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Encyclopaedia Judaica

Jews in France 06: Integration 1815-1870

Rabbis - immigration of Jews from Holland and Rhineland - conversion wave - reform of the Jewish community structures - charity and schooling - Damascus affair 1840 and pogroms in Alsace 1848 - self-defense - and careers - reform Judaism

Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): France, vol. 7,
                  col. 39. The Rothschild mansion on Avenue Foch, Paris
                  [[approx. in the 1950s according to the cars]]. Photo
                  M. Ninio, Jerusalem
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): France, vol. 7, col. 39. The Rothschild mansion on Avenue Foch, Paris
[[approx. in the 1950s according to the cars]]. Photo M. Ninio, Jerusalem

from: France; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 7

presented by Michael Palomino (2008)

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[Rabbinical seminaries - rabbis payed by the state since 1831]

The Restoration was not received with hostility by the Jews of France. The Napoleonic regulations, while having the merit of organizing (col. 24)

communal affairs, had nevertheless represented a step backward in revolutionary ideals. Without major difficulties they were able to ensure that the Napoleonic decree determining their activities and means of livelihood, commonly referred to by Jews as the décret infâme, was not renewed after the expiry of its ten-year time limit (1818).

Soon the need for new rabbis became the matter for concern. Until the Revolution rabbis for the Ashkenazi communities had been trained in the yeshivah [[religious Torah school]] in Metz, in the small local yeshivot of Alsace, or otherwise drawn from abroad. The Sephardi communities in the south generally recognized the authority of the Dutch or Italian Sephardi rabbinates. The closing of the Metz yeshivah under the Revolution had greatly curtailed the recruitment of the rabbis. Thus, from 1820 numerous attempts were made to obtain permission for the opening of a rabbinical school in Metz to supply the needs of all sectors of French Jewry. In 1829 the Ministry of Religions authorized the opening of a central rabbinical seminary in Metz. It was transferred to Paris in 1859, where it continues to function.

Judaism was placed on the same footing as the other recognized religions when the chamber of peers passed a law making the Treasury responsible for paying the salaries of ministers of the Jewish religion (from Jan. 1, 1831). Thus almost the last sign of anti-Jewish discriminatory legislation in France disappeared. (col. 25)

[Migration: Jewish immigration from Holland and the Rhineland to central France since 1800 appr. - numbers]

During the 19th century, the relative importance of the Avignon communities had (col. 30)

greatly decreased. The four Comtat communities had dispersed, their members moving to Marseilles and the large towns in southern France. The Bordeaux and Bayonne elements had never been very numerous. The extension of the French borders toward the north and east had opened up the country to a large Jewish immigration from Holland and the Rhineland.

The Jewish population of Paris in 1789 numbered 500, out of the total French Jewish population of 40,000 to 50,000. there were 30,000 Jews living in Paris in 1869, out of a total of 80,000 for the whole of France. (col. 31)


[Conversion wave - examples of conversions]

These political successes did not conceal the profound crisis through which French Jewry was passing. Many Jews born after the grant of emancipation were unprepared for the new world they were now facing. A wave of conversions followed, in which members of the most firmly established families left Judaism. Deutz's own son, notorious for his role in the arrest of the duchess of Berry, and his son-in-law David *Drach, who had pursued rabbinical studies and directed the Jewish school in Paris, both embraced Christianity, the latter even taking orders. The eldest son of the president of the Bas-Rhin Consistory, Marie-Theodore *Ratisbonne, became converted in 1826. He subsequently took orders and in celebration of the conversion of his youngest brother founded the order of Notre Dame de Sion to be devoted to missionary work among the Jews. The brother, who was an active member of the order, later built a monastery in Jerusalem. Although the lower ranks of the Jewish population were hardly affected by these conversions, such cases were numerous among their leaders.

[Democratic reforms of the Jewish community structures]

The disappearance of the generation which had known the Revolution and taken part in the work of the Sanhedrin, coupled with the new spirit of liberal democracy, and the pressure in the new communities by arrivals from the rural areas of Alsace and Lorraine now necessitated a reform of the consistorial system. By an order in council of May 28, 1844, French Jewry continued to be directed by the central consistory, which was henceforth composed of the grand rabbin and a lay member from each departmental consistory. The electoral college was enlarged in 1844 and 1848, when every Jewish male aged over 25 obtained the right to take part in the elections of the departmental consistories. The Paris consistory finally obtained an increase in the number of its representatives on the central consistory because it had a large population under its jurisdiction. This system continued, apart from some minor modifications, until 1905, with the separation of church and state (see below).


The final obstacle to complete equality for Jewish citizens was removed with the abolition of the humiliating oath more judaica. The various courts that had been called upon to decide whether it was necessary for Jews to take the oath in that form had rendered conflicting decisions. It was only on the advice (col. 25)

given to the rabbis by Adolphe *Crémieux, who became a member of the central consistory in 1831, to refuse to take the oath in this form that some progress was made. The Supreme Court of Appeal decided on its abolition in 1846. In the same period the debts of the former Jewish communities were finally settled by partial repayments effected by the successor communities.


[Charitable committees - Jewish primary schools with support of the state until 1905]

While French Jewry was concerned with defense of its rights and its religious organization, it also promoted charitable and educational activities. The local charitable committees were generally offshoots of the traditional Jewish mutual aid societies or of the hevrot (ḥevrot) [[Jewish burial society]] (see *hevrah (ḥevrah)), which did not surrender their independence without hesitation or declared hostility.

In the educational sphere, the first real development took place under the Restoration with the opening of Jewish primary schools. From 1818 schools were opened in Metz, Strasbourg, and Colmar. A boys' school was established in 1819 and the first girls' school in 1821. Parallel to these primary schools, the community also opened technical schools, at first in order to prepare their pupils for apprenticeship and alter providing direct specialized training. The first Jewish trades school (Ecole de Travail) opened its doors in Strasbourg in 1825, and was followed by that of Mulhouse in 1842, and of Paris in 1865. This network grew in importance until the law making primary education compulsory was passed in 1882, and the church and state were separated in 1905, thus depriving it of state financial support.


[Damascus affair (1840) and pogrom wave in Alsace 1848 - growing awareness of self-defense within French Jewry]

The Jewish community in France was shocked into action to protect Jewish rights by the *Damascus Affair in 1840 and subsequently by the outbreak of anti-Jewish disorders in 1848. The hostile attitude shown by the French government and also by French public opinion when Jews in Damascus were accused of ritual murder, as well as the complicity of the French consul there, deeply stirred French Jewry. Crémieux therefore joined Sir Moses *Montefiore from England in a mission to Alexandria to intercede with *Muhammad Ali on behalf of the Damascus Jews.

In February 1848, the peasants in Sundgau in Alsace took advantage of the general unrest to attack the Jews, some of whom managed to escape to Switzerland. The incidents spread northward, Jewish houses were pillaged, and the army was called out to restore order. Both this and the Damascus Affair strengthened the feeling among Jews in France that in certain situations they could rely only on self-defense. The formation of the provisional government, which included two Jews, Michel *Goudchaux and Crémieux, dispelled some of these anxieties, but Jewish concern was again heightened with the election of Prince Louis Napoleon to the presidency of the republic, and later his accession to the imperial title, since many feared that he would restore the discriminatory measures introduced by his uncle. (col. 26)

ALLIANCE ISRAÉLITE UNIVERSELLE [[Universal Israeli Alliance since 1860]]

The *Mortara case in 1858 once again brought up the question of freedom of conscience and reminded French Jewry of the Damascus Affair and the troubles of 1848. It again demonstrated the importance of organizing Jewish self-defense, this time on an international scale. The French Jews, who had been convinced that they had succeeded in assimilation by reconciling fidelity to Judaism with the gains achieved by democracy, felt compelled to react. However, it was typical of the existing situation that action was taken outside the framework of the central consistory which had by then withdrawn into a religious and representational role. In 1860, a group of young Jewish liberals founded the *Alliance Israélite Universelle with a central committee permanently based in Paris. The activities of this body were mainly directed to helping communities outside France and it had the great merit of again demonstrating that Jewish solidarity extended beyond modern nationalism. (col. 28)


[Jews in French politics - example of careers: Achille Fould, Crémieux, Jacques Halévy, Rachel, Rothschild family and Pereire brothers]

These fears proved unfounded. The Second Empire was a calm period for the Jews of France. Instances of anti-Jewish discrimination were the result of the influence of the [[criminal]] Catholic circles surrounding the empress rather than of a determined will to start an anti-Semitic campaign. Jews, like other "nonbelievers", were often excluded from the universities [[?]]. The social rise of the French Jews which had begun under the Restoration also continued under the Second Empire. In 1834 Achille *Fould became the first Jew to sit in the Chamber of Deputies, soon to be followed by Crémieux. The greatest and most rapid achievements were often (col. 26)

through the civil service, candidates for which generally had to pass tests and competitive examinations. In 1836 Jacques *Halévy was elected a member of the Academy of Fine Arts. *Rachel, one of the greatest actresses of her time, never concealed her Jewish origin. In the commercial sphere, it was a period of success for the *Rothschild family and its head, Baron James, as well as for the *Pereire brothers to whom the Rothschilds were later violently opposed. Practically every career, including the army, was open to Jews.


[The struggle for reform Judaism 1856-1870]

Events did not proceed without provoking the same unrest within the French community as had gripped German Jewry. The problem arouse of maintaining Judaism in an open, modern society, and the influence of the *Reform movements from across the Rhine soon made itself felt. The French rabbinate was of a generally conservative frame of mind. Its members, who almost entirely hailed from the small towns of Alsace and Lorraine, wee scarcely enthusiastic over the new ideas and the rabbinate found itself in retreat before the layman.

A meeting of grand rabbins was held in Paris from May 13-21, 1856, to establish a common policy with which to confront the growing trend away from Judaism. The camps were clearly divided well before the meeting: the Alsatian communities, which were the most numerous, opposed the introduction of substantive reforms, for which they felt no necessity. However, since each consistory was represented by only one delegate, the majority of the representatives tended to opt for modifications. To prevent a breach, it was resolved that decisions would be taken according to a simple majority, but that the question of their application would be held in abeyance. The assembly decided to limit the number of piyyutim [[poetry for worship service, liturgical poems]], to organize synagogue services for the blessing of newborn infants, to conduct the funeral service with more ceremonial, and to instruct rabbis and officiating ministers to wear a garb resembling that worn by the Catholic clergy. It was also resolved to make greater use of the sermon in synagogue, to reduce the length of services (col. 27)

which were to be conducted in a more dignified manner, and to introduce the ceremony of religious initiation, particularly for girls, whose religious instruction was to be inspected and approved. The assembly also called for the transfer of the rabbinical seminary to Paris.

Regarding the controversy which had arisen over the use of the organ in synagogue, it was decided that its use on Sabbath and festivals was lawful provided that it was played by a non-Jew. Its introduction would be subject to the authorization of the grand rabbin of the department concerned, at the request of the local rabbi. A breach in the community was therefore avoided at the price of compromises and half-measures. The different elements in French Jewry continued on good terms since the doctrinal independence of the local rabbi remained intact.

Subsequently more ambitious attempts at reform were cut short by the Franco-German war of 1870-71. The French defeat [[with the loss of Alsace and Lorraine with it's important coal mines]] cast an odium, a priori, on anything that smacked of German importation. As a result, French Jewry found itself in a state of arrested reform. Although moving away from Orthodoxy it remained firmly attached to the idea of an integrated community. To this day French consistorial Judaism has maintained great religious diversity, a situation which has always curbed the few attempts to establish dissident, Reform or Orthodox, communities. This flexibility later enabled the integration of immigrants from North Africa. The leading role still played in French communal affairs by the Rothschild family also helped to give the community a large measure of stability.> (col. 28)
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Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): France, vol. 7,
                    col. 23-24
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): France, vol. 7, col. 23-24
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): France, vol. 7,
                    col. 25-26
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): France, vol. 7, col. 25-26
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): France, vol. 7,
                    col. 27-28
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): France, vol. 7, col. 27-28
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): France, vol. 7,
                    col. 29-30
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): France, vol. 7, col. 29-30
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): France, vol. 7,
                    col. 31-32
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): France, vol. 7, col. 31-32

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