If you love heritage, culture and the art of living, there’s no doubt that you’ll fall in love with Strasbourg! Strasbourg is the capital of Alsace located at the border with Germany, the largest city of the Grand East region of Eastern France, and the official seat of the European Parliament.
Today around 16,000 Jews reside in Strasbourg but their history is similar to the rest of France and Europe with several expulsions, accusations, forced-baptisms and deaths. Alsace became part of France in 1648, but Jews still did not have civil rights until after the French Revolution. After the revolution, Jews were able to move into larger cities and Strasbourg’s Jewish population grew from 100 to over 1,000 by the early 1800’s.
The construction of synagogues was no longer banned and around 176 new synagogues were built all over Alsace between 1791 and 1914. Today’s Jewish community in Strasbourg is predominantly Ashkenazi, which differs from other communities in France. The Jews live in the regions around the main synagogue, near Parc des Contades. The current synagogue was built in 1958 to replace the previous synagogue that was destroyed by the Germans during World War II.
There are several Jewish historic and cultural sites to see in Strasbourg including Strasbourg’s Cathedral of Notre Dame, where two statues of women stand to represent both Christianity and Judaism. The Jewish-themed statue has her head bowed and she is blindfolded because she cannot see the truth of Christianity.
Credit: Rama, CC BY-SA 2.0 FR <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/fr/deed.en>, via Wikimedia Commons
The Museum of the Oeuvre Notre Dame contains art from the eleventh through seventeenth centuries and also showcases Jewish tombstones from the twelfth through fourteenth centuries in the museum’s courtyard. These tombstones originally stood at the Place de la Republique cemetery.
The Rue des Juifs (Jew street) is one of the oldests streets in the city (over 1,600 years old) and is the heart of the old Jewish quarter. Along this road one can see the site of the twelfth century synagogue; the Jewish bakery, the Mikvah, the butcher shop, and the Jewish cemetery at the Place de la Republique.