LYONS, capital of the Rhône department, E. central France. According to a medieval Jewish legend one of the three boats loaded with Jewish captives taken during the siege of Jerusalem docked at Lyons. Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee, was exiled to the city by Caligula in 39 C.E. Lyons seems to have had a Jewish population in both the first and the second centuries. Little more is known about Jews in Lyons until the beginning of the ninth century, however, when there was a large, prosperous, and powerful Jewish community in the city. The Jews owned slaves and also employed Christian laborers in their homes and in their commercial and agricultural enterprises. Relations between Jews and their Christian neighbors appear to have been amicable. Jewish vintners and butchers sold their merchandise to both Jews and Christians. Jews also served as purveyors to the imperial palace. Some Jews were employed in public service, especially as collectors of imposts and taxes. Their religious services also appear to have been attended by Christians, many of whom declared that they preferred the preaching of the Jews to that of the Catholic priests. Such opinions could only have been an extreme irritant to the bishop, *Agobard, who had hoped to convert the local Jews to Christianity. A first attempt around 820, targeting children, involved the use of a measure of force, and encountered determined resistance from parents and the vigorous intervention of the emperor, *Louis the Pious. Louis had to intervene on several other occasions against this troublesome bishop, at times dispatching his special envoys in charge of Jewish affairs, the missi or magister Judaeorum. *Amulo, Agobard's successor, mounted a campaign against the Jews of Lyons, but without success. In the Middle Ages the Jews lived in the Rue Juiverie at the foot of Fourvière hill. When they were expelled in 1250 they were living in the present Rue Ferrachat. For a century Jews only visited Lyons for short periods, but in the second half of the 14th century there was again a Jewish settlement in the city. They paid municipal taxes, and special officials were appointed with jurisdiction over them. As the city was not part of the Kingdom of France, the new community was not affected by the expulsion order of 1394. They were expelled some years later, however, probably in 1420; most of them moved to neighboring Trévoux. Beginning in the 16th century, Jews reappeared in Lyons sporadically as merchants at the fairs and probably also as correctors of Hebrew printing. A group of Jews arrived in Lyons in 1548 (perhaps from Spain and Portugal), but they too were forced to leave. Apparently Joseph *Nasi opened a bank there for some time, but it was closed down by Henri II. A community gradually reestablished itself in the 17th century, consisting mainly of families from Avignon as well as from Comtat Venaissin, Alsace, and Bordeaux. In 1775, the community officially requested permission to open a cemetery. At first they bought space in the vaults of the city hospital. Twenty years later they were able to purchase a cemetery at La Guillotière. Nevertheless, the number of Jews remained insignificant, and there was no synagogue or permanent prayer room.
[Bernhard Blumenkranz /
David Weinberg (2nd ed.)]
The community was attached to the *Consistory of Marseilles in 1808. With the influx of Jews from Alsace and Lorraine, the community grew to number 300 in 1830, and 700 in 1840. The majority lived in very modest circumstances, inhabiting two poor quarters in the Rue Lanterne and Rue de la Barre. From 1838 a prosperous industrialist, Samuel Heyman
[Moshe Catane /
David Weinberg (2nd ed.)]
Holocaust and Postwar Periods
As a result of the Franco-German agreement (June 1940), Lyons became a "free" city. During much of World War II, it served as a refuge for Jewish organizations, particularly the offices of the Central Consistory, as well as philanthropic and Zionist bodies. Information, both official and unofficial, instructions to the Jewish communities in France, protests against anti-Jewish measures, and secret orders of the resistance all emanated from Lyons. Many Jewish leaders were arrested there. Lyons also hosted a center for Jewish studies for refugee intellectuals, to which Léon *Algazi notably contributed, and a reception center for Jewish physicians, on the initiative of *OSE. During the Occupation the city also provided sanctuary for large numbers of Jews. Probably its most important role was that of a major center of the Jewish resistance. Jewish resistance fighters generally operated in total isolation from other resistance organizations, with only occasional support and cooperation from Catholic and Protestant elements. Lyons was also the home of an active Catholic resistance effort, thanks to the pastoral letter which Cardinal Gerlier had read on September 6, 1942, in which he denounced the persecution of Jews. Led by the notorious Klaus *Barbie, local Nazi officials fought ruthlessly against members of the resistance and against Jews. The arrests, torture, and deportations reached a peak in August 1944, when prisoners from the "Jewish quarters" in the Monluc Fort prison were taken to Bron airfield to de-mine the area after the bombardment. After the war the remains of 109 individuals were uncovered.
After the war many Jewish refugees settled permanently in Lyons. Nevertheless, the community of approximately 7,000 was hardly any larger than in 1939. With the city's economic expansion and the influx of immigrants from North Africa in the 1950s and 1960s, the Jewish population had increased to over 20,000 in 1969. In 1961 the community inaugurated one of the first and foremost community centers in France. The various communal religious bodies – consistorial, Sephardi, and Orthodox – generally worked in close cooperation, and a new synagogue was inaugurated in 1966 in La Duchère, a new quarter of the city. A regional consistory was also founded in 1961. In 1987, there were said to be about 25,000 Jews living in Lyons. The community institutions include an ORT vocational school, two religious schools, and numerous kosher butchers and restaurants. There are more than 20 other communities in the vicinity. Two are especially notable. Villeurbanne, with a Jewish population of 1,900, has a synagogue that was built in 1965 with money from the Claims Conference and with the help of Aktion Suehnezeichen ("Repentance Society"), a group of young Germans seeking expiation for Nazi crimes. The community of Saint Fons-Vénissieux was originally founded in the interwar period by Jews from North Africa. Numbering about 1,000, a majority of whom are industrial workers, it maintains a synagogue and community center.
[Georges Levitte /
David Weinberg (2nd ed.)]
A. Lévy, Notice sur les lsraélites de Lyon (1894); idem, in: Univers Israélite, 48–49 (1892/93–1893/94); T. Reinach, in: REJ, 50 (1905), lxxxi–cxi; S. Reinach, ibid., 51 (1906), 245–50; B. Blumenkranz, Juifs et Chrétiens dans le monde occidental (1960), index; A. Coville, Recherches sur l'histoire de Lyon (1928), 538ff.; J. Kling, in: Revue de Psychologie des peuples, 13 (1958), 199ff.; E. Dreyfus and L. Marx, Autour des Juifs de Lyon (1958); F. Delpech, in: Cahiers d'Histoire (1959), 51ff.; H. Amoretti, Lyon… 1940–1944 (1964), 142ff.; Z. Szajkowski, Analytical Franco-Jewish Gazetteer (1966), 252f.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.