BAYONNE, town in southwestern France. The first Jewish settlement in Bayonne, in the suburb of Saint-Esprit, consisted of *Marranos originally from Spain and Portugal, who settled there early in the 16th century. In 1550 they were granted rights of residence as "New Christians" by the central authorities, but the Bayonne merchants prohibited them from retail trading. In 1636 several Marrano families were expelled from Bayonne, and some of them found refuge at Nantes. From the middle of the 17th century, the Bayonne community organized a congregation, Nefuẓot Yehudah ("The Dispersed of Judah"). Their cemetery was established in 1660. The right of the community to observe Judaism openly was not officially recognized until 1723. Rabbis of Bayonne in this period included Ḥayyim de Mercado in the second half of the 17th century, succeeded by Raphael *Meldola (1730–1792) of Leghorn, and Abraham David Leon, author of Instrucciones sagradas y morales (1765). At the beginning of the 18th century the community numbered 700, and 3,500 in 1753.
The Bayonne community claimed jurisdiction over the small communities in Bidache, Peyrehorade, and other places in the vicinity. Marranos from Spain and Portugal continued
to settle in Bayonne until late in the 18th century. The regulations of the community were drawn up in 1752, and confirmed by the "intendant du roi." Bayonne Jewry helped to introduce the chocolate industry into France; in the mid-18th century the import of salt and glue into Bayonne was in Jewish hands. Bayonne Jews were among the first to establish trade connections with the French West Indies. About one-third of the municipal tax revenue was derived from the Jewish residents. Despite opposition from their Christian neighbors, the Jews participated in the elections to the States-General in 1789. They were recognized as French citizens in 1790, with the rest of the "Portuguese, Spanish, and Avignonese" Jews in France. During the Reign of Terror, most of the members of the Comité de surveillance of Saint Esprit (known then as "Jean Jacques Rousseau") were Jews; it is noteworthy that no guillotinings took place. In the Napoleonic period the community benefited from the city's increasing prosperity. A new synagogue was built in 1837, using the Torah Ark erected during the reign of Louis XVI. The Jewish population nevertheless fell to 1,293 in 1844, and by 1926 had decreased to 45 families.
After the Franco-German armistice (June 1940) Bayonne became a stopover for dozens of Jewish refugees, particularly from *Belgium and *Luxembourg . A great many could not get to Spain, and the official police census of March 15, 1942 registered 308 Jewish families there at that time. In April 1943 the majority of them were expelled, while 193 pieces of Jewish property were confiscated. Fortunately, the Ark, built in the style of Louis XVI, and the Torah scrolls, some of which were of Spanish origin, were hidden in the Basque Museum, and restored to the synagogue after the Liberation. Few of Bayonne's Jews survived the war. The rabbi of Bayonne, Ernest *Ginsburger (1876–1943) directed religious activities on behalf of the Jews interned in French concentration and labor camps. He was subsequently deported and murdered by the Germans. In April 1943, almost all the Jews in Bayonne and the surrounding district were forcibly evacuated.
After the war the community slowly rebuilt itself, with about 120 families recorded living in the city in 1960. With the arrival of immigrants from North Africa, the Jewish community more than doubled, so that in 1969 close to 700 Jews lived in Bayonne. The community maintained an old-age home. A rabbi was engaged to preside over regular community services, led according to the ancient Sephardic ("Portuguese") rites of the old synagogue, which was restored. The old Jewish cemetery, dating back to 1660, continued to be in use. The Basque Museum maintains two rooms with a large display of Jewish religious objects and historic documents relating to the Bayonne Jewish community. René *Cassin , the Nobel Prize winner and president of *Alliance Israélite Universelle , was born in Bayonne in 1887.
L.F. de Beaufleury, Histoire de l'établissement des juifs à Bordeaux et Bayonne (1799); H. Léon, Histoire des juifs de Bayonne (1893); Gross, Gal Jud, 92f.; M. Schwab, in: REJ, 38 (1899), 272–4; Liber, ibid., 64 (1912), 254–61; Genevray, ibid., 74 (1922), 127–47; E. Ginsburger, Le Comité de surveillance de Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1934); Szajkowski, in: PAAJR, 24 (1955), 137–64; idem, in: HUCA, 30 (1959), 217–32; Guide religieux de la France (1967), 982f. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Le Guide Culturel des Juifs d'Europe (2002).
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.