A Jewish community was mentioned here for the first time as early as 1215. The synagogue was built in 1876 and was financed by the 205 members of the Jewish community of that time. Among the many historical remains of Obernai three sites show the presence of an ancient and important Jewish community that still exists today.
The oldest remains can be found in the ruelle des Juifs, on the upright of a semi-circular sandstone portal, Hebrew letters are engraved, uneasy to decipher. This is probably the entrance to the first medieval synagogue, the one mentioned in 1454.
At 43 rue du Général Gouraud, in a courtyard located behind the portal, several elements remind us of the presence of a place of worship:
A keystone of an arcade bears the Hebrew date of 5456 and the corresponding date of the Christian era, 1696. The synagogue was built on the first floor, two years after Intendant La Grange authorized Jews to own houses. Under the entrance porch a corner sideboard shows the two blessing hands of Aaron, and the inscription: “the Master, Rabbi Samson, the Cohen”. In the doorframe in the back an oblique notch shows the place of the mezuzah.
Along the walls and in the stairwell to the right, protected by a glass roof, one can see elements of the old synagogue, built thanks to the generosity of Jacob Baruch Weyl in 1771. These are the remains of the holy ark (aron hakodesh), which contained the Torah scrolls, and of the reading gallery (almemor) where the rabbis officiated and where the Bima or table for placing the Torah scrolls was located. This is a rare example of rococo decoration in an Alsatian synagogue and act as a compensation for the sobriety of the exterior of the building. One can also discern the traces of three hammered lilies, reminding us that Louis XIV protected the Jews of Alsace.
The present synagogue is a neo-Romanesque building built according to the plans of the architect Brion, inaugurated in 1876 and re-inaugurated in 1948. The tympanum of the entrance portal bears the Star of David with French and Hebrew inscriptions. Two sculpted capitals on either side of the door are the rare elements of exterior decoration.
Images attribution: © Ralph Hammann – Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0