METZ (Heb. מיץ), capital of the Moselle department, in the northeast of France. Even if Simon, bishop of Metz in 350, was really of Jewish origin (as a later source claims), it does not prove that Jews were present in the town during that period. However, their presence is confirmed from at least 888; a *Church Council held in Metz at that date forbade Christians to take meals in the company of Jews. There is a reference that predates the 11th century to a Jew called David perhaps renting a vineyard. It was in Metz that the series of anti-Jewish persecutions accompanying the First Crusade began, claiming 22 victims in the town in 1096. Foremost among the local scholars in the early Middle Ages was *Gershom b. Judah ("Light of the Exile"). Although he lived mainly in Mainz, he was born in Metz, as was his disciple Eliezer b. Samuel. Another local scholar was the tosafist David of Metz. The medieval Jewish community occupied its own separate quarter, the Vicus Judaeorum, whose memory is perpetuated in the street named "Jurue." In 1237, every Jew who passed through Metz was compelled to pay 30 deniers to the town, but was not permitted to remain there. In the 15th century successive bishops, whose residence had been transferred to Vic, tolerated the Jews under their jurisdiction and granted them privileges (1442). In Metz itself, however, the Jews were allowed to stay only three days.
After the French occupation (1552), the first three Jewish families were admitted to reside there as pawnbrokers (1565/67). They were soon followed by others, and in 1595, 120 persons established a community that Henry IV and his successors took under their protection. Thanks to the influx of Jews from the Rhine areas, the community increased to 480 families in 1718 and almost 3,000 persons in 1748. Assigned to the Rhimport quarter, it established a self-governing body with elected trustees. Community officials levied numerous taxes that grew more burdensome after the introduction of the Brancas tax (1715), which had originated as gifts given by the community mainly to the duke of Brancas. The debts of the community became enormous, reaching 500,000 livres at the time of the French Revolution. With the consent of the king, community leaders chose a chief rabbi who was often renowned for his erudition. Among the rabbis invited to lead the community were Jonah Teomin-Fraenkel of Prague (1660–69), Gabriel b. Judah Loew *Eskeles of krakow (1694–1703), and Jonathan Eybeschuetz (1742–50) – chosen from abroad. The chief rabbi judged lawsuits between Jews but from the 18th century the parliament sought to assume this right. To this end, it ordered a compendium of Jewish customs to be deposited in its record office (1743).
From the beginning of the 17th century the community owned a cemetery, a synagogue, and a poorhouse. In 1689 free and compulsory elementary schooling was introduced, and in 1764 a Hebrew press began publishing. The Jews were restricted in their economic activities by legal disabilities, however. While an oligarchy developed that achieved great wealth, the masses remained mired in poverty. Hostility toward the Jews reached its peak at the time of the execution of Raphael *Lévy (1670) for alleged ritual murder. Nevertheless, before the Revolution the jurists Pierre Louis Lacretelle (1751–1824) and Pierre Louis *Roederer of Metz, future members of the National Assembly, called for granting Jews full rights. The latter
Gross, Gal Jud, 346ff.; R. Anchel, Juifs de France (1946), 153–212; N. Netter, Vingt siècles d'histoire… (1938); J. Schneider, La ville de Metz… (1950), 288f.; R. Clement, Condition des juifs de Metz… (1903); A. Cahen, in: REJ, 7 (1883), 103–15; 204–26; 8 (1884), 255–74; 12 (1886), 283–97; 13 (1886), 105–26; Germ Jud, 2 pt. 2 (1968), 228ff.; H. Contamine, Metz et la Moselle…, 1 (1932), 44–46; 2 (1932), 352–9; A. Hertzberg, French Enlightenment and the Jews (1968), index, ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Guide du judaîsme français (1987), 39.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.