ZURICH, capital of the canton of the same name, N. Switzerland. Jews first arrived in Zurich in 1273, settling in a street known as the Judengasse (now the Froschaugasse). They also had a cemetery. Their taxes were paid to Emperor Rudolf I of Hapsburg, but in other respects they were dependent on the town, which undertook to protect them in exchange for a fee of ten marks and authorized them to engage in moneylending. They were also allowed to acquire real property. However they were compelled to remain indoors during Holy Week. Their principal occupation was moneylending, which they practiced on a large scale, dealing with the municipality, the leading aristocratic families, and even lending considerable sums abroad in such towns as Wuerzburg, Venice, and Frankfurt. The reception hall of a Jewish moneylender has been found at Brunngasse 8. The coats of arms of his noble clients bear Hebrew inscriptions.
The rumor that the Jews had caused the plague by poisoning the wells, which spread throughout Switzerland, reached Zurich at the end of 1348. At first the municipal council attempted to protect the Jews, but it was finally forced to cede to the populace. Numbers of Jews were then burnt at the stake on Feb. 22, 1349, and their belongings confiscated by the municipal council. The emperor promptly protested, claiming compensation; once he had received this, he absolved the council from the charge of murder.
The talmudist, Moses of Zurich, author of glosses on the Se-Ma-K (Sefer Mitzvot Katan) which are known as Semak Zurich, lived in the town during the early 14th century.
In spite of the massacre of 1349, Jews reappeared in the town as early as 1352. Several expulsion orders were issued (1425, 1435, 1436), but the very number of expulsions indicates that the orders were not strictly observed. However when, in 1634, the Jew Eiron (Aaron) of Lengnau, originally of Frankfurt, was executed in Zurich for blasphemy, the Jews were finally and totally expelled.
Revolution a few Jews attempted to reestablish themselves in Zurich, but it was only after the emancipation of the Jews of Zurich (1862) that a new community, largely formed by migrants from
and Lengnau and other nearby south German and Alsatian rural communities, was established. The first synagogue was inaugurated in 1883. It was built by disciples of Gottfried Semper. The community grew rapidly until it became the leading one of Switzerland. The secretariat of the Schweizerische Israelitischer Gemeindebund (est. 1904) has its headquarters in the town. In 1895/98 some separatist Orthodox families split away and later East European Jews formed their own community (between 1912 and 1924). The West European Orthodox community erected in 1926 an art-déco synagogue on Freigutstrasse, which was recently renovated. Only in 1961 did the different East European minyanim unite in the synagogue on Erikastrasse.
Jews played a prominent role in textile trade and department stores (Julius Brann), not so much in banking, since Protestant families dominated this branch. The private "Bank Julius Bär" (est. 1897) was the biggest Jewish-owned firm. The children of the East European immigrants entered white-collar jobs. The Social Democratic lawyer David Farbstein was their leader between 1898 and 1939. In 1939 the first Jewish community center in Switzerland was opened in Zurich.
In 2005, Zurich had four Jewish congregations – the moderately Orthodox Israelitische Cultusgemeinde (ICZ; 2,596 members), the Orthodox Israelitische Religionsgesellschaft (IRG, 332 families and singles), Agudas Achim (275 families and singles) which follows the East European tradition – and the egalitarian Liberal Jewish congregation Or Chadasch (est. in 1978, 500 members) each possessing its own religious institutions (e.g., four different Jewish cemeteries) and officials. Besides them, there is a sizeable moderate Orthodox minyan in the quarter of Wollishofen. Inner-Jewish polarization led to the founding of often rival Orthodox minyanim of Chabad, the Belzer Ḥasidim, etc. In the two Jewish old age homes, there exist additional minyanim. The only German-language Swiss-Jewish weekly paper, Tachles, is edited in Zurich. It succeeded the Israelitisches Wochenblatt fuer die Schweiz, which had appeared since 1901. In 2005 Tachles bought the American-Jewish Aufbau and tried to establish it as a monthly. A full-time Orthodox Jewish school was founded in 1956, which in 1970 had more than 145 pupils from Orthodox families only. A private moderate Orthodox day school was organized by members of the Cultusgemeinde in 1979, which had also about 170 pupils of every type of observance. Religious lessons are provided even after sixth grade, when the day school program ends ("Achinoam"). The youth movements Aguda-youth, Ha-Goshrim, Bnei Akiva, and Ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir (est. in 1933) play an important role in educating the Jewish youth of Zurich.
In 2005 a new constitution of the canton was accepted, including a paragraph on the possible recognition of two democratically organized Jewish communities, the Cultusgemeinde and the Liberal one.
Many Jews moved to the suburbs of Zurich. In the canton of Zurich there were 6,461 Jews (2000), about two-thirds members of the congregations; some Anglo-Saxon families living in central Switzerland (Zug, Lucerne) also belong to them. Since about 1910 Zurich has been the center of Jewish life in Switzerland.