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The Jewish Community of Munster, Alsace

Munster

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

Jews settled in Munster during the first half of the 14th century. Two Jews from Munster, Talyat and Anshelm, were cited as witnesses in an act passed in Colmar on December 11, 1313. On March 13, 1338, Emperor Louis of Bavaria, during his stay in Colmar, donated to Lord Hanemann of Hattstatt the house of the Jew Simon dit Bonamy de Munster, a house which was inherited by the emperor following death of its owner. As a result of the anti-Jewish massacres that followed the Black Death plague in 1349, the Jewish community of Munster was destroyed.  Jewish presence in Munster is documented again attested in 1439.

A handful of Jewish families lived in Munster during the second half of the 19th century.

The archives of the Benedictine abbey of Munster keep an accounting register from the 17th century that was written on a re-used parchment bearing on outer sides a text in Hebrew, in elegant Ashkenazi square calligraphy. The text has been identified as a fragment from Sefer Mitzvot Gadol (“The Great Book of Commandments”), negative precept 138, by the 13th century Tossafist Moïse ben Jacob de Coucy, also known as Moshe de Coucy.

Place Type:
Village
ID Number:
21522798
Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People
Nearby places:

Related items:

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. 

Turckheim

In German: Türkheim

A town in the Haut-Rhin department in the historical region of Alsace, France. Turckheim was annexed by Germany between 1871-1918.

First Jewish presence in Turckheim is documented during early 14th century, when a few Jewish families were permitted to settle in what was then an imperial city of the Holy Roman Empire. Jews were sometimes tolerated in Turckheim, sometimes expelled. They were persecuted during the Armleder anti-Jewish riots in 1338 and again in the wave of anti-Jewish massacres that followed the Black Death plague in 1348. In 1397 a Jew of Turckheim was arrested and tortured for allegedly poisoning a well and in 1410 another local Jew was murdered by a Christian. There are additional mentions of Jewish inhabitants in Turckheim during the 15th and the first half of the 16th century. The maximum interest rate for Jewish money dealers was also strictly regulated and Jews were banned to leave their houses during Christian processions. Eventually the few Jewish families of Turckheim were expelled in 1570.

In 1701, the Jew Jacques Borach was allowed to come and live in Turckheim with his family. In 1705, there were three Jewish families in Turckheim and in 1716, the Borach and Geismar families consisted of 9 people. The modern Jewish community of Turckheim was established during the second half of the 18th century. The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded in Turckheim 10 Jewish families with a total of 42 people. In 1806 there were 72 Jews in Turckheim; their number grew to 97 in 1846 and reached a peak of 100 in 1861. During the second half of the 19th century the Jewish population decreased to 35 people in 1900 and 42 in 1910. There were 30 Jewish inhabitants in Turckheim in 1936.

The community belonged to the rabbinate of Wintzenheim. The Jews of Turckheim did not have a synagogue. Until early 20th century they used a prayer room in a residential building owned by the Borach family, then they prayed at the synagogue of Wintzenheim. In the Middle Ages the Jews of Turckheim apparently used the Jewish cemetery of Colmar. The modern community used the Jewish cemetery of Jungholtz and from the end of the 18th century that of Wintzenheim.

The community was dissolved during the 1930s.

After the German occupation of France in WW II, the few Jews who still lived in Turckheim were deported to southern France in October 1940. Five Jews of Turckheim perished in the Holocaust.

Address of the former prayer room: 7 rue des Vignerons, Turckheim.

Alsatian: Colmer

German: Kolmar

A town in the Alsace region, northeastern France. Colmar is located near the border with Germany. 
Between 1871-1918, and 1940-1945, Colmar was part of Germany.

 

21ST CENTURY

The synagogue is located on 3 rue de la Cigogne. The synagogue has the distinction of being the only one in the region with a bell tower.

The Katz Room, located in the Musée Bartholdi (located in the home of Auguste Bartholdi, the sculptor of the Statue of Liberty), has a collection of Jewish ritual objects.

 

HISTORY

Among the earliest written evidence of a Jewish presence in Colmar dates from 1278. During the late 13th and through the 14th century, Colmar became a place of refuge for Jews from Rouffach, Mutzig, and other areas who were escaping persecutions and anti-Jewish violence.

Community institutions included a synagogue, a mikvah (ritual bath), a dance hall, and a cemetery. The synagogue was destroyed in a fire in 1297. The community’s Jews lived in a Jewish Quarter.

In the wake of the Black Death epidemic (1348-1349) the Jews of Colmar, like Jews throughout Europe, were subject to violence and persecutions. A number of Jews from Colmar were burned at the stake at the beginning of 1349; the place of their execution was subsequently known as "Judenloch.” The rest of the Jewish community was expelled from Colmar.

Jews were readmitted to Colmar in 1385 and were granted a cemetery from the town. In 1392 the community included at least 29 adults (possibly heads of families). Colmar’s Jewish population, however, decreased beginning in the second half of the 15th century; by 1468 there were only two Jewish families remaining. Ultimately, in 1510 the town was authorized by the emperor to expel the remaining Jews; the expulsion was officially carried out in 1512.

The Jews from Colmar who had left the town voluntarily or after the expulsion, mostly settled in the surrounding area and continued trading with Colmar’s Christian residents. This ceased, however, in 1534 when the area’s Jews lost the right to trade within Colmar, and in 1541 it became forbidden for Jews to enter the town, even for markets and fairs. In the wake of the latter restriction Joseph (Joselmann) b. Gershon of Rosheim brought an action against the town, which continued for several years (the result of the case is unknown). Nonetheless, the Jews of Alsace maintained commercial relations with the burghers of Colmar during the 16th century, as evident from the numerous court cases recorded in that period.

Eventually, beginning in the 18th century a few Jews were granted authorization to live in Colmar, though they were permitted to live there only in eating houses and inns so that they could prepare kosher food for the Jews who came to Colmar to trade.

Colmar was affected by the Inquisition. In 1547, about 60 Marranos from the low countries were arrested in Colmar. They were released only after swearing that their destination was a Christian country, and not Turkey. Later, in 1754, Mirtzel Levi of Wittelsheim was martyred after an Inquisition trial.

After the French Revolution (1789-1799), Jews were once again allowed to settle in Colmar. The community grew in prominence, and in 1808 it became the seat of a consistory, with 25 dependent communities. In 1823 Colmar also became the seat of the chief rabbinate of Alsace (Haut-Rhin).

A synagogue was built in 1843.

The Jewish population numbered approximately 1,200 in 1929.

 

THE HOLOCAUST

The Jews in Colmar shared the fate of other Jews in Alsace and Moselle during World War II (1939-1945). They were expelled from their homes, and their synagogue was damaged.

 

POSTWAR

After the war the survivors rebuilt the Jewish community. The synagogue was returned to the community, which restored it, in 1959. The renewed community also established new institutions, including a community center. In 1969 there were over 1,000 Jews living in Colmar.

 

Wintzenheim-Kochersberg

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

First Jewish presence in Wintzenheim is documented in the first half of the 18th century. The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded eighteen Jewish families in Wintzenheim. The Jewish population reached a peak of 109 individuals in 1846, then it started to decline steadily with 102 Jews recorded in 1861, then 106 in 1870, and 78 in 1910. During the 19th century the community was affiliated to the Jewish community of Quatzenheim and it was dissolved in the years after WW I, when Alsace returned to France. In 1936 only 8 Jews lived in Wintzenheim.

The first prayer room was opened in 1752 and a new synagogue was built in 1895. The local Jewish school and the mikveh were located in the synagogue’s building. Since the Jewish population of Wintzenheim was reduced drastically after WW I, in 1923 the Consistoire israélite decided to sell the building of the synagogue on condition it should not serve as a pigsty or stable. The same year, the building was purchased at a public auction by Charles North, a farmer from Wintzenheim, who used it as a barn. After 1945 the structure was turned into a residential building, only the entrance portal was preserved.

Hattstatt

In German: Hattstadt

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

Hattstatt was the home of a Jewish community during the 14th century. The Jews of Hattstatt were victims of the anti-Jewish massacres that followed the Black Death plague in 1348. Some of them were burned at stake in a place located close to the nearby village of Herrlisheim that aferwards was nicknamed Judenbrand (“Jewish fire”). Jews are again documented in the village in 1375.

The modern Jewish community of Hattstatt dates from the end of the 17th century. In 1716 there were 18 Jewish families living in the village. The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded in Hattstatt 41 families with a total of 229 Jewish residents. The Jewish population continued to increase during the first half of the 19th century reaching a peak of 360 in 1846, then declined to 303 in 1861, 165 in 1900 and 129 in 1910. In 1936 there were 59 Jews living in Hattstatt.

Hattstatt was the seat of rabbinate until the 1914. Rabbi Isidore Weil who became rabbi of Hattstatt in 1864, moved to Colmar in 1873 and continued to hold the title of Rabbi of Hattsatt until 1914. The community had a synagogue, a mikveh and a school. The deceased members of the community were brought to burial in the Jewish cemetery of Herrlisheim.

After the German occupation of Alsace in 1940, the Jews of Hattstatt were deported to southern France, of them 19 perished in the Holocaust.

Some Jews returned to Hattstatt at the end of WW II, but the community ceased to exist.

The French politician and journalist Salomon Grumbach (1884-1952) was born in Hattstatt.

Rouffach

A village in the Haut-Rhin department in the historical region of Alsace, France. Rouffach was annexed by Germany between 1871-1918

The earliest indication of the presence of Jews in Rouffach dates from 1288. Accused by the townsmen of having expressed support for Emperor Adolf of Nassau, against whom they were at war, the Jews were massacred at the beginning of 1298. By 1308 Jews were again living in the town. Many lost their lives in the Armleder persecution of 1338. Having returned to the town at the latest in 1340 they were all massacred at the time of the Black Death (1349). Since then there has been neither a Jewish community nor even individual Jews in Rouffach.  According to a tradition, a herem  ("a ban") was declared against this village.

The Judenhof (“Jewish courtyard”) mentioned in 1338 possibly refers to the area of the synagogue, which was built in about 1300 and was still in existence in 1970, after having been rediscovered in 1905. In late 20th century the building was converted into a residential house. The former Judengasse (“Jewish street”) is now known as the Hassengasse.

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The Jewish Community of Munster, Alsace

Munster

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

Jews settled in Munster during the first half of the 14th century. Two Jews from Munster, Talyat and Anshelm, were cited as witnesses in an act passed in Colmar on December 11, 1313. On March 13, 1338, Emperor Louis of Bavaria, during his stay in Colmar, donated to Lord Hanemann of Hattstatt the house of the Jew Simon dit Bonamy de Munster, a house which was inherited by the emperor following death of its owner. As a result of the anti-Jewish massacres that followed the Black Death plague in 1349, the Jewish community of Munster was destroyed.  Jewish presence in Munster is documented again attested in 1439.

A handful of Jewish families lived in Munster during the second half of the 19th century.

The archives of the Benedictine abbey of Munster keep an accounting register from the 17th century that was written on a re-used parchment bearing on outer sides a text in Hebrew, in elegant Ashkenazi square calligraphy. The text has been identified as a fragment from Sefer Mitzvot Gadol (“The Great Book of Commandments”), negative precept 138, by the 13th century Tossafist Moïse ben Jacob de Coucy, also known as Moshe de Coucy.

Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People

France

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

Alsace

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

Turckheim

Turckheim

In German: Türkheim

A town in the Haut-Rhin department in the historical region of Alsace, France. Turckheim was annexed by Germany between 1871-1918.

First Jewish presence in Turckheim is documented during early 14th century, when a few Jewish families were permitted to settle in what was then an imperial city of the Holy Roman Empire. Jews were sometimes tolerated in Turckheim, sometimes expelled. They were persecuted during the Armleder anti-Jewish riots in 1338 and again in the wave of anti-Jewish massacres that followed the Black Death plague in 1348. In 1397 a Jew of Turckheim was arrested and tortured for allegedly poisoning a well and in 1410 another local Jew was murdered by a Christian. There are additional mentions of Jewish inhabitants in Turckheim during the 15th and the first half of the 16th century. The maximum interest rate for Jewish money dealers was also strictly regulated and Jews were banned to leave their houses during Christian processions. Eventually the few Jewish families of Turckheim were expelled in 1570.

In 1701, the Jew Jacques Borach was allowed to come and live in Turckheim with his family. In 1705, there were three Jewish families in Turckheim and in 1716, the Borach and Geismar families consisted of 9 people. The modern Jewish community of Turckheim was established during the second half of the 18th century. The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded in Turckheim 10 Jewish families with a total of 42 people. In 1806 there were 72 Jews in Turckheim; their number grew to 97 in 1846 and reached a peak of 100 in 1861. During the second half of the 19th century the Jewish population decreased to 35 people in 1900 and 42 in 1910. There were 30 Jewish inhabitants in Turckheim in 1936.

The community belonged to the rabbinate of Wintzenheim. The Jews of Turckheim did not have a synagogue. Until early 20th century they used a prayer room in a residential building owned by the Borach family, then they prayed at the synagogue of Wintzenheim. In the Middle Ages the Jews of Turckheim apparently used the Jewish cemetery of Colmar. The modern community used the Jewish cemetery of Jungholtz and from the end of the 18th century that of Wintzenheim.

The community was dissolved during the 1930s.

After the German occupation of France in WW II, the few Jews who still lived in Turckheim were deported to southern France in October 1940. Five Jews of Turckheim perished in the Holocaust.

Address of the former prayer room: 7 rue des Vignerons, Turckheim.

Colmar

Alsatian: Colmer

German: Kolmar

A town in the Alsace region, northeastern France. Colmar is located near the border with Germany. 
Between 1871-1918, and 1940-1945, Colmar was part of Germany.

 

21ST CENTURY

The synagogue is located on 3 rue de la Cigogne. The synagogue has the distinction of being the only one in the region with a bell tower.

The Katz Room, located in the Musée Bartholdi (located in the home of Auguste Bartholdi, the sculptor of the Statue of Liberty), has a collection of Jewish ritual objects.

 

HISTORY

Among the earliest written evidence of a Jewish presence in Colmar dates from 1278. During the late 13th and through the 14th century, Colmar became a place of refuge for Jews from Rouffach, Mutzig, and other areas who were escaping persecutions and anti-Jewish violence.

Community institutions included a synagogue, a mikvah (ritual bath), a dance hall, and a cemetery. The synagogue was destroyed in a fire in 1297. The community’s Jews lived in a Jewish Quarter.

In the wake of the Black Death epidemic (1348-1349) the Jews of Colmar, like Jews throughout Europe, were subject to violence and persecutions. A number of Jews from Colmar were burned at the stake at the beginning of 1349; the place of their execution was subsequently known as "Judenloch.” The rest of the Jewish community was expelled from Colmar.

Jews were readmitted to Colmar in 1385 and were granted a cemetery from the town. In 1392 the community included at least 29 adults (possibly heads of families). Colmar’s Jewish population, however, decreased beginning in the second half of the 15th century; by 1468 there were only two Jewish families remaining. Ultimately, in 1510 the town was authorized by the emperor to expel the remaining Jews; the expulsion was officially carried out in 1512.

The Jews from Colmar who had left the town voluntarily or after the expulsion, mostly settled in the surrounding area and continued trading with Colmar’s Christian residents. This ceased, however, in 1534 when the area’s Jews lost the right to trade within Colmar, and in 1541 it became forbidden for Jews to enter the town, even for markets and fairs. In the wake of the latter restriction Joseph (Joselmann) b. Gershon of Rosheim brought an action against the town, which continued for several years (the result of the case is unknown). Nonetheless, the Jews of Alsace maintained commercial relations with the burghers of Colmar during the 16th century, as evident from the numerous court cases recorded in that period.

Eventually, beginning in the 18th century a few Jews were granted authorization to live in Colmar, though they were permitted to live there only in eating houses and inns so that they could prepare kosher food for the Jews who came to Colmar to trade.

Colmar was affected by the Inquisition. In 1547, about 60 Marranos from the low countries were arrested in Colmar. They were released only after swearing that their destination was a Christian country, and not Turkey. Later, in 1754, Mirtzel Levi of Wittelsheim was martyred after an Inquisition trial.

After the French Revolution (1789-1799), Jews were once again allowed to settle in Colmar. The community grew in prominence, and in 1808 it became the seat of a consistory, with 25 dependent communities. In 1823 Colmar also became the seat of the chief rabbinate of Alsace (Haut-Rhin).

A synagogue was built in 1843.

The Jewish population numbered approximately 1,200 in 1929.

 

THE HOLOCAUST

The Jews in Colmar shared the fate of other Jews in Alsace and Moselle during World War II (1939-1945). They were expelled from their homes, and their synagogue was damaged.

 

POSTWAR

After the war the survivors rebuilt the Jewish community. The synagogue was returned to the community, which restored it, in 1959. The renewed community also established new institutions, including a community center. In 1969 there were over 1,000 Jews living in Colmar.

 

Wintzenheim-Kochersberg

Wintzenheim-Kochersberg

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

First Jewish presence in Wintzenheim is documented in the first half of the 18th century. The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded eighteen Jewish families in Wintzenheim. The Jewish population reached a peak of 109 individuals in 1846, then it started to decline steadily with 102 Jews recorded in 1861, then 106 in 1870, and 78 in 1910. During the 19th century the community was affiliated to the Jewish community of Quatzenheim and it was dissolved in the years after WW I, when Alsace returned to France. In 1936 only 8 Jews lived in Wintzenheim.

The first prayer room was opened in 1752 and a new synagogue was built in 1895. The local Jewish school and the mikveh were located in the synagogue’s building. Since the Jewish population of Wintzenheim was reduced drastically after WW I, in 1923 the Consistoire israélite decided to sell the building of the synagogue on condition it should not serve as a pigsty or stable. The same year, the building was purchased at a public auction by Charles North, a farmer from Wintzenheim, who used it as a barn. After 1945 the structure was turned into a residential building, only the entrance portal was preserved.

Hattstatt

Hattstatt

In German: Hattstadt

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

Hattstatt was the home of a Jewish community during the 14th century. The Jews of Hattstatt were victims of the anti-Jewish massacres that followed the Black Death plague in 1348. Some of them were burned at stake in a place located close to the nearby village of Herrlisheim that aferwards was nicknamed Judenbrand (“Jewish fire”). Jews are again documented in the village in 1375.

The modern Jewish community of Hattstatt dates from the end of the 17th century. In 1716 there were 18 Jewish families living in the village. The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded in Hattstatt 41 families with a total of 229 Jewish residents. The Jewish population continued to increase during the first half of the 19th century reaching a peak of 360 in 1846, then declined to 303 in 1861, 165 in 1900 and 129 in 1910. In 1936 there were 59 Jews living in Hattstatt.

Hattstatt was the seat of rabbinate until the 1914. Rabbi Isidore Weil who became rabbi of Hattstatt in 1864, moved to Colmar in 1873 and continued to hold the title of Rabbi of Hattsatt until 1914. The community had a synagogue, a mikveh and a school. The deceased members of the community were brought to burial in the Jewish cemetery of Herrlisheim.

After the German occupation of Alsace in 1940, the Jews of Hattstatt were deported to southern France, of them 19 perished in the Holocaust.

Some Jews returned to Hattstatt at the end of WW II, but the community ceased to exist.

The French politician and journalist Salomon Grumbach (1884-1952) was born in Hattstatt.

Rouffach

Rouffach

A village in the Haut-Rhin department in the historical region of Alsace, France. Rouffach was annexed by Germany between 1871-1918

The earliest indication of the presence of Jews in Rouffach dates from 1288. Accused by the townsmen of having expressed support for Emperor Adolf of Nassau, against whom they were at war, the Jews were massacred at the beginning of 1298. By 1308 Jews were again living in the town. Many lost their lives in the Armleder persecution of 1338. Having returned to the town at the latest in 1340 they were all massacred at the time of the Black Death (1349). Since then there has been neither a Jewish community nor even individual Jews in Rouffach.  According to a tradition, a herem  ("a ban") was declared against this village.

The Judenhof (“Jewish courtyard”) mentioned in 1338 possibly refers to the area of the synagogue, which was built in about 1300 and was still in existence in 1970, after having been rediscovered in 1905. In late 20th century the building was converted into a residential house. The former Judengasse (“Jewish street”) is now known as the Hassengasse.