The Jewish community of France is the third largest in the world with over 500,000 citizens. The team at European Jewish Heritage Tours prides itself on showing explaining the rich cultural and religious heritage of French Jews through the country’s cities and regions, synagogues and monuments, artists and public figures all of which reveal how Jewish life has developed in France since the Middle Ages.
For centuries France has been an important center of European Jewish life and scholarship; the cities of Paris, Troyes, Avignon, Colmar, and Narbonne were known throughout the Christian and Jewish worlds for their rabbis and interpreters of the Torah and the Talmud. In the company of European Jewish Heritage Tours, you will discover the places where these luminaries made their mark, and walk in the footsteps of such renowned figures in the arts and industry, including Sarah Bernhardt, Jacques Offenbach, Marcel Proust, Marc Chagall, Camille Pissarro, André Citroën, James de Rothschild, and Amadeo Modigliani. You will also learn about the celebrated Jewish families who financed the reconstruction of Paris in the 19th century and who played a significant role in the Industrial Revolution and in social legislation such as paid vacations and the 40-hour work week.
Today, France’s President has clearly stated that he is “a friend of Israel” and has encouraged Holocaust studies in the French public school system. In addition, the French government is actively working to secure synagogues and other Jewish sites, and is working to establish other educational programs to combat anti-Semitism. These are just some of the multiple signs that Jewish citizens and their interests are being given new consideration and respect in France today.
One of history’s greatest Torah and Talmud commentators, Rabbi Solomon ben Isaac, known by the acronym Rashi (1040-1105), was born, lived, and taught here. During the First Crusade, Rashi was forced to flee anti-Jewish riots. He returned to Worms, Germany, where he had first studied. He remained there until his death.
Rashi’s grandson, the noted Jewish scholar known as Rabbenu Tam (1100-1171) also taught in Troyes and attracted students from all over Europe. Historians believe that the St-Frobert quarter was the Jewish quarter. Nothing remains of the medieval Jewish community that, although very small in size, made a huge contribution to Judaism
This tour, which includes many of the timbered houses of Medieval Troyes, also includes the Synagogue of Troyes, located in an historic section of town, a replica of one from Rashi’s time. Begun in 1982, it was dedicated in 1987. This year, you will also discover a special exhibit on Rashi’s era at the European Institute dedicated to the studies of the celebrated Jewish sage. (Group tours can be arranged through European Jewish Heritage Tours). A day out to Troyes can be combined with a kosher champagne wine tasting near Reims.