COMTAT VENAISSIN, former papal territory in S.E. France, corresponding approximately to the present department of Vaucluse. Ceded in 1274 to the Holy See, to whom it belonged until the reunion with France in 1791, it became a distinct territory along with the town of *Avignon (though the later remained independent in local administration). Apart from Avignon, Jews do not seem to have settled in the Comtat earlier than the 12th century. The major Jewish communities, known as the "four holy communities," were those of Avignon, *Carpentras, *Cavaillon, and *L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. There were, however, smaller communities of a more ephemeral nature in Caromb, Entraigues-sur-la-Sorgue, Malaucène, Monteux, Mormoiron, Mornas, Pernes-les-Fontaines, and Vaison-la-Romaine. The Comtat became a haven of refuge for the Jews of the two provinces of Languedoc and Provence after various expulsions – in 1306, 1322, and 1394, and later around 1500. The Jews of the Comtat spoke a *Judeo-Provençal dialect, which they also employed in some semi-liturgic poetry, and had their own synagogue rite, now fallen into disuse (see *Liturgy). The reconstituted communities of the region, e.g., at Carpentras, were formed in the mid-20th century, mainly by Jews of North African origin.
Gross, Gal Jud, 202; A. Mosse, Histoire des Juifs d'Avignon et du Comtat Venaissin (1934); L. Bardinet, in: Revue Historique, 12 (1880), 1–47; 14 (1880), 1–60; idem, in: rej, 1 (1880), 262–92; 6 (1883), 1–40; 7 (1883), 139–46; E. Sabatier, in: Famille de Jacob, 17 (1876), 348ff.; 18 (1876), 367ff.; R. Boyer, in: Evidences, 8 (1956), 27ff.; C. Roth, in: Journal of Jewish Bibliography, 1 (1939), 99–105; Z. Szajkowski, Franco-Judaica (1962), index.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.