TARASCON, town in S. France, south of Avignon. The earliest evidence of Jews in Tarascon is a fragment of a Hebrew inscription dating from 1193, probably from a tombstone, encased in the St. Gabriel Tower. The oldest written document concerning the Jews of Tarascon dates from 1283, but the community essentially gained in importance with the influx of Jews expelled from the kingdom of France. The Jews enjoyed complete commercial freedom and were authorized to possess real estate and hold the public office of toll gatherer, broker, or seller at auctions. A relatively large number of Jewish physicians lived there; at least four at the beginning of the 14th century, and at least six at the beginning of the 15th century. The Jews made up almost 10% of the total population, with about 100 families at the close of the 14th century and possibly more than 150 families in 1487. The present-day Rue des Juifs commemorates the old Jewish quarter – the carrière or Carrieyra dels Jusieus or Juzataria – which from 1378 became the compulsory quarter for the Jews. The community owned a synagogue, a slaughterhouse, and a cemetery.
The charter (or coutumes) of Tarascon of 1345 which was ratified by Queen Jeanne already points to a deterioration in the condition of the Jews; although it prescribes that the Jews would only pay for the local taxes, it was, on the other hand, forbidden to them to sell meat slaughtered according to the Jewish law on the general market (compared here to the meat of animals which had died of disease, or to contaminated meat!) or to slaughter animals for Christians; lastly, they were not allowed to work on Sundays and on Christian festivals. When accused of having propagated the *Black Death (1348–49), the Jews of Tarascon were the victims of bloody persecutions. From 1382 they were no longer authorized to possess land and vineyards, and from the second half of the 15th century they were excluded from public office.
As a result of the vigorous protective measures taken by the municipal council, the Jews of Tarascon were spared the anti-Jewish persecutions which broke out in several towns of *Provence from 1484. However, after the example of other towns of Provence, the inhabitants of Tarascon accused the Jews in 1496 not only of being the enemies of the Christian faith but also of having committed usury and robbery. Charles VIII, king of France – who had acquired Provence a short while before – reacted with an expulsion order which came into force on July 15. Almost all the Jews of Tarascon took refuge in *Comtat Venaissin. Only a few converted so as to remain in Tarascon. Scholars of great renown had stayed in Tarascon for periods of various length, including Joseph b. Abba Mari *Kaspi (1297–1340), the philosopher, exegete, and author of Sefer ha-Sod and Adnei Kesef. During the 18th century Jews who had chosen to settle in Tarascon were expelled by the Parliament of Provence of December 11, 1775. By 1970 there was no Jewish community in Tarascon.
Gross, Gal Jud, 248–50; S. Kahn, in: REJ, 39 (1899), 95–112, 261–98; D. Siderski, ibid., 99 (1935), 123–6; B. Blumenkranz, in: Bulletin philologique et historique … congrès 90 (1965, pub. 1968), 622; A. Drouard, in: Archives Juives, 4 (1967/68), 15–18; Z. Szajkowski, Franco-Judaica (1962), no. 339.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.