ORANGE, previously a principality and later a town in Vaucluse department, S.E. France. The earliest evidence of the presence of Jews in Orange dates from 1282 and in the locality of Courthézon from 1328, at the latest. In 1353 Raymond V, prince of Orange, granted the Jews of his principality a charter which in effect constituted a series of privileges which were remarkable, indeed almost exceptional, for the 14th century. Even before Raymond's time, however, some precedent had been set in this direction by other princes of Orange, who had, for example, already employed Jews as toll collectors. Because of these favorable conditions, a constant stream of Jews came from *Comtat Venaissin to Orange, among them the physician Durand de Cavaillon who arrived there in 1387. This situation lasted until the latter half of the 15th century. In 1477 the municipal council sought to remove Jews from the grain trade in which they were engaged in addition to moneylending (Jews frequently acted as brokers for the wealthy burghers of Orange or for Italian financiers). When the council demanded the expulsion of the Jews in 1484, the prince of Orange refused unless the town could indemnify him for the taxes that would be lost by such an action. Jewish houses were openly attacked in 1490 and the expulsion was carried out in 1505.
On several occasions during the first half of the 17th century the parliament of Orange renewed the expulsion decree. Despite this, by 1643 several Jewish families had "clandestinely" resettled in Orange. Their numbers slowly increased, until by 1731 there were 21 families (16 in Orange, 4 in Courthézon, 1 in Jonquières). The new expulsion orders were only partially applied, and from 1774 on there was a massive influx of Jews from Comtat Venaissin. With the onset of the French Revolution, however, the departure of the Jews was almost as rapid. Using their newly acquired liberties, they left Orange for more important towns. In 1808 only 36 Jews remained in Orange and almost all of them bore the name Mossé. The Jewish community rapidly dissolved and was never reconstituted.
Several eminent scholars, particularly *Levi b. Gershom, lived in Orange for varying lengths of time. Another such scholar was Mordecai, also named En Crescas, or Ezobi, of Orange, who settled in Carcassonne toward the close of the 13th century. The surname Ezobi, borne by a large number of other scholars, points to a more or less distant origin in Orange. An anonymous scholar and translator of the late 12th century and one Gershon b. Hezekiah, author of medical books in the first half of the 15th century, are intimately connected with the town of Orange.
Gross, Gal Jud, 18ff.; I. Loeb, in: REJ, 1 (1880), 72ff.; J. Bauer, ibid., 32 (1896), 236ff.; D. Wolfson, ibid., 57 (1909), 93ff.; H. Chabaut, ibid., 100 (1936), 62ff.; L. Barthélemy, Inventaire… Maison de Baux (1882), index.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.