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Bordeaux, France

Bordeaux (Heb. בורדאוש) is a city in the department of Gironde, S.E. France; in the Middle Ages, capital of the duchy of Guienne. The first written evidence of the presence of Jews in Bordeaux dates to the second half of the sixth century, when it is related that a Jew derided a priest who expected a saint to cure him of his illness. A golden signet ring, dating from the beginning of the fourth century was found in Bordeaux in 1854 bearing three menorot and the inscription "Aster" (= Asterius). Prudence of Troyes relates that the Jews behaved treacherously during the capture of Bordeaux by the Normans in 848. Although based on malice, this anecdote confirms the presence of Jews in the city. A document from 1072 refers to a Mont-Judaique, outside the walls between the present Rues Dauphine and Mériadec, where the Jewish cemetery was located. The Jewish street, called Arrua Judega in 1247 (now Rue Cheverus) lay at the foot of this hill (now leveled off). The present Porte Dijeaux (= ijeus, de Giu) is referred to as Porta Judaea from 1075. While Bordeaux was under English sovereignty (1154–1453), the Jews were spared the edicts of expulsion issued by the kings of France, though they were nominally expelled in 1284, 1305, and 1310–11. The anti-Jewish measures introduced by the English kings were undoubtedly aimed at extorting money, since the Jews continued to reside in Bordeaux and pursue their activities. In 1275 and 1281 Edward I intervened on behalf of the Jews of Bordeaux who were being overtaxed by nobles. However, Edward II issued a further ineffective edict of expulsion in 1313, and in 1320 the Jews were savagely attacked by the *Pastoureaux . Their residence was authorized by Edward III in 1342, when they had to make an annual payment of eight pounds of pepper to the archbishop. The Jews in Bordeaux were organized into the Communitas Judeorum Vasconie ("Community of the Jews of Gascony"). It is not certain whether or when they were formally expelled after Bordeaux was incorporated into France in 1453.

At the end of the 15th century, Marranos began to arrive in Bordeaux, first coming from Spain and later from Portugal. The Marranos were welcomed for their commercial activities, and in 1550 they obtained letters-patent from Henry II authorizing "the merchants and other Portuguese called 'New Christians'" to reside in the towns and localities of their choice. They outwardly practiced Catholicism, and although the general populace suspected them the authorities closed their eyes to possible Judaizing. A more liberal attitude was evinced when in 1604 and in 1612 Maréchal d'Ornano, lieutenant-général of Guienne, issued an ordinance forbidding persons to "speak ill of or do evil to the Portuguese merchants." Since they lived mainly in the two parishes of St. Eulalie and St. Eloy, Marranos claimed burial in the cemeteries of the two parish churches, as well as those belonging to the parishes of St. Projet and St. Michel, and in the cemeteries of the Augustine, Carmelite, Franciscan, and St. Francis of Paola monasteries. In 1710 a portion of the Catholic cemetery was reserved especially for them. Their marriages were performed by Catholic priests, and all the formalities, including application for papal dispensation in cases of consanguinity, were duly observed. A change of attitude can be noted in 1710 when the Marranos began to profess Judaism more openly. While priests continued to register their marriages, they generally added a note to the effect that the marriage had been or would be performed "in accordance with the customary rites of the Portuguese nation."

At the beginning of the 18th century, a communal institution called the Sedaca was established, ostensibly to serve as a charitable organization. Out of its funds, which were derived from regular contributions paid by its members according to their ability, the organization paid for the maintenance of the Sephardi communities of the "four holy cities" of Ereẓ Israel, for the local poor, and for needy travelers. Subsequently, the Sedaca undertook to provide for the cost of a physician for the poor, as well as to pay for certain officeholders in the community, including the teachers of the talmud torah (established before 1710), and a rabbi. The first to hold this office was Joseph Falcon (from 1719), followed by Jacob Ḥayyim Athias and the latter's son David. It was only in new letters-patent obtained in 1723 (the previous ones had been granted by Louis XIV in 1656) that the "Portuguese merchants" were for the first time officially referred to as Jews. At the turn of the century, Jews who declared themselves as such more openly had arrived from Avignon and Comtat-Venaissin to settle in Bordeaux. In 1722 they numbered 22 families. For reasons of respectability and other considerations, the "Portuguese" deliberately kept apart from the newcomers. In 1731 the municipal administrator objected to the regulation whereby the "Portuguese" Jews of Bordeaux had to pay protection tax like the Jews of *Metz . Nevertheless, in 1734 this official reminded the Jews of Bordeaux that the practice of the Jewish religion in public was forbidden. A report of 1753 mentions as a "scandal" that the Jewish religion was being practiced in seven synagogues; in fact these were prayer rooms in private dwellings.

Meanwhile, the communal organization of the Portuguese, the Sedaca, had taken the name "Nation." Apart from providing funds for religious and charitable requirements, it also supplied the funds necessary for registering letters-patent, for the salary of a representative in Paris, and other purposes. The "Nation" assumed the role of an internal police, in particular expelling paupers or vagrants from Bordeaux. Strictly charitable functions were henceforth administered by specialized associations, the Yesibot, which included the Hebra or Hermandad for circumcisions and wedding ceremonies, and also attended to visits to the sick and funerals; the Guemilout Hazadim, the association of gravediggers; and the Yesiba Bikour Holim and Misenet Holim, for the care of and visits to the sick (see also *Ḥevrah ). From 1728, the "Nation" had its own cemetery (today Cours St. Jean no. 105), acquired by David Gradis in 1724. Burials took place there from 1725 until the French Revolution (this cemetery was closed in 1911), and from 1764 in a second cemetery (now Cours de l'Yser no. 176), which subsequently served the entire Jewish community of Bordeaux. The "Avignonese" owned a cemetery from 1728 on land purchased by David Petit (now Rue Sauteyron no. 49); this cemetery was used until 1805. The status of the "Nation" of the "Portuguese" community was approved by Louis XV on Dec. 14, 1769. The "Avignonese" constituted themselves a "Nation" in 1759, but had, in fact, been an organic body for a long while. The "Portuguese" engaged in financial activities and the supply of marine equipment, the "Avignonese" engaged almost exclusively in the textile and clothing trades, new or secondhand. In 1734 a decree was issued expelling the "Avignonese, Tudesque, or German" Jews from Bordeaux. This, however, they managed to evade by obtaining permission to prolong their stay under various pretexts. New decrees of expulsion were issued in 1740 and 1748. In 1759 six Avignonese Jewish families at last obtained letters-patent similar to those of the "Portuguese."

At the beginning of the 18th century, the Portuguese Jews in Bordeaux numbered 327 families (1,422 persons), while the "Avignonese" Jews numbered 81 families (348 persons).

In April 1799, on the eve of the French Revolution, the "Portuguese Nation" of Bordeaux appointed two representatives, S. Lopès-Dubec and Abraham *Furtado , to attend the *Malesherbes Commission, which was studying reforms to be applied to the condition of the Jews in France. The commission proposed that clauses be included in the constitution planned for the Jews of France to ensure the maintenance of their ancient privileges relating to freedom of residence, economic activities, property, etc. It also envisaged the possibility of differentiating between the legal status of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews on the one hand, and of the "German" Jews on the other. In contrast to other communities, the Jews of Bordeaux directly participated in the preparation of the Estates-General. When on Dec. 24, 1789, this assembly determined to defer a decision on the concession of equal rights to the Jews, a deputation of seven Sephardi Jews from Bordeaux, including David Gradis and Abraham Rodrigues, went to Paris. Their activities resulted in a decree issued on Jan. 28, 1790, declaring that "all Jews known in France under the name of Portuguese, Spanish, and Avignonese Jews…shall enjoy the rights of citizens." One of the first manifestations of this equality of rights was on Dec. 6, 1790, when A. Furtado and S. Lopès-Dubec took office on the municipal council of Bordeaux. The two men also served on the Bordeaux Committee for Public Safety formed on June 10, 1793. No Bordeaux Jews were condemned to death during the Reign of Terror, but many were imprisoned or ordered to pay heavy fines.

A census of 1806 records 2,131 Jews living in Bordeaux, of whom 1,651 were of Spanish or Portuguese origin; 144 Avignonese; and 336 of German, Polish, or Dutch origin. When the *Assembly of Jewish Notables was convened by Napoleon that year, the department of the Gironde sent two delegates, both from Bordeaux – Abraham Furtado and Isaac Rodrigues. Furtado became president of the Assembly, while Rodrigues served as its secretary. Following the sessions of the "Great Sanhedrin" (see French *Sanhedrin ), held in 1807, Bordeaux became the seat of a Consistory whose jurisdiction extended over ten departments, with 3,713 members. Abraham Andrade was appointed chief rabbi. The private prayer rooms were replaced by a large synagogue (Rue Causserouge), inaugurated on May 14, 1812, and partly destroyed by fire in 1873. Of the 12 members of the municipal council in 1830, two were Jews: Camille Lopès-Dubec and Joseph Rodrigues. Lopès-Dubec was also one of the 15 deputies elected from the department of the Gironde to the National Assembly in 1848. In the mid-19th century, Jewish institutions in Bordeaux included a school for boys and girls, a trade school, and a talmud torah. In the second half of the 19th century, many Jews sat on the general council of the department, on the municipal council, and in the chamber of commerce. Adrien Léon was elected to the National Assembly in 1875.

During the 19th century, the Jewish population of Bordeaux dwindled through emigration, numbering only 1,940 in 1900.

[Bernhard Blumenkranz]

Holocaust and Postwar Periods

Bordeaux served as a final station for countless Jewish refugees who fled southward from northern France in May-June 1940. The town, administered within the Occupied Zone after the Franco-German armistice (June 21, 1940), was one of the most important centers of Nazi police and military activities. Two-thirds of the Jewish population, local Jews and refugees alike, were arrested and deported, including the residents of the old-age home. A census of the Jewish population of the city conducted in June 1941 showed only 1,198 persons originating from Bordeaux or from southeastern France out of a total of 5,177; most were refugees from other parts of France and even from abroad. Between July 1942 and February 1944, 1,279 Jews were deported from Bordeaux by the Germans. A monument has been erected in their memory. In January 1944, French Fascists ransacked the great synagogue, which the Nazis had turned into a detention camp where the victims of their roundups awaited deportation. After the war, the survivors of the Bordeaux Jewish community reconstructed the synagogue with the aid of photographs and eyewitness accounts. When the task was completed 12 years later, the Bordeaux synagogue (which was originally built in 1882) was restored to its former renown as the largest (1,500 seats) and most beautiful Sephardi synagogue in France. Meanwhile the Jewish population increased with the arrival of new members, including a new Ashkenazi congregation. In 1960 there were 3,000 Jews in the community, and with the arrival of Jewish immigrants from N. Africa, the population doubled, with 5,500 persons in 1969. Bordeaux, the seat of a Chief Rabbinate, maintains a community center and a network of Jewish institutions.

[Georges Levitte]


L.F. de Beaufleury, Histoire de l'établissement des Juifs à Bordeaux et Bayonne (1800); T. Malvezin, Histoire des Juifs à Bordeaux (1875); G. Cirot, Les Juifs de Bordeaux (1920); idem, in: Revue historique de Bordeaux…, 29 (1936); 31 (1938); 32 (1939); Gross, Gal Jud, 111; A. Detcheverry, Histoire des Israélites de Bordeaux (1850); Drouyn, in: Archives historiques de la Gironde, 21 (1881), 159, 272, 533, 535; 22 (1882), 48, 563, 569, 599, 635, 639; Gaullier, in: REJ, 11 (1885), 78ff.; Bouchon, in: Bulletin de la Société Archéologique de Bordeaux, 35 (1913), 69ff.; A. de Maille, Recherches sur les origines chrétiennes de Bordeaux (1960), 211ff.; H.G. Richardson, English Jewry under Angevin Kings (1960), 232–3; Z. Szajkowski, Analytical Franco-Jewish Gazetteer (1966), index; idem, in: PAAJR, 27 (1958), 83ff.

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.