JEWISH SETTLEMENT IN FRANCE from Ernest Kallmann JEWISH GENEALOGY RESEARCH IN FRANCE
Jews have been documented in France since ancient times. Jews lived in Phoenician Marseilles before the Romans invaded Gaul. During the Middle Ages, they were periodically expelled and again allowed to return, until 1384, when some 100,000 Jews had to leave France, mostly to German speaking areas. For instance, Rashi spent a great part of his life in the town of Troyes around 1100 CE, growing wine grapes, teaching and commenting. Thereupon, there were no Jews any longer left in the Kingdom of France.
But the Kingdom did not control the Papal states around Avignon, in the South West of France, where Jews could survive. Also, after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain and then Portugal in 1492, a number of "New Christians" emigrated to the southwest of France, mainly around Bayonne and Bordeaux. Though apparently assimilated and christianized, this "Portuguese Nation" maintained a hidden Jewish faith and practice. Besides these two French speaking communities, the largest number of Jews living on the territory of present France, the so-called German Jews, lived in Alsace, initially under the control of principalities of the Holy Roman Empire, and in Lorraine, around Metz.
When France progressively took control of these provinces, a certain status quo was respected, though Jews were no citizens, not allowed to live in towns and were subjected to discriminatory taxes. On the other hand, Jewish communities could live according to their own rules, as long as the relations with the civil and Christian authorities remained as imposed.
In 1791, during the French Revolution, Jews at once became citizens with the same rights and obligations as all other Frenchmen. They were allowed to settle where they wanted, mainly in larger cities where they could more easily earn a living. There have been two major waves of Jewish immigration, from the 1880ies to World War II, Eastern Europeans, and from 1950 to 1962, North Africans. The present Jewish population in France, estimated as 600,000 persons, includes a majority of people originating in Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco.
Establishment and rapid growth of French Jewry occurred between the 10th and 12th centuries. By the end of this period, French Jewish communities faced popular animosity, increased pressure from the Catholic Church, and higher taxes. The situation came to a head in April, 1182, when King Philip Augustus ordered all Jews to leave the royal domain (in this case, the area around Paris).
The Jews were permitted to sell their movable goods, but their real estate went to the crown, and synagogues became the property of the Church. Most Jews moved elsewhere in northern France. (The northern French Jewish communities were under the control of regional authorities.) In 1198 the Jews were permitted to return, but an additional tax was imposed on their activities.
From then on, French Jewish life was continually subjected to regulation and exploitation, primarily in the form of taxation to fund royal spending. Louis IX (1227-1270) forbade the Jews to lend money at interest, ordering them to live solely by their own labor in business. He also attacked Jewish intellectual life, outlawing the study of the Talmud on the grounds that it offended Christianity. Louis’s son, Philip III, maintained Louis’s policies and enforced ecclesiastical restrictions aimed at protecting Christians from Jewish influence.
The end of Jewish residence in Northern France occurred during the reign of Philip IV (1285-1314). After 1289, the Jews were expelled from Anjou, Maine, Gascony, and Nevers. Most of these Jews moved to Paris, where, even though they were subjected to restrictions, they were welcomed by the king. In 1306, Philip changed his mind and ordered the Jews to leave his realm. With no other choice, the Jews fled northeast to Flanders, east to Provence, or southwest to the Iberian peninsula.
Nine years later, King Louis X readmitted the Jews to France subject to certain conditions: the Jews had to purchase their readmission; they were not allowed to lend money (although pawnbroking was permissible); and they were forced to wear badges identifying them as Jews. But by 1321, Charles IV was unhappy with the revenue he received from the Jewish communities, and they were expelled once again.
Over the next 73 years, the Jews slowly moved back to southern France and re-established their businesses, until they were expelled for good by Charles VI in 1394.
April, 1182, King Philip Augustus ordered all of the Jews to leave the royal domain (in this case, the area around Paris). The Jews were permitted to sell their movable goods, but their real estate went to the crown, and synagogues became the property of the Church. Most Jews moved elsewhere in northern France. (The northern French Jewish communities were under the control of regional authorities.) In 1198 the Jews were permitted to return, but an additional tax was imposed on their activities.
1289, the Jews were expelled from Anjou, Maine, Gascony, and Nevers. Most of these Jews moved to Paris, where, even though they were subjected to restrictions, they were welcomed by the king. In 1306, Philip changed his mind and ordered the Jews to leave his realm. With no other choice, the Jews fled northeast to Flanders, east to Provence, or southwest to the Iberian peninsula.
Nine years later, King Louis X readmitted the Jews to France subject to certain conditions: the Jews had to purchase their readmission; they were not allowed to lend money (although pawnbroking was permissible); and they were forced to wear badges identifying them as Jews.
But by 1321, Charles IV was unhappy with the revenue he received from the Jewish communities, and they were expelled once again.
Over the next 73 years, the Jews slowly moved back to southern France and re-established their businesses, until they were expelled for good by Charles VI in 1394
Jews did not return to France until the seventeenth century. Even then, Jews continued to suffer under severe legal restrictions (notably the infamous tax levied by Colmar, in Alsace, on all Jews and heads of cattle entering the town). And they remained few: only 40,000 at the start of the French Revolution in 1789.
In September 1791, the National Assembly had granted Jews full citizenship, making France the first country in Europe to give them civil rights. This was not done entirely in the spirit of liberty, equality and fraternity. The hope was that by unlocking the ghetto gates and removing all restrictions on employment and movement, Jews would stop acting like a separate nation within France and ineluctably become French.
Napoleon, reconvened what he called the Great Sanhedrin — a name taken from the governing body of the Jewish community under the Roman Empire. This council of French Jewish leaders was summoned to resolve a series of issues left unsettled since the French Revolution (see New York Times)
Today, France has the worlds third largest Jewish population (after Israel and the USA) of an estimated 485,000 (HULIQ).
As part of its evangelistic efforts, the Church sought to win the beliefs of the Jews through debate. The Jews prided themselves in having a rationally superior faith and believed that Judaism could not be refuted by reason while Christianity was ultimately irrational.
Nicholas Donin represented the Christian side of the debate. He was a member of the Franciscan Order and a Jewish convert to Christianity. He had translated theTalmud and pressed 35 charges against it to Pope Gregory IX by quoting a series of blasphemous passages about Jesus, Mary or Christianity. There is a Talmudic passage, for example, where Jesus of Nazareth is sent to Hell to be boiled in excrement for eternity. Donin also selected an injunction of the Talmud that permits Jews to kill non-Jews. Louis IX, who sponsored the debate, was a sworn enemy of Judaism, at one time mentioning that only skilled clerks could conduct a disputation with Jews but that laymen should plunge a sword into those who speak ill of the Christ.
Four of the most distinguished rabbis of France, Yechiel of Paris, Moses of Coucy, Judah of Melun, and Samuel ben Solomon of Château-Thierry, represented the Jewish side of the debate.
The disputation demanded that the four rabbis defend the Talmud against Donin's accusations that the Talmud contains blasphemies against the Christian religion, attacks on Christians themselves, blasphemies against God, and obscene folklore. The attacks on Christianity were from passages referencing Jesus and Mary. There is a passage, for example, of someone named Jesus who was sent to Hell to be boiled in excrement for eternity. The Jews denied that this is the Jesus of the Bible, stating “not every Louis born in France is king.”
Maccoby gives his opinion that the Jewish representatives in the Paris disputation were less than forthcoming. There are ancient Jewish polemics against the Jesus of Christianity such as the Toledot Yeshu, and the Jesus who was portrayed in the Talmud fits that portrayal. Among the obscene and odd folklore, there are passages that Og of Bashan was a giant. There is also a story that Adam copulated with each of the animals before finding Eve. Noah, according to the Talmudic legends, was castrated by his son Ham. It was common for Christians to equate the religion of the Jews with the Israelite Mosaic Faith of the Old Testament. The Church was therefore surprised to realize that the Jews had developed an authoritative Talmud to complement their understanding of the Bible. Maccoby believed that the purpose of the Paris disputation was to rid the Jews of their belief in the Talmud, in order that they might return to Old Testament Judaism and eventually embrace Christianity.
The hostility of the Church during this disputation may have had less to do with the Church’s attitude and more to do with the Christian proponent, Nicholas Donin. The style of Donin’s argumentation exploited controversies that were debated within Judaism at the time. Maccoby also suggests that the disputation may have been motivated by Donin’s previous affiliations with the Karaite Jews, and that Donin’s motivations for joining the Church involved his desire to attack rabbinic tradition.
A commission of Christian theologians condemned the Talmud to be burned and on June 17, 1244 twenty-four carriage loads of Jewish religious manuscripts were set on fire in the streets of Paris.
TALMUD BURNING from ‘Jews, God and History’, Max Dimont 1994, p241
The first burnings of the Talmud took place in 1244 in Paris and Romeandfour times more in fourteenth-century France. There were no more burnings for two hundred years. The two worst years for Talmud burning were 1553 and 1554, when it went to the stake twelve times in Italy. It was burned twice more in Rome in 1558 and 1559, and then the fashion ended. In Eastern Europe, the Talmud was burned once, in 1757.
The interesting aspect about Talmud burning is not that the Talmud was sent to the stake, as in the Middle Ages translations of the New Testament in languages other than Latin were consigned to the flames more frequently than the Talmud. The interesting aspect is that the Old Testament in Hebrew was never sent to the stake. Though Torah scrolls often were trampled underfoot by screaming mobs looting synagogues, or burned with the synagogue itself, such acts were never sanctioned by the Church and the Torah was never officially condemned. Though Judaism was reviled as a blasphemy, though Jews were killed for being unbelievers, the Torah itself was looked upon with respect, for it was the Law of God. As one Pope expressed it. “We praise and honor the Law, for it was given to your fathers by Almighty God through Moses. But we condemn your religion and your false interpretation of the Law."
The Talmud on Trial by Samuel N. Hoenig, The Jewish Review, Volume 4 , Issue 3 (March, 1991 | Adar, 5751)
Jean Connell Hoff, John Friedman, and Robert Chazan. The Trial of the Talmud: Paris, 1240. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 2012. ix + 182 pp. $19.95 (paper), ISBN 978-0-88844-303-8
The Jewish Virtual Library states that the Marranos had to maintain some semblance of Catholicism for more than two centuries, but they were seldom molested in their secret practice of Judaism. Though they were called ‘New Christians’ or ‘Portuguese merchants’, their Jewishness was an open secret. In the large settlements they lived in their own quarters, had their own burial grounds, developed their own schools and communal institutions, and even trained their own rabbis after first importing them from abroad. In the course of time they gradually reduced their Catholic practices and eventually abandoned Church marriage and even baptism. In 1730 they were officially recognized as Jews. Their more formal communities were situated at Bordeaux and Bayonne and there were numerous lesser settlements in such places as Toulouse, Lyons, Montpellier, La Rochelle, Nantes, and Rouen. Bayonne was the center of a cluster of communities, including Biarritz, Bidache, Peyrehorade, and Saint-Jean-de-Luz. In this last town the Marranos had the misfortune of being expelled in 1619, and then, after a partial return, seeing the town captured by the Spaniards in 1636.
David Ferdinando has reproduced the The Marranos of Rouen by Cecil Roth which describes how a group of Marranos organised themselves and were regarded by the local community.
In each major zone of settlement, different conditions prevailed, each providing specific tools for genealogy research. For the sake of comparison, around 1789 some 5000 Jews lived in southwest France, 1800 in the southeast, and 1700 in various other cities, including Paris. In Lorraine, in and around the city of Metz, there were about 7000 Jews, and in Alsace about 23000.
The early settlements in the SW and SE of France, though in limited size, played an important role in the history of French Jews. Having adopted French habits for a long time, they were able to rise both socially and economically. Their family histories have been kept over time, inasmuch as most families had a well-known personality within their ranks.
THE JEWS IN THE COMTAT VENAISSIN ("THE POPE'S JEWS")
These Jews lived mainly in 4 towns in the southeast: Cavaillon, Carpentras, L'Isle-sur-Sorgue and Avignon. The A.D., as well as the municipal archives, holds documents dating back to the 16th century. This rather limited population has been studied in great detail. A rich literature is available, mainly in French. The ancient documents, written in Latin or old French, are difficult for non-specialists to read.
THE PORTUGUESE NATION
The Jews who left Portugal after 1496 (many had originated in Spain and had fled to Portugal shortly before) had to convert to Catholicism, and settled in southwest France as Catholics. They were called "new Christians" and often continued undercover Jewish practices. Church registers exist, mainly from the 17th century, with various documents similar to vital records for the 18th century. Additional information is available for those with connections to the Amsterdam Sephardic.
In the Departement de la Gironde, the A.D.(in Bordeaux) and also the municipal archives hold various documents, mainly from the 17th and 18th century. In the Departement des Pyrenees Altantiques, the A.D. (in Pau) and the municipal archives also hold various documents (mainly 17th and 18th centuries). These documents have been catalogued.
The French kingdom, after conquering the "three bishoprics" (Toul, Verdun and Metz) in the mid-16th century, favored the settlement of Jews in Metz. These Jews did not generally reach great wealth, but the community was a center of attraction for Jewish scholars. In the course of progressive conquest of the region, several communities were founded in small places, part of them speaking French, the other part German.
Vital registration documents, as well as tax registers and notary deeds, are available for periods since the 18th century. In particular, marriage contracts (tenaim) registered with the Royal Notaries have been indexed. They are held in the A.D. du Departement de la Moselle (Metz) and also in municipal archives
THE DREYFUS AFFAIR Time, Alexandra Silver, Friday, Apr. 08, 2011
It's not simply known as the Dreyfus trial. It's not the Dreyfus case. It's the Dreyfus Affair, a scandal that embroiled France and reverberated throughout Europe and the United States. In 1894, Alfred Dreyfus, a captain in the French army — and a Jew — was falsely accused of selling military secrets to Germany. He proclaimed his innocence and the evidence was weak, but he was court-martialed, convicted of high treason and sentenced to life imprisonment on Devil's Island. He remained there for years, despite evidence that another man was guilty. The conspiracy against Dreyfus involved forged documents and the stifling of further investigation.
France was divided into Anti-Dreyfusards and Dreyfusards, one of whom was the novelist Èmile Zola. In 1898 he championed Dreyfus' cause in an open letter to the French president, entitled "J'Accuse." Zola himself was put on trial, and convicted, for libel. Anti-Semitism raged. And though Dreyfus was retried in 1899, he was found guilty again. The president pardoned him, but it took a civilian court of appeals to clear Dreyfus in 1906, after which he was reinstated and awarded the Legion of Honor. It wasn't until 1995, however — more than a hundred years since he was first accused, and decades after he'd fought for France in World War I — that the French army publicly stated that Dreyfus was innocent.
In 2012 France had a Jewish population of 478,000, making it the world’s third largest after the USA and Israel. 05/01/2014 - Sammy Ghozlan, founder of France’s National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, said he is immigrating to Israel.
Ghozlan, a former police commissioner whose organization is one of France’s leading watchdog groups on anti-Semitism, announced his departure on Monday – shortly after the annual roundup of the Jewish Agency showed that 2014 was the first year ever that the most immigrants to Israel came from France.
“The departure, it’s a message,” Ghozlan said in an interview about his decision that was published Monday on JSSnews.com. “Leaving is better than running away. We do not know how things will play out tomorrow.”
France’s growing anti-Semitism problem is believed to be driving the influx of over 7,000 newcomers to Israel from France last year, more than double the figure for 2013. Ghozlan has warned that while most of the hundreds of violent attacks recorded in 2014 were the work of Muslims, the French far right also is adding to the problem with incitement and attempts to limit freedom of worship.
On the 7th January 2015 three masked Islamic gunmen went into the office of a French satirical magazine called ‘Charlie Hebdo’ aimed at all religions. Ten of them and two policemen were killed in response to a cartoon of Mohammed. See BBCDaily Mail=
The reaction of all sectors of the French and foreign populations was one of revulsion. Time will tell if this is the tipping point of ‘French jihad’relations leading to less anti-semitism and better relations within France..
Trapped by History: France and Its Jews David A. Bell is Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Johns Hopkins University, where he also serves as Dean of Faculty in the School of Arts and Sciences.
Nicholas Donin and the Disputation of 1240 Dr Henry Abramon (8.11)
In 1240 Nicholas Donin, a Jewish convert to Christianity, engaged in a public debate with his former teacher, Rabbi Yechiel of Paris. Donin charged that the Talmud was a noxious document that prevented the Jews from embracing Christianity, and brought a total of 35 distinct accusations against this ancient holy text. Ultimately, 24 carriage loads of Talmuds, representing 10,000 priceless manuscripts were burned in Paris on June 6, 1242.
The Dreyfus Affair BBC Melvyn Bragg (‘In Our Time’) AUDIO 2009 (76.56)
STORY OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE
THE JEWS OF FRANCE SUMMARY
Jews have been documented in France since ancient times. During the Middle Ages, they were periodically expelled and then allowed to return. In 1384, about 100,000 Jews had to leave France. It was also a major center for Jewish education. For instance, Rashi was in Troyes around 1100 CE, growing wine grapes, teaching and commenting.
Persecution increased in the Middle Ages with expulsion, usually for financial reasons, becoming common as debts vanished when Jews were expelled. They would be re-admitted on payment of an admission fee and to restore their tax payments. The French Revolution led to the emancipation of its Jewish population. Despite legal equality antisemitism remained an issue, as illustrated by the Dreyfus affair of the late 19th/20th century.
Today, France has the third largest Jewish population in the world (after Israel and the United States) estimated at about 500,000, mainly in Paris, Marseille, Strasbourg, Lyon, and Toulouse. Most are Sephardi and Mizrahi from North Africa and the Mediterranean region with communities ranging from ultra-Orthodox to secular. Recently emigration to Israel has grown substantially following the increase in anti-semitism.
On the 7th January 2015 Paris saw the murder of ten senior editorial staff and two policemen in response to a cartoon of Mohammed in the satirical magazine ‘Charlie Hebdo’ leading to woldwide revulsion. Time will tell if this is the tipping point of ‘French jihad’ actions.