Search
Print
Share
Your Selected Item:
Would you like to help us improving the content? Send us your suggestions

The Jewish Community of Saverne

Saverne

In German: Zabern

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

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

Place Type:
Town
ID Number:
248403
Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People
Nearby places:

Related items:

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.

Ingwiller

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

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

Pfaffenhoffen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buswiller

In German: Büsweiler 

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

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

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

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

Bouxwiller 

In German: Buchsweiler 

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

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

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

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

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

Hochfelden 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weiterswiller

In German: Weitersweiler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wingersheim 

Wingersheim-les-Quatre-Bans

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

The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded in Wingersheim about 100 people. In 1807 there were 85 Jewish inhabitants in the village; their number grew to 112 in 1946, and then stood at 110 in 1866, 105 in 1900, and 96 in 1910. In 1936 there were 53 Jews in Wingersheim.

The Jewish community of Wingersheim belonged to the rabbinate of Brumath until 1832, when it had its own rabbinate through 1878. After that year the Jews of Wingersheim were transferred to the authority of the rabbinate of Quatzenheim. The first synagogue was opened in 1775. A new synagogue was inaugurated in 1875. The community had a school and a mikveh. The local teacher also served as a cantor and a shochet. There was no Jewish cemetery in the village and the community used the Jewish cemetery in the neighboring village of Mommenheim.

After the German occupation of Alsace in 1940, the Jews of Wingersheim were deported to southern France, of them at least 14 perished in the Holocaust.

After WW II, a number of Jewish families returned to Wingersheim. In 1953 there were 34 Jewish inhabitants in the village. The building of the synagogue survived undamaged during WW II, although it was used as a place for collecting milk. In 1945 it was restored as a synagogue and in 2000 it was extensively renovated.  Address of the synagogue: 10, rue de la Victoire, Wingersheim.

Schwenheim 

In German: Schweinheim

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

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

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

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

Struth

In German: Strutt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

our Open Databases
Jewish Genealogy
Family Names
Jewish Communities
Visual Documentation
Jewish Music Center
Place
אA
אA
אA
Would you like to help us improving the content? Send us your suggestions
The Jewish Community of Saverne

Saverne

In German: Zabern

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

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

Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People

Struth
Schwenheim
Wingersheim 
Weiterswiller
Hochfelden
Bouxwiller 
Buswiller
Pfaffenhoffen
Ingwiller
France
Alsace

Struth

In German: Strutt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Schwenheim 

In German: Schweinheim

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

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

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

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

Wingersheim 

Wingersheim-les-Quatre-Bans

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

The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded in Wingersheim about 100 people. In 1807 there were 85 Jewish inhabitants in the village; their number grew to 112 in 1946, and then stood at 110 in 1866, 105 in 1900, and 96 in 1910. In 1936 there were 53 Jews in Wingersheim.

The Jewish community of Wingersheim belonged to the rabbinate of Brumath until 1832, when it had its own rabbinate through 1878. After that year the Jews of Wingersheim were transferred to the authority of the rabbinate of Quatzenheim. The first synagogue was opened in 1775. A new synagogue was inaugurated in 1875. The community had a school and a mikveh. The local teacher also served as a cantor and a shochet. There was no Jewish cemetery in the village and the community used the Jewish cemetery in the neighboring village of Mommenheim.

After the German occupation of Alsace in 1940, the Jews of Wingersheim were deported to southern France, of them at least 14 perished in the Holocaust.

After WW II, a number of Jewish families returned to Wingersheim. In 1953 there were 34 Jewish inhabitants in the village. The building of the synagogue survived undamaged during WW II, although it was used as a place for collecting milk. In 1945 it was restored as a synagogue and in 2000 it was extensively renovated.  Address of the synagogue: 10, rue de la Victoire, Wingersheim.

Weiterswiller

In German: Weitersweiler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hochfelden 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bouxwiller 

In German: Buchsweiler 

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

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

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

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

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

Buswiller

In German: Büsweiler 

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

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

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

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

Pfaffenhoffen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ingwiller

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

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

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.