg in particular, in 1543 he sent a petition to the magistrate of Strasbourg, in which he comprehensively refuted the assertions made by Martin Luther in his pamphlets "Concerning the Jews and their Lies" and "Concerning the Shem Ha-Meforash." As a result of Josel's efforts, the magistrate blocked the publication of the new edition of Luther's book.

Once the town came under French sovereignty in 1681, the severity of the anti-Jewish measures were eased, or even temporarily suspended; nonetheless, Jews were still prohibited from settled in Strasbourg, and were still subject to special taxes. In fact, a special mention was made of Strasbourg, where "the Jews are subjected to a corporal tax which reduces them to the level of animals." It was not until the French Revolution, 1789-1799, that restrictions on the Jews in France began to be significantly eased; full emancipation was grated to Sephardic Jews in 1790, and to Ashkenazi Jews in 1791. In spite of strong opposition from the local population, immediately after the National Assembly had granted Jews the rights of citizenship, many returned to established themselves in Strasbourg. In 1806, seven delegates represented the 1,500 Jews of Strasbourg at the Assembly of Notables, and that same year Napoleon appointed Rabbi Joseph David Sinzheim, the Chief Rabbi of Strasbourg, as president of the newly created "Great Sanhedrin."

The community, which was constantly growing, soon built a number of important institutions. In addition to synagogues, a vocational school was founded in 1825, and an old age home, "Elisa," was built in 1853. There was even a short-lived rabbinical seminary that was opened in 1885. The German annexation of 1871 was responsible for the departure of a number of Jews for France, though anti-Semitic violence in the town decreased under the new rule.

The interwar period saw a particularly rapid growth in the local population, in spite of the fact that the rate of immigration from abroad was much lower in Strasbourg than in other towns. In 1931, of the almost 8,500 Jews who were living in Strasbourg, over 60% were born in France.

The entire population of Strasbourg was evacuated to the Southwest of France when World War II broke out in September 1939. After the French surrender in June 1940, the Jewish community succeeded in setting up basic provisional arrangements, including setting up a synagogue and a welfare bureau in Perigueux and a synagogue in Limoges. In Strasbourg proper, the Nazis set fire to the Quai Kleber synagogue, which had been erected in 1898 and systematically destroyed all traces of the structure. Strasbourg Jews set up and directed agricultural schools. Under the auspices of OSE (Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants, Children's Aid Society), they helped open clinics and children's homes. They also organized rescue missions to Switzerland or to Palestine (via Spain) for infants and older children.

Rabbi Hirschler, Robert Brunschwig, and Elie Cyper, along with youth leader Leo Cohn, were arrested and deported to death camps. Rabbi Samy Klein and Aron Wolf were killed while active in the resistance.

About 10,000 Jews lived in Strasbourg on the eve of World War II. 8,000 returned after the liberation; 1,000 died in concentration camps, and another 1,000 decided to settle elsewhere. In 1965 there were 12,000 Jews in Strasbourg (4.5% of the total population). This increase was the result of natural growth, immigration from smaller Alsatian centers, immigration from Central Europe, and refugees arriving from North Africa. The number of mixed marriages between Jews and non-Jews increased by 40% between 1960 and 1965.

Strasbourg Jewry was one of the most active communities in Europe after World War II, and many of the institutions created since 1945 stressed Jewish education. The University of Strasbourg has a chair of Jewish Studies, which was held by the scholar and philosopher Andre Neher.

Anti-Semitism is still an issue in Strasbourg, though it is generally more latent than it had been throughout the history of the city. The Alsatian population established organizations to prevent the return of Jewish property confiscated in 1940 to the owners, and later banded together to prevent the erection of a synagogue on town land.

Kehl am Rhein 

A town on the river Rhine, directly opposite the French city of Strasbourg, in the Ortenau district in Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany.

First Jewish presence: unknown; peak Jewish population: 156 in 1905; Jewish population in 1933: 109

This Jewish community was established in 1881. Services were conducted in a private residence, where a prayer hall had been set up, until 1889, when local Jews inaugurated their first synagogue. In 1924, prior to which burials had been conducted in Freistett, the community consecrated a cemetery in a section of the municipal burial grounds. A women’s association and a welfare organization for migrants were active in Kehl in 1933. The teacher instructed 18 Jewish children that year. In October 1938, a Jewish family was deported to Poland. One month later, on Pogrom Night (Nov. 9, 1938), the synagogue interior was damaged and its ritual objects destroyed. Jewish men were imprisoned in the town hall together with Jews from the surrounding communities; they were brutally whipped by SS men, forced to torture each other, marched through the town and, finally, sent to Dachau. The synagogue was demolished later that year. Fifty-seven Kehl Jews fled the country, 39 relocated within Germany, seven died in Kehl and 22 were deported to Gurs concentration camp in France in October, 1940. Two Jewish women avoided this transport, but were deported to Nazi concentration camps in Eastern Europe in 1941/42. At least 55 local Jews perished in the Shoah. In 1983, a plaque was unveiled at the synagogue site; in 1991, a stone pillar was erected next to the old town hall as a reminder of the brutalities committed there on Pogrom Night.

----------------------------------------------

This entry was originally published on Beit Ashkenaz - Destroyed German Synagogues and Communities website and contributed to the Database of the Museum of the Jewish People courtesy of Beit Ashkenaz.

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The Jewish Community of Hoenheim

Hoenheim

In German: Hönheim

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

The beginnings of the Jewish community of Hoenheim are documented in the first half of the 18th century with three Jewish families mentioned in 1746. The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded in Hoenheim six Jewish families. There were 57 Jewish inhabitants in Hoenheim in 1807, their number grew to 103 in 1946. During the second half of the 19th century the Jewish population of Hoenheim started to decline with 97 Jews recorded in 1870, 87 in 1887, and 46 in 1910. In 1936 the Jewish population stood at 30 individuals.

The Jewish community of Hoenheim belonged to the Rabbinate of Bischheim. The first synagogue of Hoenheim dates from the 18th century. It was replaced by a new building in 1865. The Jewish community employed a teacher who also served as a prayers leader and a shochet. The Jews of Hoenheim were buried in the Jewish cemetery of Bischheim.

After the German occupation of Alsace in 1940, the remaining Jews of Hoenheim were deported to southern France, of them four perished in the Holocaust.  

After WW II, a handful of Jews returned to Hoenheim. In 1953 there were 14 Jews in Hoenheim. The building of the former synagogue is located on Rue des voyageurs. La maison juive de Hœnheim is a historic monument located at 21, rue de la République, Hoenheim. 

Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People

Kehl am Rhein
Strasbourg
Bischheim
Alsace
France

Kehl am Rhein 

A town on the river Rhine, directly opposite the French city of Strasbourg, in the Ortenau district in Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany.

First Jewish presence: unknown; peak Jewish population: 156 in 1905; Jewish population in 1933: 109

This Jewish community was established in 1881. Services were conducted in a private residence, where a prayer hall had been set up, until 1889, when local Jews inaugurated their first synagogue. In 1924, prior to which burials had been conducted in Freistett, the community consecrated a cemetery in a section of the municipal burial grounds. A women’s association and a welfare organization for migrants were active in Kehl in 1933. The teacher instructed 18 Jewish children that year. In October 1938, a Jewish family was deported to Poland. One month later, on Pogrom Night (Nov. 9, 1938), the synagogue interior was damaged and its ritual objects destroyed. Jewish men were imprisoned in the town hall together with Jews from the surrounding communities; they were brutally whipped by SS men, forced to torture each other, marched through the town and, finally, sent to Dachau. The synagogue was demolished later that year. Fifty-seven Kehl Jews fled the country, 39 relocated within Germany, seven died in Kehl and 22 were deported to Gurs concentration camp in France in October, 1940. Two Jewish women avoided this transport, but were deported to Nazi concentration camps in Eastern Europe in 1941/42. At least 55 local Jews perished in the Shoah. In 1983, a plaque was unveiled at the synagogue site; in 1991, a stone pillar was erected next to the old town hall as a reminder of the brutalities committed there on Pogrom Night.

----------------------------------------------

This entry was originally published on Beit Ashkenaz - Destroyed German Synagogues and Communities website and contributed to the Database of the Museum of the Jewish People courtesy of Beit Ashkenaz.

Strasbourg

The capital of Alsace, Eastern France

The earliest evidence of a Jewish presence in Strasbourg dates from 1188; Jews fled from the area during the anti-Jewish persecutions of the Third Crusade, but they appear to have returned after a short while. The size of the Jewish community, as well as its economic power, is reflected in the fact that in 1242 it paid the highest tax of all of the Jewish communities of the empire. In 1306, the Jewish population numbered about 300. Moneylending appears to have been their sole economic activity, and their customers included Christian religious institutions and noblemen.

The patrician municipality sought to protect the Jews during the Black Death persecutions, pogroms in European cities that began in 1348, after rumors spread that Jews were poisoning the wells in order to spread the plague. Unlike the majority of local governments, the city council attempted to protect its Jewish residents. Nonetheless, a new council arose in 1349 after a rebellion by the local population, who became convinced that the previous council was protecting the Jews because the council had been bribed by them. After the coup, the Jews of Strasbourg were no longer protected. Beginning St. Valentine's Day, Saturday, February 14, 1349, and lasting for approximately 6 days, at least 1,000 Jews were killed, many of whom were burned alive. The only people spared were those who chose to accept baptism. Jewish property was distributed among those who carried out the massacre. On September 12, 1349, Emperor Charles IV officially pardoned the town for the massacre of the Jews and the plunder of their possessions. Jews were not allowed to settle in the city. Every evening at 10:00pm the tolling of the cathedral bell and a municipal herald blowing a horn reminded any Jews in the city that it was time to leave.

In spite of the town's decision to prohibit the settlement of Jews, a number of Jews were authorized to reside there from 1369 onward, but only if they paid extremely high fees. The Jewish population numbered at least 25 families when they were again expelled from Strasbourg at the end of 1388. Those who had been banished settled in surrounding villages, where they continued to maintain commercial relations with the inhabitants of Strasbourg.

One of the most important figures from the area is Josel of Rosheim, (also known as Joselin, Joselmann, Yoselmann, Josel von Rosheim in German, Joseph ben Gershon mi-Rosheim or Joseph ben Gershon Loanz in Hebrew), who advocated for the Jews of Germany and Poland, and who was eventually appointed by the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I as governor of all Jews of Germany. Among his numerous activities on behalf of the Jews of Alsace in general, and Strasbourg in particular, in 1543 he sent a petition to the magistrate of Strasbourg, in which he comprehensively refuted the assertions made by Martin Luther in his pamphlets "Concerning the Jews and their Lies" and "Concerning the Shem Ha-Meforash." As a result of Josel's efforts, the magistrate blocked the publication of the new edition of Luther's book.

Once the town came under French sovereignty in 1681, the severity of the anti-Jewish measures were eased, or even temporarily suspended; nonetheless, Jews were still prohibited from settled in Strasbourg, and were still subject to special taxes. In fact, a special mention was made of Strasbourg, where "the Jews are subjected to a corporal tax which reduces them to the level of animals." It was not until the French Revolution, 1789-1799, that restrictions on the Jews in France began to be significantly eased; full emancipation was grated to Sephardic Jews in 1790, and to Ashkenazi Jews in 1791. In spite of strong opposition from the local population, immediately after the National Assembly had granted Jews the rights of citizenship, many returned to established themselves in Strasbourg. In 1806, seven delegates represented the 1,500 Jews of Strasbourg at the Assembly of Notables, and that same year Napoleon appointed Rabbi Joseph David Sinzheim, the Chief Rabbi of Strasbourg, as president of the newly created "Great Sanhedrin."

The community, which was constantly growing, soon built a number of important institutions. In addition to synagogues, a vocational school was founded in 1825, and an old age home, "Elisa," was built in 1853. There was even a short-lived rabbinical seminary that was opened in 1885. The German annexation of 1871 was responsible for the departure of a number of Jews for France, though anti-Semitic violence in the town decreased under the new rule.

The interwar period saw a particularly rapid growth in the local population, in spite of the fact that the rate of immigration from abroad was much lower in Strasbourg than in other towns. In 1931, of the almost 8,500 Jews who were living in Strasbourg, over 60% were born in France.

The entire population of Strasbourg was evacuated to the Southwest of France when World War II broke out in September 1939. After the French surrender in June 1940, the Jewish community succeeded in setting up basic provisional arrangements, including setting up a synagogue and a welfare bureau in Perigueux and a synagogue in Limoges. In Strasbourg proper, the Nazis set fire to the Quai Kleber synagogue, which had been erected in 1898 and systematically destroyed all traces of the structure. Strasbourg Jews set up and directed agricultural schools. Under the auspices of OSE (Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants, Children's Aid Society), they helped open clinics and children's homes. They also organized rescue missions to Switzerland or to Palestine (via Spain) for infants and older children.

Rabbi Hirschler, Robert Brunschwig, and Elie Cyper, along with youth leader Leo Cohn, were arrested and deported to death camps. Rabbi Samy Klein and Aron Wolf were killed while active in the resistance.

About 10,000 Jews lived in Strasbourg on the eve of World War II. 8,000 returned after the liberation; 1,000 died in concentration camps, and another 1,000 decided to settle elsewhere. In 1965 there were 12,000 Jews in Strasbourg (4.5% of the total population). This increase was the result of natural growth, immigration from smaller Alsatian centers, immigration from Central Europe, and refugees arriving from North Africa. The number of mixed marriages between Jews and non-Jews increased by 40% between 1960 and 1965.

Strasbourg Jewry was one of the most active communities in Europe after World War II, and many of the institutions created since 1945 stressed Jewish education. The University of Strasbourg has a chair of Jewish Studies, which was held by the scholar and philosopher Andre Neher.

Anti-Semitism is still an issue in Strasbourg, though it is generally more latent than it had been throughout the history of the city. The Alsatian population established organizations to prevent the return of Jewish property confiscated in 1940 to the owners, and later banded together to prevent the erection of a synagogue on town land.

Bischheim

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

Jews settled there after their expulsion from Colmar in 1512. H. Cerfberr, one of the general syndics of Alsace Jewry in the second half of the 18th century, lived in Bischheim, as did his brother-in-law, David Sinzheim. Cerfberr set up a foundation on behalf of the community with a capital of 175,000 livres for charitable activities and education. There were 473 Jews living in Bischheim in 1784. The wooden synagogue, built in 1781, was replaced by a new one in 1838. It was sacked during the German occupation in World War II, destroyed in 1944, and rebuilt in 1959. The Jewish community in 1968 had 360 members. It has a mikveh which belonged to David Sinzheim.

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.