ORLÉANS, town in France, S. of Paris. A Jewish community was established in Orléans before 585. During that year, the Jews of Orléans participated in the welcome which was given to King Gontran and appealed to him to be allowed to rebuild the synagogue, which had previously been destroyed. The community may well have existed earlier, for the second, third, and fourth Councils of Orléans, held in 533, 538, and 541 respectively, had already passed legislation concerning the Jews. During the tenth century, an apostate Orléans Jew, Gautier (Walterius), owned houses in the town. At the beginning of the 11th century, the Jewish community, then quite numerous, was accused of having established relations with Caliph El Ḥakim in order to instigate persecutions of Christians in Jerusalem. The ensuing general persecution of the French Jews struck first in Orléans, from which Jews were expelled for several years. The importance of the Orléans Jewish community is again attested when in 1171 it attempted to succor the *Blois Jewish community at the time of the blood
The large taxes paid by the Jews of Orléans point to the numerical and economic importance of the community (although the customers for their loans were essentially drawn from among the common people), as well as to the size of the Jewish quarter (Grande Juiverie during the 13th century) and its numerous institutions, especially its two synagogues. After the expulsion of 1306, a new, smaller, community was formed between 1315 and 1322 (or 1323) and again in 1359. As a result of the complaints of the Christian inhabitants, the Jews were confined to a narrow quarter. As was the case in several other cities, notably Paris, the Jews of Orléans were the victims of a popular uprising in February 1382, later crushed by King *Charles VI. It was, however, this same king who in 1394 refused to prolong the residence of Jews in France, thus ending the medieval Jewish community of Orléans. Early in its history Orléans became an important center of Jewish learning. Isaac b. Menahem, second half of the 11th century, was cited by *Rashi for his talmudic commentaries and was also known as a legal authority. The hymnologist Meir b. Isaac, late 11th century, was, most probably, his son; the latter's son was the biblical commentator Eleazar b. Meir b. Isaac. The most renowned scholar of Orléans was Joseph b. Isaac *Bekhor-Shor. After 1171 the tosafist *Jacob of Orléans emigrated to London, where he became one of the victims of the massacre of 1189. A Jewish community was again established at the beginning of the 19th century; it possessed a small synagogue and, by the close of the century, had about 40 members.
In 1971 there were about 500 Jews in Orléans with a synagogue-community center. In May 1969, the Jewish owners of fashion shops in Orléans suddenly found themselves in the midst of a turmoil of strange gossip, which claimed that Christian women who had been trying on dresses had been drugged and spirited away to exotic brothels. The police had absolutely no knowledge of the alleged kidnapping of any female citizen in Orléans, and yet the rumor spread like wild-fire that they had been abducted from six shops, all of which were owned by Jews. Schoolgirls were warned by their teachers not to enter the suspect places and husbands would not allow their wives to go into such shops unaccompanied. The rumor persisted for several weeks, dying out only when a full-scale campaign was organized by the national press, and after conferences held by leading personalities both within and outside of Orléans.
Gross, Gal Jud, 30ff.; B. Blumenkranz, Juifs et chrétiens… (1960), index; E. Morin, Rumour in Orleans (1971).
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.