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The Jewish Community of Hirsingue 

Hirsingue 

In German: Hirsingen 

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

Jewish settlement in Hirsingue is documented from the end of the 17th century. The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded in Hirsingue 20 Jewish families with a total of 95 people. In 1846 there were 127 Jewish inhabitants in Hirsingue, after that year the Jewish population decreased continuously with 94 Jews recorded in 1861, about 80 in 1910 and only 28 in 1936.  

In 1848, during the unrest in Sundgau region - now part of Haut Rhin and Belfort, the homes of Jewish families in Hirsingen were looted and the old synagogue was partially destroyed. 

The synagogue was repaired and returned to function a few years later. A new synagogue was built during 1911-1912. It was inaugurated in 1913 by Rabbi Dr. Auscher from the nearby community of Altkirch. The Jews of Hirsingue belonged to the rabbinate of Altkirch. During the 19th century the community temporarily employed a teacher who, in addition to teaching the children religiously, also acted as a prayer leader and schochet. The Jews of Hirsingue used the Jewish cemetery of Altkirch.

After the German occupation of Alsace in 1940, the Jews of Hirsingue were deported to southern France, of them nine perished in the Holocaust:  Mathilde Cerf née Levy (b.1885), Justin Hubschwerlin (b.1915), Marguerite Meyer (b.1886), Rose Meyer (b.1874), Juliah Meyer née Schwob (b.1888), Henriette Picard (b.1886), Armand Schwob (b.1902), Alexandre Weill (b.1876), and Julie Weill née Meyer (b.1870).

The building of the old synagogue was sold in 1920. The new synagogue was closed in 1940 and in 1962 it too was sold and turned into a residential building.

Place Type:
Village
ID Number:
21373635
Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People
Nearby places:

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France

République française

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

21st Century

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

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

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

 

HISTORY

The Jews of France

1040 | In Rashi Veritas

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

1240 | Where They Burn Books...

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

1481 | The Provenance of Provence

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

1498 | The Odyssey of Expulsions

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

1791 | No Bread? Eat Challa

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

1806 | The Twelve Question Program

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

1860 | All Israel Are Friends

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

1894 | A Legendary Story

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

1914 | Bloom of Life

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

1942 | Vichy-ing The Jews Away

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

2000 | From Rothschild to Levinas

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

Alsace

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

Altkirch

A commune in the Haut-Rhin department in Alsace, France. The town is traditionally regarded as the capital of Sundgau region.

The medieval Jewish community of Altkirch is documented in early 14th century, when the region was under Austrian rule. The community was attacked during the Armleder anti-Jewish persecutions of 1338-1339, and again during the anti-Jewsih massacres that followed the Black Death epidemic in 1348. The Jews still living in Altkirch in the second half of the 14th century were expelled from the town in around 1397/1398 by Duke Leopold IV of Austria. It seems that they then resettled in nearby Mulhouse or in Basel. 

The modern Jewish community was established in the early 19th century. Their number increased rapidly due to immigration from surrounding villages. In 1846 there were 300 Jews living in Altkirch. Their number increased to 320 in 1861, in 1910 there were 191 Jews and in 1936 the community numbered 116 members, a relatively large number in comparison with most of the other Jewish rural communities in Alsace during the 1930s.

The synagogue was inaugurated in 1837. Since 1844, Altkirch was the seat of a rabbinate that extended its authority also to the communities of Hagenbach, Hirsingen, Lümschweiler and Wittersdorf. The Jewish cemetery was opened in the 19th century. The community also opersted a mikve and a Jewish school.

The relations with the local population had periods of tension and hostility. Accusations of usury were quite common, but also anti-Jewish riots in 1822, and particularly during the Revolution of 1848, when Jewish homes were attacked and looted and the interior of the newly built synagogue devastated. The calm was restored only when the military intervened. Following a complaint by the Jewish community, the town community of Altkirch was sentenced to compensate the Jewish community.  

In the summer of 1940 Alsace was occupied by the Germans. All remaining Jews in Altkirch were deported to southern France between July and October 1940.. At least 14 Jews from Altkirch perished in the Holocaust: Adline Bickert (b. 1873), Andree Bloch (b.1888), Robert (Emmanuel) Brunschwig (b.1888), Charles Dreyfus (b1874), Harry Jacobsohn (b.1901), Jean Lazarus (b.1893), Juliette Leder (b.1894), Germaine Levy (b.1894), Oscar Levy (b.1884), Adrienne Loeb (b.1884), Gilbert Meyer (b.1927), Florine Picard (b.1869), Yvonne Picard (b.1909), Berthe Spira nee Dreyfus (b/1865).   

After the deportation of the Jewish residents in 1940 , the synagogue building was used as a cinema.

After World War II, several Jews returned to Altkirch. In 1953 there were about 150 Jews in the village. The synagogue was renewed, but used only occasionally. It is located at 6, rue de Ferrette, Altkirch. The cemetery is still in use and contains about 500 graves.

Belfort

Capital of the territory of Belfort, France

21st Century

Synagogue de Belfort
6 Rue de l'As de Carreau
90000 Belfort
France
Phone: 33 3 84 28 55 41

Le Cimetière israélite de Belfort 
51 Faubourg de Lyon
Belfort
Website: https://monumentum.fr/cimetiere-israelite-pa90000010.html

The Jewish cemetery was opened in 1811 and is a protected historical monument. 


HISTORY

A grant of privilege conferred on the city in 1307 authorized Jewish residence. Persecutions of Jews living in Belfort are recorded in 1336. They were subsequently expelled and readmitted in 1689. During the French revolution anti-Jewish excesses took place in the region but the Jews in Belfort remained unharmed. The Jewish population increased considerably after the Franco-Prussian war (1870-1871) with the arrival of Jews from Alsace- Lorraine (then annexed to the German Empire) who wished to remain French.

The Belfort Jewish community was destroyed under Nazi occupation. Out of a total of 700 Jews, about 245 were killed. A monument bearing the names of those who perished was erected in the Jewish cemetery after the war. The community was dynamically rebuilt after World War II, and together with the Montbeliard Jewish community numbered about 1,300 persons in 1969. It had a synagogue with an acting minister, a communal center, a network of institutions, and a quarterly bulletin.

Mulhouse

In German: Muelhausen

A city in Alsace, in the Haut-Rhin department, France

21st Century

Communauté Israélite de Mulhouse
2 rue des Rabbins
68200 Mulhouse
France
Phone : 03 89 66 21 22
Fax : 03 89 56 63 49
Website: http://www.cimulhouse.com/

 

HISTORY

The earliest documentation of the presence of Jews in Mulhouse dates from 1290, when one Salman was victim of a persecution. The existence of a synagogue is confirmed from 1311. The Jews of Mulhouse suffered during the Armleder riots in January 1338, and again during the outbreaks accompanying the black death (1349). By 1385, however, there were once more Jews living in Mulhouse. At the beginning of the 15th century, several Jews who had arrived from other places in Alsace were granted the freedom of the city. The nine families who were there in 1418 owned houses, engaged in money lending, and traded in livestock. Although there was no expulsion, no Jews lived in the city between 1512 and 1655. At the beginning of the 18th century, when they were still insignificant in number, their trade flourished to the extent of arousing the jealousy of the Christian merchants, who demanded that their rights be restricted. In 1784 there were 23 Jewish families (94 persons) in the city. As it was free from the anti-Jewish riots which broke out throughout Alsace in 1789, Mulhouse became a refuge for many Jews from the surrounding district. The synagogue, built in 1822, soon proved to be too small and was replaced by a larger one in 1849. A cemetery was purchased in 1831, and the community established several other institutions, including a vocational school in 1842, and an almshouse-hospital in 1863. Two periodicals catering for all the Jews of Alsace and even beyond were published during the second half of the 19th century. From about 5,000 in 1900 the community declined to around 3,000 in 1921, remaining stable until just before World War II. Jacob Kaplan, later chief rabbi of France, held office in Mulhouse in 1922.

Under German occupation in world war ii the Jews who had not managed to escape were expelled on July 16, 1940, along with the Jews in the rest of Alsace and Moselle. The synagogue, which had been partially damaged, was saved from total destruction when the edifice was requisitioned by the municipal theater. In 1970 Mulhouse had 1,800 Jewish inhabitants and a well-organized community.