PROVENCE (Heb. פרוונצא), region and former province of S.E. France corresponding to the present departments of Bouches-du-Rhône, Var, Basses-Alpes, and parts of Vaucluse and Drôme. In rabbinical literature the name of Provence is frequently applied simultaneously to a part of Languedoc, a practice also adopted by some modern scholars which has given rise to numerous confusions. *Comtat Venaissin and
the county of *Nice were detached from Provence from the administrative point of view at an early date and are therefore mainly excluded from this survey. Recent archaeological discoveries prove that the settlement of Jews in Provence is of ancient date and goes back to at least the end of the first century C.E. The earliest documentary evidence for the presence of Jews dates from the middle of the fifth century in *Arles. They were to be found in large numbers in *Marseilles at the close of the sixth century. It was not until the 13th and especially the 14th century that Jews were to be found in numerous localities of Provence, between 80 and 100, more particularly in *Aix-en-Provence, *Apt, Aubagne, Berre, Cadenet, Castellane, Chateaurenard, Cotignac, *Digne, *Draguignan, Forcalquiers, Fréjus, Grasse, *Hyères, Istres, Lambesc, *Manosque, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, Pertuis, Peyrolles-en-Provence, Saint Maximin, *Saint-Rémy, Salon, *Tarascon, *Toulon, and Trets. The Jewish population reached a peak on the eve of 1348, when it probably numbered about 15,000.
Regulations governing the activity and administration of the communities in Provence are known from 1215 on, as evidenced from the community of Arles. Later the first sumptuary regulations appear in Provence, as well as charitable confraternities and the introduction of compulsory education. From at least the end of the 13th century an inter-community organization existed, though imposed by the government to facilitate the collection of the tax rendered by Jews to the sovereign of Provence. From the beginning of the 15th century, a special official, the "Conservateur des Juifs," was responsible for their protection and adjudication; the office was coveted by the leading families of Provence, because of the considerable revenue it brought in.
The principal occupation of the Jews in Provence was *moneylending; the rate of interest charged was very low for that period, from 10 to 25%. However they only lent small sums destined for expenses and did not possess the capital required for commercial loans on a large scale; the latter was furnished by Christians of Provence and Languedoc, Italians, and Catalans. Hence, not a single Jew is found among the creditors of King René of Provence (1434–80) although members of the Forbin family of Provence and of the Doria family of Genoa are frequently recorded. Jewish participation in commerce was also dependent on this factor. Jews did not have the capital required to engage in large business upon their own initiative but often acted as brokers. They were therefore involved in most transactions of wheat and wine. They also traded in spices and textiles and the sale or lease of houses. The number of Jewish physicians in Provence was particularly great and in some towns they formed 5% of the Jewish working population; this would have amounted to one physician for every 100 persons if their services had been restricted to the Jewish community, but they also treated Christians, often holding the official function of municipal physician, and were
From having been subject to the direct authority of local lords, particularly the bishops, the Jews were placed under the jurisdiction of the count from the time of Charles of Anjou's suzerainty (1246–85). In 1276 he limited the jurisdiction over the Jews which had been assumed by the Inquisition. In contrast, his successor Charles II (1285–1309) issued a regulation in 1294 which reintroduced several anti-Jewish measures of ecclesiastical origin: the employment of Christians by Jews was forbidden; the Jews were barred from public functions; they were compelled to wear the distinctive *badge. At the time of the expulsion of the Jews from France in 1306, those of Provence were exposed to vexations of a fiscal nature. In 1310 King Robert (1309–45) ordered his officers to assist the Jews to collect the debts which were due them. He refused to consider a request of several ecclesiastics to expel the Jews, but stringently applied the separationist measures which had been issued against them. Jewish quarters had developed in various towns spontaneously, but from 1341 at the latest, Jewish residence was confined to a separate quarter in the towns of Provence. The first anti-Jewish disturbances on a large scale broke out in Provence in 1331. In 1340 other disturbances occurred in Moustiers and Forcalquiers. The severest anti-Jewish riots of the 14th century took place in 1348, at the time of the *Black Death; in Toulon, the community was almost completely annihilated; there were also attacks in Apt and throughout Provence. The loss of life and property suffered by the Jews was so considerable that Queen Jeanne (1343–82) reduced the tax of the Jews of Provence to one-half of its usual rate for ten years. Before the end of this reprieve, new persecutions broke out in several towns in 1355.
The 15th century on the whole was an extremely favorable period for the Jews of Provence. In an edict of 1423, Queen Yolande extended protection to the Jews from arbitrary arrest if there were no reliable witnesses; every accuser of a Jew was required to identify himself by name and provide a surety; a Jew was not to be imprisoned if he could provide bail, unless for crime liable to corporal punishment. King René was known as "the good king," a sobriquet which applied to his treatment of the Jews as well. In 1443 he renewed the edicts of Queen Yolande which had been so favorable to the Jews. In 1454 he authorized the admission of Jews to every category of commerce, trade, and craft, as well as to certain public functions of a fiscal nature. He reduced the size of the Jewish badge and exempted the Jews from wearing it while traveling. He expressed his opposition to instances of forced baptism and even penalized those who had perpetrated such acts.
In 1481, after the death of René, Provence became united with the Kingdom of France, from which the Jews had been "definitively" expelled in 1394. The privileges of the Jews of Provence were nevertheless renewed in 1482. However, from 1484, anti-Jewish disturbances broke out in Arles, Aix, and Marseilles. This looting and violence was perpetrated by bands of laborers hired for the harvest season from Dauphiné, Auvergne, and the mountain regions of Provence. In Tarascon, where they threatened the Jews, the latter were effectively protected by the officials of the town. Charles VIII, who, although aged only 14, already nominally governed France, took the Jews under his protection. However, a voluntary exodus began and was accelerated when similar disorders were repeated in 1485. On this occasion, the bands of seasonal workers were reinforced by the inhabitants of the town who took part in looting the Jewish quarter. The Jews once more took refuge in the castle. From 1484, one town after another called for their expulsion. In Marseilles, which had also demanded their expulsion, a veritable gang had been organized to rob the Jews, although protests were voiced against their departure. New anti-Jewish disorders broke out in Tarascon in 1489, in Arles before July 1493, and in Manosque in 1495, led by the Carmelites and Franciscans. Louis XII finally issued a general expulsion order against the Jews of Provence in 1498. Not enforced at the time, the order was renewed in 1500 and again at the end of July 1501. On this occasion, it was definitively implemented.
The only alternative to exile offered to the Jews of Provence was conversion to Christianity and a number chose such a solution. However, after a short while – if only to compensate partially for the loss of revenues caused by the departure of the Jews – the king imposed a special tax on them, referred to as "the tax of the neophytes." A roster dating from 1512 enumerates 122 to 164 persons (probably heads of families) subjected to this tax living in 16 important localities of Provence. These converts and their descendants soon became the objects of social discrimination, a situation against which the parliament of Provence reacted in 1542. The campaign of discrimination was nevertheless maintained. A pamphlet published in 1611 attributed the miserable condition of the parliament of Provence to the neophytes. Around the beginning of the 18th century a lampoon entitled "Critique du nobiliare de Provence," which accused a large number of aristocratic families of being of Jewish origin, gained notoriety. To this campaign must also be attributed the adaptation to Provençal of a forgery of Spanish origin: this was a mere literary farce in the form of an exchange of letters between the Jews of Arles and those of Constantinople. The correspondence was supposedly conducted at the close of the 15th century, when the Jews of Provence asked how they were to act in order to avoid expulsion. The Jews of Constantinople, according to this, counseled them to accept baptism while inwardly remaining Jews, stating that once they had attained the powerful positions to which the Christian religion admitted them, they would be able to avenge all the former miseries which they had endured.
During the second half of the 17th century a number of Jews attempted to reestablish themselves in Provence, following the edict issued by the minister Colbert in March 1669
For later history see *France.
The fortuitous geographical circumstance in which Provence was situated between three great intellectual centers – Spain, Italy, and Franco-Germany – had a decisive effect on the development of Provence as a major center for Jewish learning and literature. The incorporation of Provence into the Christian Carolingian Empire severed it from contact with Jews in Muslim lands until the 12th century. As a result the early cultural life of Provence was closely allied with that of the Franco-German center. Unlike their contemporaries in Spain, Provençal scholars focused entirely on the Talmud in the development of their cultural life. Their achievements were of some importance. While scholars in Arles at one time turned to those in Lucca, Italy, for guidance, Torah centers in France, Germany, and Italy often looked to Provence for the solution of halakhic difficulties and exchanged responsa with Provençal scholars. Provençal halakhic traditions were expressed largely in oral rather than in written form. Provence had an important influence on the development of Midrash, both in their creation of new Midrashim and the editing of older ones; of equal importance were its minhagim, some merging Babylonian and Palestinian influences.
At the beginning of the 12th century a large part of Provence was incorporated into Catalonia, bringing Provençal scholars into contact with those of *Barcelona. The result was a greater spirit of enlightenment in Provence and the broadening of its intellectual horizon to include interest in the sciences and language. That development was speeded up considerably with the invasion of Spain by the *Almohads in the middle of the 12th century and the consequent flight of many Spanish thinkers to Provence when Jewish centers in Spain were destroyed. The cultural life of Provence was considerably enriched as a result. Major changes took place in biblical exegesis; scholars increasingly engaged in the natural sciences; there was a flowering of interest in poetry, lexicography, grammar, and philosophy. Major effort was expended on the translation of literature from Arabic to Hebrew. Nevertheless, the halakhic knowledge of Provençal scholars was not lost, Ashkenazi influences remained, and the contact with Ashkenazi scholarship was deepened. Through the work of Spanish scholars the influences of Isaac *Alfasi and the Babylonian geonim were deeply felt in Provence; Ashkenazi and Spanish approaches to the halakhah found a new synthesis in the work of Provençal halakhists. Unlike Spain it was in Provence that the philosophers and grammarians also wrote works on halakhah. Great interest was kindled in mysticism, also, and philosophical knowledge was profound enough to make Provence a major focus of the *Maimonidean controversy. Into the 14th century Provence remained the meeting point of different intellectual systems and an area of considerable intellectual ferment.
Prominent among the scholars of Provence were R. Moses of Arles, a correspondent of Kalonymus of Rome; R. Judah b. Moses of Arles, his son, mentioned by Rashi in Sefer ha-Pardes; *Gershon b. Solomon of Arles, author of the metaphysical work, Sha'ar ha-Shamayim; *Kalonymus b. Kalonymus (1281–after 1328), translator and author of Even-Boḥan; Kalonymus b. David b. Todros, 14th-century Bible commentator; *Isaac b. Abba Mari of Marseilles (12th century), author of a commentary to the Code of Alfasi as well as Sefer ha-Ittur; Joseph of Marseilles, Bible commentator mentioned by Judah Messer Leon; Aaron b. Abraham b. Isaac and Shem Tov Falcon, the correspondents of Solomon b. Abraham *Adret; Samuel b. Judah, 14th-century scientist and translator of the commentary of Averroes on Aristotle's Ethics; Moses de Salon, philosopher and teacher of Kalonymus b. Kalonymus; Bonjudas Nathan Crescas, physician, noted through the medical work, Sod ha-Sodot; and *Nissim b. Moses of Marseilles, 14th-century author of a commentary on the Pentateuch entitled Ma'aseh Nissim.
Gross, Gal Jud, 489ff.; R. Busquet, in: Mélanges Institut Historique de Provence, 4 (1927), 68–86; A. Kober, in: JSOS, 6 (1944), 351–74; Z. Szajkowski, ibid., 31–54; idem, Franco-Judaica (1962), index; Schirmann, Sefarad, passim; E. Camau, in: La Provence à travers les âges (1928), 249–367; A.Z. Aeskoly, in: Zion, 10 (1945), 102–39; B. Blumenkranz, in: Evidences, 12 (March–April 1961), 29–33; idem, in: Bulletin Philologique et historique (1965), 611–22; B. Benedict, in: Tarbiẓ, 22 (1951), 85–109.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.