This storybook religious heritage region in Eastern France with its hills, rolling fields, forests, vineyards, and towns with timbered buildings possesses a long and rich Jewish culture tour and history. There is no other place for religious heritage tours in France where visitors can see many of 18th- and 19th-century spiritual synagogues in France. Nor is there anywhere else in France, containing a Jewish community with such a long rural history.
Between 1791, just after emancipation, and the eve of the first World War in 1914, over 176 synagogues were built in the religious tours in France travel region of Alsace – nearly every town and village had one. Even though many of these synagogue buildings are acccessible today, most spiritual heritage buildings in France are closed or are no longer used as religious centers.
In their manners and customs, the Jews of Alsace are similar to Jews from Eastern and Central Europe. But there are a number of local characteristics that you will not find elsewhere. Some Alsatian synagogues still use the liturgy known as Minhag Elzos (Alsace tradition), and you may also be able to hear Judeo-Alsatian spoken. It is a German dialect, and is very much like Yiddish.
Tourist Office 17, place de la Cathédrale, 67082 Strasbourg Cedex, tel. 03.88.52.28.28.
The Jewish community of Strasbourg, which made a comeback from the devastation of occupation during World War II, retains its predominantly Alsatian spiritual heritage character. Many of the old French city’s 17,000 Jews can be found living in the area around the main synagogue— a charming and fashionable neighborhood near the Parc des Contades.
The Synagogue de la Paix, 1a, rue du Grand-Rabbin-René-Hirschler, tel. 03.88.14.46.50, was built in 1958 to replace the religious heritage synagogue in France that was destroyed by the Nazis. The impressive interior contains a circular sanctuary nestled beneath a Star of David. Ashkenazi services are held in the Synagogue de la Paix, while those in the Sephardic tradition are held in the Synagogue Rambam, at the same address.
Musée de l’Oeuvre Notre-Dame, www.musees-strasbourg.org is adjacent to the Cathedral. The exhibits chronicle the development of arts in Strasbourg and the Upper Rhine from the 11th through 17th centuries. In the courtyard you will find Jewish tombstones from the 12th through 14th centuries. 3, Place du Château, tel. 03.88.52.50.00,
Musée Alsacien, www.musees-strasbourg.org , across the Ille river contains a permanent exhibit of Alsatian Jewish ritual objects and a model shtiebel (prayer room).
23-25, Quai St-Nicholas, tel. 03.88.52.50.01,
Old Jewish Quarter
Strasbourg’s old Jewish religious heritage quarter in France is on Rue des Juifs, one of the oldest street in France. It contains the site of a 12th century synagogue (at number 30), the site of a Jewish bakery (number 17). Number 15, constructed in 1290, is the only remaining building from this period that was inhabited by Jews. Around the corner at 20, rue des Charpentiers is a 13th century mikvah (ritual bath). Because of its age and fragility, the mikvah is open infrequently and only for religious group tours in France. Reservations can be made at the heritage France travel tourism office.
Autre Part 60, blvd. Clemenceau, tel. 03.88.37.10.02. Dairy
King 28, rue Sellénick, tel. 03.88.52.17.71. Meat
Librairie du Cédrat 19, rue du Maréchal Foch, tel. 03.88.36.38.39
Librairie du Cédrat 15, rue de Bitche, tel. 03.88.37.32.37
Driving through the countryside from town is a fun and relaxing way to see this region and admire the historical Jewish sites. Roads are well marked and, with a good map - such as Michelin #242—visiting the region in two or three days is comfortable.
From Strasbourg, head north on Route de Bischwiller/D468 to Bischheim (4 kilometers).
Bischheim Once a village and now a Strasbourg suburb, Jews began settling here after they were expelled from Colmar in 1512. An important community established itself and remained one of the most significant Jewish communities in France up until the French Revolution.
Bischheim was the home of David Sintzheim (1745-1812), one of France's first chief rabbis. Here you can see a mikvah (ritual bath) that was used during that time, and the upper room contains depiction of Jewish life in Bischhein. Call the museum to arrange visits Cour des Boecklin, 17, rue Nationale, tel. 03.88.81.49.47.
From Bischheim, continue north on D468 to D37 (1km). Follow D37 north to D48 at Kurtzenhouse (16km). Turn left on D48 to Haguenau (9km).
Tourist Office Place de la Gare, 67500 Haguenau, tel. 03.88.93.70.00.
Haguenau’s Jewish community, which dates to the 13th century, is one of the oldest commune in Alsace.
The historic synagogue was built in 1821, and like most in the region, was damaged by the Nazis during World War II and later restored. 3, rue du Grand-Rabbin-Joseph-Bloch.
The cemetery was established in the 16th century, but the oldest tombstone is from 1654. Rue de l’Ivraie; information is available at the tourist office.
The Musée Historique , www.ville-haguenau.fr/?id=13 , contains a vast collection of Jewish objects. 9, rue du Maréchal Foch, tel. 03.88.93.79.22
From Haguenau, take D919 west to Pfaffenhoffen (14 km).
Tourist Office du Pays de Hanau 68, rue Général Goureau, 67340 Ingwiller, tel. 03.88.89.23.45. www.tourisme.pays-de-hanau.com
This non-functioning synagogue, now a national monument, was built in 1791. A synagogue this old is rare in Alsace. Restoration was begun in the late 1990's with a grant from the World Monuments Fund. In addition to the matzo oven, a mikvah, and Ark of the Covenant, permanent and temporary exhibits trace the history of the Jewish community.
From Pfaffenhoffen, continue on D919 to D324 (5 km). Bear left on D324/D24 to Bouxwiller (7 km).
The Musée Judéo-Alsacien, http://judaisme.sdv.fr/today/muse , lies within a building that was once a typical small-town synagogue. Permanent and temporary exhibits detail rural Jewish life in Alsace through the centuries, including how holidays, weddings, and rituals were celebrated. 62 a Grand’ rue, tel. 03.88.70.97.17
From Bouxwiller, head southwest on D6 to N404 (12 km). Turn south on N404 to N4 (5 km). Continue south on N4 to Marmoutier (3 km).
Tourist Office 1 rue du Général Leclerc, 67441 Marmoutier. tel. 03.88.71.46.84. http://www.paysdemarmoutier.com/
The Musée d’Arts et Traditions Populaires de Marmoutier is housed in a 16th-century, half-timbered building and includes a collection of Jewish objects from rural Alsace, a 16th-century mikvah, and a hidden room used as a synagogue at a time when they were illegal in Alsace. http://judaisme.sdv.fr/synagog/basrhin/g-p/marmout/musee.htm Contact the tourist office for group visits during the week.
6, rue du Général Leclerc, tel : 03.88.71.46.84
From Marmoutier, continue south on N4 to Wasselonne (8 km).
Tourist Office 22, place du Général Leclerc, 67310 Wasselonne. tel. 03.88.59.12.00.
Ets René Neymann Visits by appointment.
46, rue du 23 novembre, tel. 03.88.87.03.57, www.neymann.com
From Wasselonne, continue south on N4 to D422 (3 km). Turn right on D422 to Obernai (22 km).
Tourist Office Place du Beffroi, 67210 Obernai, tel. 03.88.95.64.13.
A pleasant walk around this quaint old town—to take in the juxtaposition of German architecture with the French language—reveals how the forces of history have played such a pivotal role in the region.
The neo-Romanesque synagogue was dedicated in 1876 and rededicated in 1948. For visits, contact the tourism office.
From Obernai, head west on D426 to Ottrott (4 km). Continue west on Route de Klingenthal and then Route du Mont Ste-Odile to D214 (4 km). Bear right on D214 to D130 (9 km). Turn right on D130 to Le Struthof (8.5 km).
From May 1941 until August 1944, le Struthof was used as a forced-labor camp mainly for political prisoners. More than 25,000 inmates were held here and made to work in large quarries nearby. Many thousands were executed on the orders of Josef Kramer (known as the Beast of Belsen), including some Jewish prisoners upon whom experiments involving infectious diseases were performed. The camp was liberated on November 23, 1944. A cemetery, barracks, the front gate, and some isolated buildings are all that remain, along with a Memorial to the Deported dedicated by President Charles de Gaulle in 1960.http://judaisme.sdv.fr/histoire/shh/struthof.htm
For more information contact the Direction Interdépartementale des Anciens Combattants et Victimes de Guerre, Service de Strasbourg. Cité Administrative, 67084 Strasbourg.
Return to Obernai. Head south on D422 to Goxwiller (4 km).
Visit Christophe Koenig Winery to learn how kosher wine is made. Free tours, but there is a charge for tasting. Book in advance. 35, rue Principale. tel. 03.88.95.51.93
From Goxwiller, continue south on N422 to N83 (15 km). Turn right (south) on N83 to D4 (20 km). Turn right on D4 to Sigolsheim (6 km).
La Cave de Sigolsheim Kosher Alsatian wines available for tasting and purchase.
Advance booking required for groups. 11, rue St-Jacques. tel. 03.89.78.10.10, www.vinsigolsheim.com
Return to N83 (6 km) and turn right (south) to Colmar (5 km).
Tourist Office 4, rue des Unterlinden, 68000 Colmar, tel. 03.89.20.68.92. www.ot-colmar.fr
Part of Germany until 1681, Colmar had a Jewish community that probably dates to the mid-13th century. The medieval community, which owned a synagogue, mikvah, and a cemetery, settled between the present Rue Chauffour and Rue Berthe-Molly (then called Rue des Juifs).
Consistoire Israélite du Haut-Rhin Originally built in 1840, this neo-Romanesque synagogue typical of France during the period, was destroyed by the Nazis during World War II and then restored by the local community in 1959. 3, rue de la Cigogne, tel. 03.89.41.38.29
Within the Musée Bartholdi, the Katz Room contains a fine collection of Jewish ritual objects and synagogue furnishings. The museum is located in the house of Auguste Bartholdi, the sculptor of the Statue of Liberty. 30, rue des Marchands, tel. 03.89.41.90.60. www.musee-bartholdi.com/
From Colmar, turn south on N83 to Soultz-Haut-Rhin (28 km).
Tourist Office 14, place de la République, 68360 Soultz, tel. 03.89.76.83.60, www.florival.net
The Musée du Bucheneck includes a collection of Jewish objects from rural Alsace in the Moïse Ginsburger Room. Rue Kagenack, tel. 03.89.76.02.22