NÎMES


NÎMES, capital of Gard department, S. France. Although a number of Jews took part in the revolt led by Hilderic, governor of Nîmes, against the Visigothic king Wamba in 673, there is no direct evidence that Jews were then living in the town itself. However, a community was established during the second half of the tenth century at the latest, and from 1009 there is documentary evidence of the existence of a synagogue. From the middle of the 11th century, the name Poium Judaicum was used to designate one of the seven hills enclosed within the wall of Nîmes (later Puech Juzieu, etc.; in 1970 the promenade of Mont-Duplan); the Jewish cemetery was situated there. Toward the close of the 11th century, an entire quarter of the town was known as Burgus Judaicus (later Bourg-Jézieu). At the beginning of the 13th century, the community appears to have consisted of about 100 families. Although a church synod held in Nîmes in about 1284 decreed severe measures against the Jews, the bishop of Nîmes, who had authority over the Jews of the town, was nevertheless able to protect them, even from King *Philip IV the Fair who had ordered the imprisonment of several Jews. But the bishop could not prevail against the royal expulsion order of 1306 which, in Nîmes as elsewhere, was accompanied by the confiscation of all their belongings. When the Jews returned to France in 1359, the Nîmes municipal council allocated them the Rue de Corrégerie Vieille (the modern Rue de l'Etoile). After being harassed by the Christians there, they obtained a new quarter in the Rue Caguensol (part of the Rue Guizot) and the Rue de la Jésutarie or Juiverie (Rue Fresque). Shortly afterward they moved yet again, to the Garrigues quarter. There the 1367 census recorded the only three houses in the town (out of a total of 1,400) that were owned by Jews. This community ceased to exist in 1394, after the general expulsion of the Jews from France.

In a letter to *Abraham b. David of Posquières – who lived in Nîmes long enough to be sometimes named after that town–Moses b. Judah of Béziers stressed the superiority of the yeshivah of Nîmes over all the others in southern France, comparing it to "the interior of the Temple, the seat of the Sanhedrin, from where knowledge goes forth to Israel." Other than Abraham b. David, the only scholar of the town who is known is his uncle, Judah b. Abraham. The municipal library of Nîmes possesses a rich collection of medieval Hebrew manuscripts, several of French origin, in the French provinces; all these volumes were obtained from the Carthusians of Villeneuve-lès-Avignon.

From the 17th century, some Jews of *Comtat Venaissin went to trade in Nîmes and a few of them attempted to settle there; the parlement of *Toulouse ordered them to leave in 1653 and again in 1679. From the end of the 17th century, the Jews obtained the right to buy and sell in Nîmes for three weeks or a month in every season. Even though this concession was abolished in 1745 and 1754, some Jews succeeded in settling in the town during the second half of the 18th century. The community of 30–40 families appointed a rabbi, Elie Espir from *Carpentras, and set up a small synagogue in a private house. After a split in the community in 1794, a new synagogue (which has been in use ever since) was built in the Rue Roussy, completed in 1796. During the Reign of Terror, three Jews of Nîmes were imprisoned; one of them was subsequently executed. In 1808, when the *consistories were established, the community was affiliated to the consistory of *Marseilles, and there were then 371 Jews in the town, with the surprising number of eight rabbis. Among the rabbis of Nîmes was Solomon Kahn (1854–1931), historian of the Jews of southern France. Other notable personalities who originated from there include Adolph *Crémieux and Bernard *Lazare. From the close of the 19th century, the community diminished steadily in number. Although 40 families were recorded in 1941, some of these were refugees from the interior of France. In 1970 the community of 1,200 persons, mainly of North African origin, possessed a synagogue and a community center.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Gross, Gal Jud, 395–9; J. Simon, in: REJ, 3 (1881), 225–37; idem, in: Nemausa, 2 (1884/85), 97–124; S. Kahn, Notice sur les Israélites de Nîmes (1901); idem, in: REJ, 67 (1914), 225–61; J. Vieilleville, Nîmes… (1941); H. Noël, in: Revue du Midi, 11 (1897), 182–91; B. Blumenkranz, Juifs et chrétiens… (1960), index; Z. Szajkowski, Analytical Franco-Jewish Gazetteer (1966), 190.

[Bernhard Blumenkranz]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.