Aargau is a canton of northern Switzerland. A few Jewish families are known to have lived there during the Middle Ages. From the 17th to the mid-19th centuries Aargau remained the sole area of permanent Jewish settlement in Switzerland; Jews lived in the two communities of Endingen and Lengnau, and it was they who waged the struggle for Jewish emancipation in Switzerland. In the 18th century Aargau Jews obtained rights of residence and movement; these were conferred by special safe conducts and letters of protection against the payment of high imposts, usually granted for a 16-year period. Jewish occupations were restricted to participation in the markets, the cattle and horse trade, peddling, and estate brokerage. Both communities possessed their own synagogues, sharing a cemetery and rabbi. The Jews in Aargau continued to pay the special taxes until their abolition by the Helvetic Republic in 1798. Rights of residence, trade, and ownership of real estate were granted to the Jews by the Helvetic government but were later revoked by the Judengesetz (Jews' Law) in 1809. The independent canton of Aargau was founded in 1798/1803. A law regularizing the status of the Jewish communities was passed in 1824 and, in conjunction with the General Education Act of 1835, regulated Jewish life and communal organization on the same principles as those governing similar non-Jewish institutions in the canton. In the 1850s two new synagogues were built, one in Endingen and one in Lengnau, and were later declared cantonal monuments. However, since the Jewish communities were not recognized as communities of local citizens, their members were debarred from canton citizenship. The Great Council of Canton Aargau authorized Jewish emancipation in 1862, but was bitterly opposed by the popular anti-Jewish movement and was subsequently repealed. The Jews of Aargau only obtained full rights of citizenship in 1878 after the Swiss federal parliament had intervened in their favor. Jews began to leave the region for other parts of Switzerland in the middle of the 19th century, their numbers dwindling from 1,562 in 1850 to 990 in 1900 and to 496 in 1950. In 1859 in the town of Baden a Jewish community was founded which built its synagogue in 1913 and erected a cemetery (1879). Between 1900 and the 1940s a small yeshivah was active under Rabbi Akiba Krausz. A Jewish Swiss Home for the Aged was established in Lengnau in 1903. At the turn of the 20th century services were sometimes held in the synagogues on Rosh Ḥodesh and for marriages. Aargau Jewish history came to public attention with the appointment of the first Jewish member of the Swiss governement, Ruth Dreifuss. In 2000, 342 Jews lived in Aargau.
E. Haller, Die rechtliche Stellung der Juden im Kanton Aargau (1900); A. Steinberg, Studien zur Geschichte der Juden in der Schweiz waehrend des Mittelalters (1902); F. Wyler, Die staatsrechtliche Stellung der israelitischen Religionsgenossenschaften in der Schweiz (1929); F. Guggenheim-Gruenberg, in: 150 Jahre Kanton Aargau… (1954); idem, Die Juden in der Schweiz (1961); A. Weldler-Steinberg and F. Guggenheim-Gruenberg, Geschichte der Juden in der Schweiz vom 16. Jahrhundert bis nach der Emanzipation (1966 and 1970). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: W. Frenkel, Baden, eine jüdische Kleingemeinde. Fragmente aus der Geschichte 1859–1947 (2003).
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.