Rendez-Vous with the Jewish Heritage in the South of France
Jewish heritage travel usually starts with the magic and dream-like landscapes of southern France, which are very popular throughout the world. There are few better places to relax and take a vacation.
Although the Côte d’Azur lacks the Jewish historic sites found in other parts of France, there is a strong Jewish presence here. Nice has the area’s largest Jewish population, and sizable communities can be found in Antibes–Juan-les-Pins and Cannes.
Tourist Office 11, place du Général de Gaulle, 06600 Antibes, tel. 04.92.90.53.00,www.antibesjuanlespins.com
30, chemin des Sables, tel. 04.93.61.59.34
Tourist Office Palais des Festivals, Esplanade Georges Pompidou, 06400 Cannes, tel. 04.92.99.84.22,www.cannes.fr
Synagogue and Community Center
Association Culturelle Israélite 20, blvd. d'Alsace, tel. 04.93.38.47.18
Le Tovel 3, rue du Docteur Gérard Monod, tel. 04.93.39.36.25. Meat
Pizza Dick 7 bis, rue de Mimont, tel. 04.92.59.10.82. Dairy
Supermarché La Emouna 37, rue de Mimont, tel. 04.93.68.53.02. Kosher supermarket
Tourist Office 5, promenade des Anglais, 06000 Nice, tel. 08.92.70.74.07, www.nicetourisme.com
Jewish tours would not be complete without visiting some of the best museums there is not only in France but also worldwide. Musée National Message Biblique Marc Chagall This national museum
houses one of the finest and most important collections of Chagall’s works, including stained glass, tapestries, sculptures, sketches and engravings.
Open daily except Monday and some holidays, 10 a.m.– 5 p.m. Avenue du Docteur Menard, tel. 04.93.53.87.20, www.musee-chagall.fr
Grande Synagogue and Association Culturelle Israélite de Nice The stained glass windows are particularly lovely. 7, rue Gustave-Deloye/1, rue Voltaire, tel. 04.93.92.11.38
Comunaute Juive Massorti Maayane Or Conservative congregation. 16, rue Verdi, tel. 04.93.88.25.20
Union Libérale Israélite de France Reform congregation. 24, rue de France, tel. 04.93.82.26.15
Le Danton Snack 13, rue Andrioli, tel. 04.93.44.11.94. Asian
Leviathan 1, avenue Georges Clemenceau, tel. 04.93.87.22.64. Pizza, fish
Lechem Chamaim 22, rue Rossini, tel. 04.93.88.47.01
Supermarché K’gel 18, rue Dante, tel. 04.93.86.33.01. Kosher supermarket
You can visit Provence over and over again and still want to come back. And as if Provence didn’t have enough to offer the visitor, it also contains some of the oldest Jewish sites in the country. This is definitely one of the favorites of people taking Jewish travel in France.
Here Jewish culture has thrived since the early Middle Ages. The Talmud was interpreted with uncommon skill, and Jews from all over Europe sought out Provençal scholars on matters of Jewish law.
When Provence came under Catalonian rule in the 12th century, the literature, science, poetry, and philosophy of the Jews and non-Jews of Catalonia enriched the Jewish culture.
Come and take a driving tour through the ArbaKehilot (four holy communities) - Avignon, Carpentras, Cavaillon and L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. It can be easily completed in a day. The roads are well marked and
Michelin map #245 can be your guide.
The Vaucluse region, known historically as the Comtat Venaissin, has always been a relatively safe haven for Jews. Ceded to the Vatican in 1274, it remained in the Vatican’s hands until 1791, when it reverted to France. Jews in the Comtat spoke a Judeo-Provençal dialect and developed their own liturgy, known as Comtatdin. Under the protection of the Avignon Popes, the Jewish community flourished. Jews were permitted to live in Avignon, Carpentras, Cavaillon, and L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, known at the time as the ArbaKehilot. With the exception of L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, these cities still contain fine vestiges of their old Jewish quarters.
Read about Vestiges of Jewish Life
To receive the free brochure The Road to Jewish Heritage in the South of France, contact the Vaucluse Department Tourist Office, B.P. 147, 84008 Avignon Cedex, tel. 04.90.80.47.00, www.provenceguide.com.
Start your drive in Avignon.
Tourist Office 41, cours Jean-Jaurès, 84000 Avignon, tel. 04.32.74.32.74, www.ot-avignon.fr
The Jewish community in Avignon has roots that go back as the first century after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem (70 AD). However, there are no written records for anything prior to the
12th century. The first Jewish quarter, or carrière, faced the Palais des Papes on Rue de la Vieille Juiverie.
By the early 13th century, the carrière was on Rue Jacob and Place Jerusalem, where the present-day synagogue stands. This tiny area, barely 100 square yards, was home to over 1,000 people. Living outside the carrier was forbidden by law for Jews. Walls surrounded it and three locked gates kept Jews from leaving without permission. Even when permission was granted the Roman Catholic Church collected tolls and life within was subject to many restrictions and regulations.
Built in 1846, the current synagogue replaced one much older that burned down. Place Jerusalem, tel. 04.90.85.21.24
Avignon to Carpentras
From Avignon, head northeast for 25 km to Carpentras. In Avignon, use D225 along the southern bank of the Rhône River to get to D942 (8 km), a straight shot to Carpentras (17 km). At Carpentras, follow signs to the center of town. Street parking is difficult, so use the municipal parking lots.
Tourist Office Place Aristide Briand, 84200 Carpentras, tel. 04.90.63.00.78, www.ville-carpentras.fr
The plain façade conceals a Rococo sanctuary similar to Italian synagogues of the same period. Regulations in force at the time made it illegal for synagogues to have exterior decoration. Built during
1741–1743, the structure contains parts of a 14th-century synagogue that was on the same site. The present building was partially restored in 1930, 1953, and 1959 and it has been designated an historic landmark. Inside, the Bimah, the raised reading platform, is at the opposite end of the room from the AronKodesh, the Holy Ark, the cabinet where the Torah scrolls are kept. This is also characteristic of the same Italianate style. In Orthodox Judaism women are not permitted to pray in the same room as men.
Here and in most synagogues of that era this separation was effected with a balcony or mezzanine that you see today. But here in the 18th century, women sat in the basement where a small window allowed them to hear the chants and prayers. In addition there was an official known as the rabbi of women. The basement also contains remnants of a matzo oven and mikvah, a ritual bath. Place Maurice Charretier, tel. 04.90.63.39.97.
The medieval Jewish cemetery was destroyed in 1322, and the grave markers were used to build the town’s ramparts. The present-day cemetery was established in 1367, but as papal edict forbade tombstones in Jewish cemeteries, the earliest stones are from the 18th century. Arrange visits through the synagogue.
Carpentras to Cavaillon
Turn south on D938 for the 31-kilometer trip via L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue to Cavaillon. Cavaillon, noted for its wonderful melons, is typical of small towns in Provence—sleepy and colorful. Walk around, drink in the atmosphere and stay for awhile. Chances are you’ll get used to it and won’t want to leave.
Tourist Office Place François-Tourel, 843000 Cavaillon, tel. 04.90.71.32.01, www.cavaillon-luberon.com
The old Jewish quarter is on Rue Hébraïque, just off the main street and behind the tourism office.
Above a passageway between Rue Hébraïque and Rue Chabran, the restored synagogue overlooks the old carrière. Smaller than the one in Carpentras, but no less elaborate, the synagogue, now a national historic monument, is no longer in use.
Musée Judéo-Comtadin The museum in the synagogue’s basement (at street level), but separate from the synagogue, once housed a matzo bakery. Today, displays depict the community’s history and contain Torah scrolls, ritual objects, and historical documents. Though small, the exhibit is a fascinating look at French Jewish life in the town and in the region. 6, rue de Chabran, tel. 04.90.76.00.34
You’ll want to continue your drive into the Bouches-du-Rhône and Alpilles for visits to St-Rémy-de-Provence and Arles. From Cavaillon, turn southwest D99 for the easy trip to St-Rémy-de-Provence (19 km).
Tourist Office Place Jean-Jaurès, 13210 St-Remy-de-Provence, tel. 04.90.92.05.22, www.saintremy-de-provence.com
The Jewish cemetery dates back to the Middle Ages, with tombstones from before 1400. Open once a year, during the Journées du Patrimoine (Heritage Days), usually the first or second weekend in September, when there are guided visits. Located next to the Plateau des Antiques.
From St-Rémy-de-Provence, take D5 south to Maussane-les-Alpilles (11 km) and turn right on D117 straight to Arles (19 km).
Tourist Office Boul. des Lices, 13200 Arles, tel. 04.90.18.41.20, www.tourisme.ville-arles.fr
During the Middle Ages, the Jewish community lived along Rue de la Juiverie, now called Rue du Docteur Fanton. In 1495 all Jews were expelled from the region, the Jewish quarter was destroyed, and the district was incorporated into the city.
The Musée Arlatan contains Jewish ritual and historical objects from Provence. Open daily (except Monday in October through June), 9:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m.–6 p.m. 29, rue de la Republique, tel. 04.90.93.58.11
Tourist Office 4, La Canebière, 13001 Marseille, tel. 04.91.13.89.00, www.Marseille-tourisme.com
France’s second largest Jewish community lives in France’s second largest city, Marseille, which Jews have called home since the sixth century, when an already existing community provided refuge to Jews fleeing forced conversions in Clermont-Ferrand. The Jews of Marseille were scholars, merchants, laborers, coral craftsmen, and brokers. Benjamin of Tudela, the 12th-century traveler who chronicled the Jewish world of the time, provides a description of scholars, philosophers, and psalmists who lived among the Marseille Jews. The present community dates back to 1760.
Grande Synagogue Breteuil: Not far from Marseille’s Old Port is the Grande Synagogue. Constructed in 1864, it also contains the offices of the Consistoire de Marseille and other Jewish religious organizations. The interior is typical of French synagogues constructed in the early and mid-19th century following Jewish emancipation. 117, rue de Breteuil, tel. 04.91.37.49.64
Union Libérale Israélite de France 21, rue Martiny, tel. 04.91.71.97.46
Centre Communautaire Edmond Fleg 4, impasse Dragon, Tel. 04.91.37.42.01
Davi's Café 7, rue Rouget de l'Isle, tel. 04.91.54.85.64. Meat
Emma Lisa 1, avenue St-Jean, tel. 04.91.90.77.72. Meat
Erets 205, rue de Rome, tel. 04.91.92.88.73. Meat
L'Avant-Scène 35, rue St-Suffren, tel. 04.91.81.13.68. Dairy
Pizz’Atikva 43, ave. des Chartreux, tel. 04.91.50.40.30. Pizza
Le Sheraton 17, rue de Village, tel. 04.96.12.40.38. Meat
Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France 4, impasse Dragon, tel. 04.91.57.03.35, www.crif-marseilleprovence.com
Institut Méditerranéen Mémoires et Archives du Judaïsme www.immaj.org
Tourist Office Place Bellecour, 2nd arr., 69000 Lyon, tel. 04.72.77.69.69, www.lyon-france.com
The Franco-German agreement signed in June 1940 made Lyon what was known as a free city. As a result, all Jewish life in France became centralized here and the city was able to provide safe refuge to a number of Jews. It was also the center of the Jewish resistance in France.
Rue Juiverie is just behind the Church of St-Paul and is a remnant of an old Jewish quarter that once contained a synagogue, cemetery, and other community institutions. Today, nothing but the street name remains.
Grande Synagogue and Consistoire de Lyon: Built in 1864, and located on the left bank of the Saône River, facing the Eglise de St-Georges, the synagogue has been designated an official historic monument. 13, quai Tilsitt, 2nd arr., tel. 04.78.37.13.43
Another nearby synagogue was built in 1919. 47, rue Montesquieu
Museums and Monuments
Centre d'Histoire de la Résistance et de la Déportation Open Wednesday to Sunday, 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m. 14 avenue Berthelot, 7th arr., tel. 04.72.73.33.54
Monument to Victims of Nazi Barbarism Place Bellecour, 2nd arr. Mémorial Musée des Enfants Juifs d'Izieu About 45 miles east of Lyons is the village of Izieu. On April 6, 1944, Klaus Barbie's henchmen arrested 44 children and 7 adults who were in hiding. Most were sent to the gas chambers in Auschwitz. Two teenagers and the director of the house were shot in Estonia. Of the 51 Jews only one woman survived. Open daily, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Tel. 04.79.87.21.05, www.izieu.alma.fr
Henry Lippmann 4, rue Tony Tollet, tel. 04.78.42.49.82. Meat
Jo Délice 44, Rue Rachais, tel. 04.78.69.22.98. Pastries
Le Fortuna 68, rue de la Charité, tel. 04.78.92.91.17. Meat
La Petite Maison 35, rue Pierre Corneille, tel. 04.78.24.99.43. Meat
Decitre 29, place Bellecour, tel. 04.26.68.00.04