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Aix-En-Provence, France

AIX-EN-PROVENCE (Heb. אייגש or אייגייש), town in the Bouches-du-Rhône department, southern France. The first reference to the presence of Jews in Aix-en-Provence dates from about 1283. They then owned a synagogue and a cemetery situated at Bourg St.-Saveur, which was under the jurisdiction of the archbishop. In 1299 they contributed to the annual tax paid to the count by the Jews of Provence. The Jewish population in 1341 numbered 1,205 (about 1/11 of the total), occupying 203 houses, mainly on the Rue Verrerie (called Rue de la Juiverie until 1811); not far from there the du Puits-Juif still exists (probably the public well in this street gave rise to the legend that the Jews owned a medicinal spring). A synagogue was situated on the corner of the Rue Vivaut and Rue Verrerie, and another (1354) in the lower town. In 1341 King Robert of Anjou attempted to set up a compulsory Jewish quarter, but notwithstanding repeated injunctions it had evidently failed to materialize by 1403. The community in Aix was administered by at least two syndics. The Jews did not have to pay taxes to the municipality since they contributed to the annual tax paid by the Jews of Provence to the crown. The contributions of Aix Jewry amounted to 16% of the total in 1420, and to over 25% in 1446.

By letters patent of Sept. 25, 1435, Jews were prohibited from practicing brokerage, and were obliged to wear the Jewish *badge. These restrictions followed the anti-Jewish riots, which had taken place in 1430, when nine Jews were killed, many were injured and 74 were forcefully baptized. A general amnesty was subsequently granted to the inhabitants of Aix. The position of the Jews in Aix was ameliorated when, in 1454 King René of Anjou allowed them to employ Christian servants, reduced the size of the badge, and exempted Jews from wearing it while traveling.

When in 1481 Provence passed to France, Louis XI confirmed the privileges formerly enjoyed by the Jews of Aix and Marseilles. Aix Jewry again suffered disaster, however, when on May 10, 1484, they were attacked by bands of marauders from the Dauphiné and Auvergne and the highlands of Provence. The raids were repeated intermittently until 1486. In that year, the Aix municipality asked Charles VIII to expel the Jews. The general decree of expulsion, issued in 1498, became effective in 1501. The Parliament of Provence reissued the prohibition on Jews settling in Aix in 1760, 1768, and 1787.

In cultural matters, the Aix community took a prominent part in the *Maimonidean controversy that divided Jewish scholars. The Jews of Aix were mentioned by the Provencal poet Isaac b. Abraham ha-Gorni who criticized them for their inhospitable attitude toward strangers.

Shortly after 1789 nine Jewish families from Avignon settled in Aix-en-Provence. The Jewish population numbered 169 in 1809 and 258 in 1872 (out of a total population of 29,000), dwindling to 214 in 1900. In the mid-19th century Aix was the center in which the former traditions of the *Comtat Venaissin communities were most faithfully preserved, largely through the activities of members of the *Milhaud and *Crémieux families. In 1829, the Hebrew book by Moses Crémieux Ho'il Moshe Be'er was printed in Aix by François Gigia.

The census conducted by the Vichy government in May 1941 recorded 33 Jewish families living in Aix. When the Germans entered the unoccupied zone in November 1942, 2,000 Jewish refugees from Germany and Eastern Europe were sent to Aix. Most of them were quartered in the nearby camp of Milles. In May 1943, following the roundup of Jews by the Germans in southern France, almost all the Jews in Aix were arrested and interned at *Drancy. They were subsequently deported to Germany and most perished in the Holocaust.

[Bernhard Blumenkranz]

Modern Times

The community practically disappeared during the years immediately following World War II. All the archives of the community disappeared during World War II. As the synagogue that was inaugurated in 1840 was no longer used for worship, it was sold in 1952 and became a Protestant church. The prayer books were distributed among several neighboring communities. The synagogue's centenary could not be celebrated in 1940, but Darius *Milhaud , a native of Aix and great-grandson of the community's president when the synagogue was built, composed a cantata for the occasion, Crown of Glory, based on three poems by Ibn *Gabirol and on prayers from the *Comtat Venaissin. The arrival of North African Jews after 1956 created a new community. In 1967 there were about 1,000 Jews living in Aixen-Provence. As of 1987, the population was said to be 3,000. The rabbi and the rite of the synagogue are North African. The community is administered by a council called the Association Culturelle Israélite, which is affiliated with the Consistoire Centrale de France. An attempt was made to torch the synagogue on the afternoon of Yom Kippur, October 9, 2000.

[Gilbert Lazard]


Z. Szajkowski (Frydman), Franco-Judaica (1963), index; idem, in: JSS, 6 (1944), 31–54; idem, Analytical Franco-Jewish Gazetteer (1966), 166, 168; E.Baratier, Demographie provençale (1961), 59–60, 216–211; Gross, Gal Jud, 46–48; J. Lubetzki, La condition des Juifs en France sous l'occupation allemande (1945), index; Shirmann, in: Lettres Romanes, 3 (1949), 175–200; Guide des Communautès Juives de France. 7 (1966), index.

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