BIEL (Bienne), town in the Swiss canton of Berne. Citizenship (Buergerrecht) was granted to several Jewish families in 1305, although Jews probably settled in Biel earlier. They were allowed to trade freely and engage in moneylending, until their expulsion from the city, the date of which is unknown. Communal life revived after 1848, when several Jewish families from
settled in Biel. A Moorish-style synagogue was built in 1883. Between 1916 and 1945 the Orthodox Chaim Lauer was its rabbi. For some years there was a separate East European minyan. The number of members of the Biel Jewish community dwindled from 1945. This problem was met by a closer cooperation with the community of
and by state recognition for both communities in the 1990s along with the right to levy taxes by the state.
A. Welder-Steinberg, Geschichte der Juden in der Schweiz, 1 (1966), 68; Schweizerischer Israelitischer Gemeindebund, Festschrift 1904–1954 (1954), 313. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: E. Dreifuss, Juden in Bern. Ein Gang durch die Jahrhunderte (1983).
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