GENEVA, capital of Geneva canton, Switzerland. Jews apparently first settled there after their expulsion from France
As the seat of the *League of Nations, Geneva was also the seat of the Comité pour la Protection des Droits des Minorités Juives, headed by Leo *Motzkin, and of the Agence Permanente de l'Organisation Sioniste auprès de la Société des Nations, represented by Victor *Jacobson and, after his death, by Nahum *Goldmann. The *World Jewish Congress was founded in Geneva in 1936, and the last Zionist Congress before World War II took place there in August 1939. During World War II, the city served as an important center for information about the fate of Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe. After the war, although the headquarters of the United Nations were established in New York, Geneva preserved its international importance as seat of the European office of the United Nations and of many UN and other international agencies. Consequently, many Jewish organizations, including the *Jewish Agency, the World Jewish Congress, the *American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and *ORT, established their European headquarters there. The government of Israel maintains a permanent delegation to the European office of the United Nations, headed by an ambassador. The Jewish community of Geneva numbered 2,245 in 1945, and 3,000 in 2004; 4,356 persons declared themselves to be Jewish in 2000. After World War II a number of East European Jews settled in Geneva, and later Jews from North Africa and the Middle East also settled there. The community, which consists of separate Ashkenazi and Sephardi congregations, has two synagogues (the Sephardi Hekhal ha-Ness was built in 1972), a mikveh, and a community center (Bâtiment de la Communauté, opened in 1951) with a library. From 1948 Alexandre *Safran, former chief rabbi of Romania, served as chief rabbi of the Geneva Jewish community. After 1980 a Jewish day school was founded. In 1970 a liberal community came into being, "Groupe Israelite Liberal" (= GIL) which in 2005 has some 1,000 members. There is also a Chabad group and Machsike ha-Dass, a version of Hungarian Orthodoxy.
In Geneva there is a strict separation between religion and state following the French model of 1905. Even confessional cemeteries are forbidden, so that the Jewish community erected a new one on French soil, the mere entrance being on the territory of Geneva. The university has a small Centre des Ètudes Juives. There is a private lecturership for Jewish philosophy, first filled by A. Safran and then by his daughter, Esther Starobinsky-Safran.
[Chaim Yahil /
Uri Kaufmann (2nd ed.)]
From the 16th to the 19th centuries, non-Jewish printers issued a considerable number of Hebrew books in Geneva, mostly Bibles or individual books of the Bible with the Greek or Latin versions, or Hebrew grammars, primers, and dictionaries using Hebrew type. Thus Robert Estienne printed a Hebrew Bible with Latin translation in 1556, and a year later a Hebrew-Chaldee-Greek lexicon. Calvin's commentaries on Daniel (1561) and Psalms (1564) were printed in Geneva with the Hebrew text. J.H. Otho's Lexicon rabbinico-philologicum… of 1675 included the Mishnah tractate Shekalim in the original with a Latin translation. The 18-volume duodecimo edition of the Hebrew Bible (1617–20) is usually ascribed to Geneva, and so is the volume of Proverbs, with interlinear Latin translation of 1616 by the same printer (אילן כאפא). The possibility that the Hebrew transcription גנווא should be read as Genoa cannot be excluded.
E. Ginsburger, in: REJ, 75 (1922), 119–39; 76 (1923), 7–36, 146–70; A. Nordmann, Histoire des Juifs à Genève de
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