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The Jewish Community of Marmoutier

Marmoutier 

In German: Maursmünster 

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

The Jewish presence in Marmoutier dates from early Middle Ages. Jewish merchants lived in Marmoutier in the 10th century and worked for the local abbey. In 1338 Samuel von Maursmünster (Morsminster) is mentioned in Strasbourg. They continued to live in the village for centuries, although occasionally there were attempts to expel them. With the time a topographic segregation was introduced against the Jews with the interdiction of living close to the local monastery and church. The 1848 Revolution sparked in Marmoutier the worst anti-Jewish riots in the entire region of northern Alsace. About 20 Jewish houses were completely destroyed by fire after having been looted. Only the intervention of the army stopped the violence.

By mid-17th century there were about 30 Jewish families in Marmoutier. Their number declined to 20 in 1690. In 1784 there were around 299 Jews living in the village. In 1807 their number stood at 357 and in 1846 reached peak of 469, about 20% of the total population. During the second half of the 19th century the Jewish population remained significant with 379 Jews recorded in 1870 and 192 in 1897, however, in 1910, the number of Jewish inhabitants deceased sharply to 130. In 1936 there were 60 Jews living in Marmoutier.

Marmoutier was the seat of a rabbinate from the 18th century until its dissolution in 1910, after that year the community belonged to the rabbinate of Saverne. The synagogue was opened in 1822. The community had a mikveh and a school and employed a teacher who also served as a a shochet. A Jewish cemetery was established in the 18th century.

Jews were active in the local politics. During the 19th century one or two Jews were memebers of the municipal council, and two of them served as mayors of the village, Joseph Bloch, from 1877 to 1879, and Dr. Joseph Bielski from 1893 to 1914.

After the German occupation of Alsace in 1940, the remaining 50 Jews of Marmoutier were deported to southern France, of them 17 perished in the Holocaust.

At the end of WW II, a number of Jews returned to Marmoutier. In 1953 there were about 54 Jews living in Marmoutier, but their number declined during late 1950s and early 1960s and eventually the community disbanded in 2006.

The building of the former synagogue has been turned into the local cultural center. The Jewish cemetery contains about 500 tombstones, the oldest dates from 1799.

Le Musée du Patrimoine et du Judaïsme alsacien de Marmoutier is dedicated to the documentation and preservation of the Jewish heritage of the region, address: 6, rue du Général Leclerc, Marmoutier. Address of the former synagogue: Rue de la Synagogue, Marmoutier

Place Type:
Village
ID Number:
21471297
Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People
Nearby places:

Related items:

Isaac Léon Trenel (1822-1890), rabbi and scholar, born in Metz, France. He studied with his uncle Rabbi Jacob Haguenauer in Marmoutier in Alsace. He then attended the École centrale rabbinique of Metz and was ordained a rabbi in 1846. He served as rabbi in Besancon, France, and then as assistant to Chief Rabbi of France Lazare Isidor. In 1854 he became head of the Séminaire israélite de France. Along with Nathaniel Philip Sander (1806-1886), he published the Dictionnaire Hébreu-Français (1859), a work that has been since then reprinted many times and is commonly referred as le Sander et Trenel. He died in Paris.

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. 

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.

Romanswiller

In German: Romansweiler 

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

Jewish presence in Romanswiller is documented since 1669. In 1716 there were 26 Jewish families in the village. The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded in Romanswiller 41 families with a total of 206 people. The peak of the local Jewish population was reached in 1846 when a total of 245 Jews were recorded in the village. This number was quite stable during mid-19th century, but in early 20th century it decreased to 84 Jews living in Romanswiller. In 1936 there were 43 Jewish inhabitants in the village.

The Jews of Romanswiller belonged to the rabbinate of Marmoutier, and from 1910 to that of Saverne. The first prayer room was open in a private home and in 1738 the first synagogue was erected. It was replaced by a new building in 1849. The community had a school and a mikveh and employed a teacher who also acted as a prayer leader and shochet. The Jewish cemetery was established in the 18th century and it served also the Jews of Wasselonne, Odatzheim and other places.

After the German occupation of Alsace in 1940, the Jews of Romanswiller were deported to southern France, of them 26 perished in the Holocaust.

After WW II Jews did not live any longer in Romanswiller. The synagogue was desecrated and looted during WW II. In 1956 the building was sold to the local municipality and since then has served as a music school. Address of the former synagogue: rue de la Synagogue.  

A memorial in the local Jewish cemetery commemorates the Holocaust victims of Romanswiller, Wasselone and Odratzheim.

Dettwiller

In German: Dettweiler 

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

The Jewish presence in Dettwiller is documented as of the end of the 17th century. The community developed during the 18th century. The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded in Dettwiller 18 families with a total of 96 people. In 1807 the Jewish population numbered 107 people. This number increased to 158 in 1846 and reached a peak of 163 in 1866. As elsewhere in rural Alsace, the Jewish population declined during the second half of the 19th century and early 20th century with 97 Jewish inhabitants recorded in 1910. In 1936 there were 39 Jews living in Dettwiller.

The community had a prayer house as of early 18th century. A new synagogue was inaugurated at the same location in 1851. The mikveh was located in the basement of the synagogue. The community employed a teacher who also served as prayer leader and shochet.

After the German occupation of Alsace in 1940, the Jews of Dettwiller were deported to southern France, of them 21 perished in the Holocaust. During the German occupation the synagogue was badly damaged and the women's gallery was completely destroyed.

After WW II, some Jews returned to Dettwiller. In 1953 the village had 24 Jewish inhabitants. The building of the synagogue was renovated and it was in use until 1960.

Address of the former synagogue: Rue de l'écolé / Rue de Général Leclerc, 67490 Dettwiller

Wasselonne 

In German: Wasselnheim 

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

A Jewish community was established in the second half of the 19th century. In 1896 there were 48 Jews living in the village and in 1910 their number stood at 67. In 1936 there were 79 Jewish inhabitants in Wasselone.

The Jews of Waseelonne belonged to the rabbinate of Obernai. A prayer room was opened in 1890 and then replaced by a larger one in 1924.

After the German occupation of Alsace in 1940, the Jews of Wasselonne were deported to southern France, of them 6 perished in the Holocaust.

A new community was established after WW II. In 1954 there were 54 Jews in the village. They used a prayer room, but a small synagogue, built in a modern and sober style, was inaugurated in 1960.

In 1850 Salomon Neymann opened a matzot company in Odratzheim. In 1870, along with his son Benoit Neymann, the company was transferred to Wasselonne. It is the oldest matzot company operating in France.

Haegen 

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

The beginnings of the Jewish settlement in Haegen date from the 18th century. The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded in Haegen 4 families with a total of 29 people. In 1807 the number of Jewish inhabitants of the village stood at 45. This number reached a peak of 55 in 1846, afterwards during the second half of the 19th century it declined to 28 in 1870 and finally all Jews left Haegen before 1900. No Jews were recorded in the censuses of 1910 and 1936/

The community of Haegen belonged to the rabbinate of Saverne. There was a small synagogue in the village built in 1821 in the place of a former prayer room and apparently a mikveh and probably a small school as well.

Imling

A commune in the Moselle department in the historical region of Lorraine, France.

It seems that Jews lived in Imling during medieval times. The beginnings of the modern community date from the end of the 17th century, when two Jews, Michel Levy, a horse dealer, and Moise Levy, a peddler, are documented in the village. They were joined by additional Jewish families who arrived from neighboring Alsace.

The legal status of the eight Jewish families of Imling was confirmed in an “Act of Tolerance” signed by Antoine-Joseph, Count of Lutzelbourg and lord of Imling in 1762.  They were various rights, including the right to employ a cantor and a teacher. In exchange for these rights, the Jews were required to pay taxes in money and in products.

In 1789 there were 20 Jewish families in Imling. The Jewish population continued to increase during the first half of the 19th century. In 1845 there were 120 Jews living in the village. As elsewhere in rural Jewish communities of Lorraine and Alsace, many Jews left the village after mid-19th century and consequently the Jewish population declined 68 in 1895 and 54 in 1910. The community was disbanded after WW I.

Apparently the Jews of Imling had a prayer room since early 18th century. A synagogue was opened in 1820 and was used until 1920. The building of the synagogue was sold in 1922. The community also had a mikveh, opened in 1861. It too was sold in 1922. The building of the synagogue still exists and it is located on rue de l'Église.

As of 1845 and until the end of the 19th century Jews were elected to the municipal council of the village.  

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The Jewish Community of Marmoutier

Marmoutier 

In German: Maursmünster 

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

The Jewish presence in Marmoutier dates from early Middle Ages. Jewish merchants lived in Marmoutier in the 10th century and worked for the local abbey. In 1338 Samuel von Maursmünster (Morsminster) is mentioned in Strasbourg. They continued to live in the village for centuries, although occasionally there were attempts to expel them. With the time a topographic segregation was introduced against the Jews with the interdiction of living close to the local monastery and church. The 1848 Revolution sparked in Marmoutier the worst anti-Jewish riots in the entire region of northern Alsace. About 20 Jewish houses were completely destroyed by fire after having been looted. Only the intervention of the army stopped the violence.

By mid-17th century there were about 30 Jewish families in Marmoutier. Their number declined to 20 in 1690. In 1784 there were around 299 Jews living in the village. In 1807 their number stood at 357 and in 1846 reached peak of 469, about 20% of the total population. During the second half of the 19th century the Jewish population remained significant with 379 Jews recorded in 1870 and 192 in 1897, however, in 1910, the number of Jewish inhabitants deceased sharply to 130. In 1936 there were 60 Jews living in Marmoutier.

Marmoutier was the seat of a rabbinate from the 18th century until its dissolution in 1910, after that year the community belonged to the rabbinate of Saverne. The synagogue was opened in 1822. The community had a mikveh and a school and employed a teacher who also served as a a shochet. A Jewish cemetery was established in the 18th century.

Jews were active in the local politics. During the 19th century one or two Jews were memebers of the municipal council, and two of them served as mayors of the village, Joseph Bloch, from 1877 to 1879, and Dr. Joseph Bielski from 1893 to 1914.

After the German occupation of Alsace in 1940, the remaining 50 Jews of Marmoutier were deported to southern France, of them 17 perished in the Holocaust.

At the end of WW II, a number of Jews returned to Marmoutier. In 1953 there were about 54 Jews living in Marmoutier, but their number declined during late 1950s and early 1960s and eventually the community disbanded in 2006.

The building of the former synagogue has been turned into the local cultural center. The Jewish cemetery contains about 500 tombstones, the oldest dates from 1799.

Le Musée du Patrimoine et du Judaïsme alsacien de Marmoutier is dedicated to the documentation and preservation of the Jewish heritage of the region, address: 6, rue du Général Leclerc, Marmoutier. Address of the former synagogue: Rue de la Synagogue, Marmoutier

Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People
Isaac Leon Trenel

Isaac Léon Trenel (1822-1890), rabbi and scholar, born in Metz, France. He studied with his uncle Rabbi Jacob Haguenauer in Marmoutier in Alsace. He then attended the École centrale rabbinique of Metz and was ordained a rabbi in 1846. He served as rabbi in Besancon, France, and then as assistant to Chief Rabbi of France Lazare Isidor. In 1854 he became head of the Séminaire israélite de France. Along with Nathaniel Philip Sander (1806-1886), he published the Dictionnaire Hébreu-Français (1859), a work that has been since then reprinted many times and is commonly referred as le Sander et Trenel. He died in Paris.

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. 

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.

Romanswiller

Romanswiller

In German: Romansweiler 

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

Jewish presence in Romanswiller is documented since 1669. In 1716 there were 26 Jewish families in the village. The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded in Romanswiller 41 families with a total of 206 people. The peak of the local Jewish population was reached in 1846 when a total of 245 Jews were recorded in the village. This number was quite stable during mid-19th century, but in early 20th century it decreased to 84 Jews living in Romanswiller. In 1936 there were 43 Jewish inhabitants in the village.

The Jews of Romanswiller belonged to the rabbinate of Marmoutier, and from 1910 to that of Saverne. The first prayer room was open in a private home and in 1738 the first synagogue was erected. It was replaced by a new building in 1849. The community had a school and a mikveh and employed a teacher who also acted as a prayer leader and shochet. The Jewish cemetery was established in the 18th century and it served also the Jews of Wasselonne, Odatzheim and other places.

After the German occupation of Alsace in 1940, the Jews of Romanswiller were deported to southern France, of them 26 perished in the Holocaust.

After WW II Jews did not live any longer in Romanswiller. The synagogue was desecrated and looted during WW II. In 1956 the building was sold to the local municipality and since then has served as a music school. Address of the former synagogue: rue de la Synagogue.  

A memorial in the local Jewish cemetery commemorates the Holocaust victims of Romanswiller, Wasselone and Odratzheim.

Dettwiller

Dettwiller

In German: Dettweiler 

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

The Jewish presence in Dettwiller is documented as of the end of the 17th century. The community developed during the 18th century. The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded in Dettwiller 18 families with a total of 96 people. In 1807 the Jewish population numbered 107 people. This number increased to 158 in 1846 and reached a peak of 163 in 1866. As elsewhere in rural Alsace, the Jewish population declined during the second half of the 19th century and early 20th century with 97 Jewish inhabitants recorded in 1910. In 1936 there were 39 Jews living in Dettwiller.

The community had a prayer house as of early 18th century. A new synagogue was inaugurated at the same location in 1851. The mikveh was located in the basement of the synagogue. The community employed a teacher who also served as prayer leader and shochet.

After the German occupation of Alsace in 1940, the Jews of Dettwiller were deported to southern France, of them 21 perished in the Holocaust. During the German occupation the synagogue was badly damaged and the women's gallery was completely destroyed.

After WW II, some Jews returned to Dettwiller. In 1953 the village had 24 Jewish inhabitants. The building of the synagogue was renovated and it was in use until 1960.

Address of the former synagogue: Rue de l'écolé / Rue de Général Leclerc, 67490 Dettwiller

Wasselonne

Wasselonne 

In German: Wasselnheim 

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

A Jewish community was established in the second half of the 19th century. In 1896 there were 48 Jews living in the village and in 1910 their number stood at 67. In 1936 there were 79 Jewish inhabitants in Wasselone.

The Jews of Waseelonne belonged to the rabbinate of Obernai. A prayer room was opened in 1890 and then replaced by a larger one in 1924.

After the German occupation of Alsace in 1940, the Jews of Wasselonne were deported to southern France, of them 6 perished in the Holocaust.

A new community was established after WW II. In 1954 there were 54 Jews in the village. They used a prayer room, but a small synagogue, built in a modern and sober style, was inaugurated in 1960.

In 1850 Salomon Neymann opened a matzot company in Odratzheim. In 1870, along with his son Benoit Neymann, the company was transferred to Wasselonne. It is the oldest matzot company operating in France.

Haegen

Haegen 

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

The beginnings of the Jewish settlement in Haegen date from the 18th century. The 1784 general census of the Jewish population in Alsace recorded in Haegen 4 families with a total of 29 people. In 1807 the number of Jewish inhabitants of the village stood at 45. This number reached a peak of 55 in 1846, afterwards during the second half of the 19th century it declined to 28 in 1870 and finally all Jews left Haegen before 1900. No Jews were recorded in the censuses of 1910 and 1936/

The community of Haegen belonged to the rabbinate of Saverne. There was a small synagogue in the village built in 1821 in the place of a former prayer room and apparently a mikveh and probably a small school as well.

Imling

Imling

A commune in the Moselle department in the historical region of Lorraine, France.

It seems that Jews lived in Imling during medieval times. The beginnings of the modern community date from the end of the 17th century, when two Jews, Michel Levy, a horse dealer, and Moise Levy, a peddler, are documented in the village. They were joined by additional Jewish families who arrived from neighboring Alsace.

The legal status of the eight Jewish families of Imling was confirmed in an “Act of Tolerance” signed by Antoine-Joseph, Count of Lutzelbourg and lord of Imling in 1762.  They were various rights, including the right to employ a cantor and a teacher. In exchange for these rights, the Jews were required to pay taxes in money and in products.

In 1789 there were 20 Jewish families in Imling. The Jewish population continued to increase during the first half of the 19th century. In 1845 there were 120 Jews living in the village. As elsewhere in rural Jewish communities of Lorraine and Alsace, many Jews left the village after mid-19th century and consequently the Jewish population declined 68 in 1895 and 54 in 1910. The community was disbanded after WW I.

Apparently the Jews of Imling had a prayer room since early 18th century. A synagogue was opened in 1820 and was used until 1920. The building of the synagogue was sold in 1922. The community also had a mikveh, opened in 1861. It too was sold in 1922. The building of the synagogue still exists and it is located on rue de l'Église.

As of 1845 and until the end of the 19th century Jews were elected to the municipal council of the village.