GENERAL AND REGIONAL
A clickable map with information on more than 200 sites all over the country: synagogues, memorials, Jewish cemeteries, and more. The map was prepared by the B’nai B’rith Hirschler team (Strasbourg) for the “Journées Européennes de la Culture et du Patrimoine Juifs en France” (European Days of Jewish Culture).
Article by Gérard Nahon on the history, styles, and current condition of Jewish cemeteries in France
He describes the approx. 300 or so Jewish cemeteries in France, most of which opened following the decrees or laws in 1791, 1804, and 1881, and which fall into four historic and legal categories:
Dedicated to the events programmed on the annual European Day of Jewish Culture in September, this web site lists many Jewish heritage sites in France, by region (based on the EDJC events planned there).
The official French tourism web site has some archived material on Jewish heritage and tourism in several regions of the country. (There used to be a much more comprehensive web site but it doesn’t seem to exist anymore).
Edward Victor’s web site has history and postcards for more than 20 towns:
Belfort, Besancon, Biarritz, Carpentras, Chablis, Chalons-Sur-Marne, Dijon, Epernay, Epinal, Ingwiller, Jouarre (La Ferte), Lille, Luneville, Reims, Saint Etienne, Sedan, Selestat, Strasbourg, Thann, Thionville, Verdun
All the presentations are available in video form, clicking the links. Most are in French; some are in English with French voice-over
Alsace-Lorraine has very well developed documentation and tourist infrastructure regarding Jewish heritage sites; the region launched “open doors” days to Jewish heritage in 1996, which led to the overall launch of the European Day of Jewish Culture. The general web has numerous sub-pages with detailed information on scores of Jewish heritage sites, including synagogues, cemeteries, mikvehs, museums, homes and other places for the departments of Bas-Rhin; Haut-Rhin; and Lorraine. It also has links to material on Jewish heritage in individual towns including Colmar; Mulhouse; Strasbourg and Metz.
Chabad tourism and information site with listings and addresses for a number of sites in northern France.
A downloadable PDF brochure on Jewish heritage sites throughout Provence.
You can access information to many if not most main Jewish heritage sites in France via the general links above. We present here below places that have their own web sites or other online resources.
Neo-classic synagogue, designed by the architect by architect J.A. Jeoffroy and built in 1846-48, features a domed rotunda and elegant sanctuary notable for the two-levels of Doric and Corinthian columns. It is located in the medieval ghetto area on the site of an earlier synagogue that was destroyed by fire in 1845. The first synagogue on the site was built in the 13th century.
2 place Jérusalem
Tel: +33 04 90 85 21 24
35 rue Maubec
Neoclassical Sephardic synagogue, dating from 1837. It has a women’s gallery supported by columns, the bimah in the middle of the sanctuary, and a tall arched section enclosing the elaborate Ark.
Established in the 17th century and one of the oldest in France, with about 3,000 mainly horizontal Sephardic-style grave markers. Restoration work, organized by the German group Aktion Sühnezeichen (Action Reconciliation) and the Jewish Museum of Belgium, has been going on since 2011, following on work carried out in 2010 by Belgium Jewish Museum curator Dr. Philippe Pierret and the photographer Gina van Hoof.
Here’s a video about the 2014 volunteer restoration campaign.
Small town in the Pyrenees with a 17th century Jewish cemetery.
Bordeaux has three historic Jewish cemeteries, all listed as historic cultural monuments since 1995.
Prepared and published by the city’s tourism department. In French with a map and summaries in English and Spanish.
Video of the Avignonnais Jewish cemetery at 47 rue Sauteyron in central Bordeaux, founded in 1728 and in use until 1805. It has 104 graves:
Synagogue from 1842 (now housing the Alsatian-Jewish Museum). Jewish cemetery dating from the late 16th century; oldest legible stone from 1608.
62a Grand-rue, 67330 Bouxwiller
Tel./Fax : +33 (0) 3 88 709 717
Email : email@example.com
The oldest still-active Synagogue in France, built in 1367 and restored, expanded and rebuilt in rococo style in the 18th century by the architect Antoine D’Allemand, who also carried out other major works in the town, including the aquaduct. The synagogue has a simple facade. The complex includes, on the ground floor, two mikvehs (one from the 14th century and one from the 18th century) and two bakeries (one for bread, one for matzo). The sanctuary, in teal-colored wood, employs tromp l’oeill “marble” and baroque elements.
Like the synagogue the cemetery dates back to the 14th century and was listed as a historic monument in 2007. Hidden behind a 10-foot wall, it lies just outside town, across from the aqueduct (designed by the same architect who designed the 18th century reconstruction of the synagogue) and includes about 760 legible gravestones, shaded by mature pine trees. (A catalogue of the stones was published in 1998 but it’s not clear if and where it is available.)
The oldest part of the cemetery has no gravestones, as a papal edict at the time forbade erecting stones or making inscriptions. The oldest stones date from the late 18th and early 19th century, after the French Revolution. There is also a ceremonial hall and a Geniza.
Medieval Synagogue, rebuilt in rebuilt in elaborate style in 1772-1774. No longer in use as a house of worship, it houses a Jewish Museum. It is located in the old Jewish quarter, and the complex includes a ritual bath. A plaque marks the site of the old Jewish cemetery — now a parking lot next tothe tourism office.
Synagogue and Jewish Museum
Synagogue originally built in the late 19th century, now housing the Centre d’Art Contemporain (Center for Contemporary Art)
33, rue Poincare, 57590 Delme, France
tel.+33 (0)3 87 01 43 42
fax.+33 (0)3 87 01 43 14
The synagogue was originally built in 1881 in Moorish style, with a large, distinctive onion dome. It was almost completely demolished by German bombing in World War II and reconstructed in 1946 in a much simpler style that still incorporates a peristyle, raised platform, first-floor balcony, arched portal and windows, and dome. It has housed the contemporary arts center since 1993.
Once a major wool manufacturing center, Elbeuf, in Normandy, had a sizeable Jewish population in the textile industry before World War II. Few survivors returned to Elbeuf, but the 1950s and 60s brought Sephardic Jews from N. Africa. With the move of textile manufacturing to the Far East over the past few decades, the last semblances of Elbeuvian Jewish life have vanished. The synagogue – whose outer walls bear yellow stars painted by Nazi sympathizers during World War II – still stands.
Here’s the trailer for Yellow Stars of Tolerance, a documentary chronicling how New Yorker Marie Lippman, born in Elbeuf, works to see the restoration of the synagogue:
The former Synagogue in Forbach, on the border with Germany, was designed by Alexis Robin and built in 1835-36; it was renovated or reconstructed several times. It was closed for religious services in 2013 because of the dwindling congregation and since 2015 has housed a cultural and arts center called Castel Coucou.
ANCIENNE SYNAGOGUE DE FORBACH
98 AVENUE SAINT-RÉMY
Tel: +33 (0) 7 61 41 06 06
13, quai Tilsitt, on the Saône River
Tel : 04 78 37 13 43
Fax : 04 78 38 26 57
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
A neo-Byzantine building whose street facade resembles a stately mansion, the synagogue was designed by the architect Abraham Hirsch and built in 1863-64. It was placed on the list of historic monuments in 1984 and underwent renovations completed in 2014, in time for celebrations marking its 150th anniversary.
There was a Jewish presence in this Alsace town since the 13th century. The community was largely destroyed in the Holocaust, but important traces of the heritage remain, and the local museum has a major section on rural Jewish life.
Outside town on rue Neuve
Established in 1798, it has about 600 burials.
Rue de la Synagogue
Built in 1822, it was devastated in World War II. In 1961 it was acquired by the municipality, which uses it as a communal hall.
Located in a half-timbered patrician house dating from 1590, where Jewish families lived until the 20th century, the museum focuses on rural life and on Judaism in Alsace from the middle ages to the 18th and 19th centuries. The house includes a mikveh dating from 1710.
Medieval Jewish quarter centered on today’s rue de la Barralerie, with a medieval religious complex, or Schola Judeorum, including a prayer house and almshouse, and mikveh dating from the 12th century that was rediscovered in the 1980s and restored in 1985.
As befits the capital of the country with the largest Jewish population in Europe, there are many synagogues, neighborhoods, institutions…You can find lists on the web site of the Consistoire umbrella organization.
A lengthy article by Toni Kamins, author of Complete Jewish Guide to France, on the history and heritage of this district. It includes a Walking Tour and much practical info.
The Paris tourism web site SortirAParis published an online guide to what it describes as the most beautiful synagogues in the French capital — five magnificent buildings in various parts of the city.
The synagogues on its list include the following — If you click the links, you will find a page for each synagogue, providing historical and architectural information as well as pictures and information about visiting:
- The Grand Synagogue of Paris (Synagogue de la Victoire)
- The Synagogue des Tournelles, in the Marais district
- The Synagogue de Nazareth, the oldest synagogue in Paris
- The Buffault Synagogue, built for the Portuguese Jewish community
- The art nouveau Agoudas Hakehilos Synagogue (Synagogue de la Rue Pavée ) in the Marais district
Here is further information:
Seating 1,800 people, this is the largest synagogue in France, and one of the largest in Europe. It was designed by the Chief Architect of Paris Alfred-Philibert Aldrophe and built in 1874, with the support of the Rothschild family.
Agoudas Hakehilos (Pavée) Synagogue
10 Rue Pavée
Tel: +33 1 48 87 21 54
A synagogue designed in art nouveau style by the architect Hector Guimard and dating from 1914.
An imposing synagogue built in 1877 and a major work of the architect Stanislas Ferrand, it has a facade featuring a large stained glass rose window framed by an arch. The grand sanctuary has a large raised Bimah in the center, in Sephardic fashion, and seats arranged along the sides.
There are around two dozen Jewish cemeteries in Paris.
Find a list, with some links and descriptive information, on the International Jewish Cemetery Project web site.
The disused synagogue, built in 1791, opened in 2000 as a Museum of Alsatian-Jewish Life, following restoration aided by funding from the World Monuments Fund. The WMF describes the building as having:
a steep pitched tiled roof and simple interior—a modest architectural style common in Alsace. The ground floor includes a large meeting room, a small kitchen, and a room once used to accommodate travelers. It also features a stone fountain with a Hebrew inscription dating the fountain to 1744. On the second floor is the sanctuary, plus a school, and a small women’s gallery covered by latticework screens. A Torah ark carved with lions, and straight-backed benches with scroll-work armrests have survived,
For visits, contact the Musée de l’image populaire:
24, rue du Dr Schweitzer – Pfaffenhoffen
67350 VAL DE MODER
Tél. : +33 (0)3 88 07 80 05
The Jewish presence dates back to the early middle ages and archaeological traces (mainly the so-caled Maison Sublime) remain. Today there is an active Jewish community; a synagogue was built in 1950 to replace the synagogue destroyed in WW2.
A building dating from around 1100 and discovered by chance in 1976 under the courtyard of the Rouen courthouse. It is believed to be the oldest Jewish building in France, though scholars have been divided as to what its original function was — a private residence, synagogue, or yeshiva.
In this town in the Drome region of southeastern France is a medieval Jewish quarter, where archaeologists interpreted a cellar as potentially having been a mikveh. The archaelogy was carried out within the framework of general rehabilitation and research in the Jewish quarter.
A report by INRAP, the French National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research, reads:
This small (7 by 4 meters), vaulted and partially buried construction contains a groundwater emergence point. The bath would have consisted of a shallow pool. The construction forms and techniques could correspond to the configurations of Medieval mikvaots. The building has since been modified several times. The cellar was used to store bottles, for example (the archaeologists collected more than 600 of them), and anomalies suggest a later, more complex, modification. A diverticulum and the existence of a walled, partially masked, opening suggest architectural alterations that were masked by later transformations. The could be the remains of spaces associated with the mikveh and necessary for its functioning (dressing room, stairway access, etc…).
Also in the town, a stone Ark believed to date from the mid 15th century and unique in France was discovered in the 19th century. It is exhibited in the Tricastin Archaeological Museum.
Though there is evidence of an earlier presence of Jews in Thann, communal life dates from the late 18th century. Today there is a synagogue and Jewish cemetery; and in 2014 a mikveh dating from 1860 was discovered.
Imposing synagogue, with Moorish-style elements, built in 1862 to replace an earlier structure. It was severely damaged in World War II, rebuilt, then devastated again in World War II. It was rebuilt after WW2, then restored in 1975. Efforts are under way for further restoration and repair work.
Aimed at raising funds for the refurbishment
See a video about the synagogue and restoration project: