Jews may have lived in what is now Switzerland in ancient Roman times. There were a number of well established Jewish communities by the Middle Ages, but Jews suffered intense persecution and were expelled from Swiss territory in the 15th century. Some Jews were allowed to return but until the latter part of the 19th century were only permitted to establish permanent communities in two neighboring villages, Endingen and Lengnau, site of the two synagogues and oldest existing Jewish cemetery in the country. Jews obtained full civil rights in 1874 and established communities in about 20 localities, in some of them building impressive synagogues. Today about 17,000 Jews live in Switzerland.
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