Bookstore Glossary Library Links News Publications Timeline Virtual Israel Experience
Anti-Semitism Biography History Holocaust Israel Israel Education Myths & Facts Politics Religion Travel US & Israel Vital Stats Women
donate subscribe Contact About Home

Toulouse, France

Toulouse (Heb. טולושה) is the capital of the department of Haute-Garonne, in southern France. According to a legendary tradition, there were Jews in Toulouse as early as the eighth century, when because of their disloyalty to the ruling Franks, they were ordered to choose a member of the community every year to be publicly slapped in the face on Good Friday. This tradition also mentions a council held in Toulouse in 883 in the presence of the Jews to discuss their complaint against this custom. There is definite evidence of this practice, however, from 1020 onward. During the late 11th and early 12th centuries, the custom was waived on payment of a high fee. The Jews were also compelled to provide the cathedral with 44 pounds of wax and the bishop with incense.

The Jewish quarter, whose center was the Rue Juzaygas or Joutx-Aigues, lay around the square of the Carmelites. The Jewish cemetery was at first situated near the Château Narbonnais. When the king took possession of it in 1281, the Jews acquired a field near the Porte de Montoulieu, on the site of the present Grand Rond, for a new cemetery. Communal institutions in this period included a hospital, which was destroyed in the war of the Albigenses.

The importance of the Jewish population can be deduced from the number of houses owned by the Jews. Commerce and moneylending are mentioned as the principal occupations of the Jews in Toulouse in this period. In 1209 they were excluded from holding public office, though they remained free to dispose of their real estate and often possessed the rights of ownership over land held by individuals or religious institutions, particularly the Templars. Alphonse of Poitiers imposed a large tax on the Jews of Toulouse, as well as on the other Jews under his authority, its payment being enforced by coercive measures. Toward the end of the 13th century, there was debate between the royal officers and the count over the judicial and fiscal jurisdiction of many Jews.

At the time of the expulsion of the Jews from the kingdom of France in 1306, the community of Toulouse was still numerous and economically important, as shown by the number and value of the confiscated properties mentioned in the extant auction documents. They included several “operatoria,” perhaps workshops or commercial premises. The new community formed after the readmission of the Jews in 1315 also appears to have been of considerable size, and even attracted Jews from other localities who had not been among the exiles of 1306. There is mention of Baruch “the Teuton,” for example, who came from Germany.

In 1320, the Jews in Toulouse became victims of the Pastoureaux persecutions, despite efforts by government authorities to protect them; the houses in the Jewish quarter were looted, and their inhabitants were massacred if they refused immediate baptism. The Inquisition took precautions that these forced converts should not return to Judaism. As a result, the community practically ceased to exist well before the next expulsion of the Jews of the kingdom in 1322.

A new community was organized in Toulouse after the readmission of Jews in 1359. Only about 15 families settled in the city. Although they established themselves in the former Jewish quarter of Joutx-Aigues, their situation and economic activity had radically changed. They no longer owned land, rented the houses which they occupied, and generally limited themselves to moneylending. They were taken by surprise by the publication of the “final” expulsion order of 1394. A short time earlier, butchers’ regulations had laid down the procedure for ritual slaughter with the assumption that the community would remain in Toulouse for a long time. There is no definite information available on medieval Jewish scholars in Toulouse.

During the 17th century a group of Marranos attempted to establish themselves in Toulouse. They were tried by an Inquisition tribunal in 1685 and received severe penalties. From the end of the century, Jewish merchants, mainly from Comtat Venaissin, were authorized to trade in Toulouse four times a year. Beginning in the second half of the 18th century, several of them endeavored to settle permanently in the city. There were about 80 Marranos in 1790. After the Reign of Terror, the municipality allowed them to use a former church (the Church of the Penitents) as a synagogue. They do not appear to have taken possession of it, however, because in 1806, they were still without a synagogue. At about that time, they obtained a concession for exclusive use of the cemetery, which until the Revolution had been used for the burial of both Protestants and Jews. There were then 105 Jews in Toulouse, and their numbers increased very slowly. However, from the beginning of the 20th century, many Jewish students from Poland and the Balkans were attracted by the opportunity to study at the University of Toulouse.

[Bernhard Blumenkranz /

David Weinberg (2nd ed.)]

Holocaust Period

With the flight of population from the northern zone in June 1940 after the Nazi defeat of France, many Jews settled in Toulouse. As a result, it rapidly became one of the principal centers for Jewish life and resistance in the unoccupied zone. Toulouse was in effect the capital of the southwest of France. Here a considerable number of Jews found refuge and a range of important organizations was set up, including children’s homes and agricultural schools. Toulouse was also an important stopover for Jews seeking to escape to Spain.

The Organization Juive de Combat was created at Toulouse and its leaders would often meet there. In August 1942, when 1,525 foreign-born Jews from the region were “regrouped” for deportation, the archbishop of Toulouse, Msgr. Saliège, issued a vigorous protest, which was read publicly in all the churches of the diocese.

Following the German occupation of all of France (November 1942), the area around Toulouse saw increased Jewish resistance, including acts of sabotage, the formation of fighting groups, the hiding of children and their transportation to safe havens, and stepped-up efforts to ferry Jews across the border to Spain en route to Palestine or England. Many men, women, and children fell victim to the Nazis and their French collaborators, however, and were tortured to death or deported to Auschwitz.

Contemporary Jewry

Many Holocaust survivors chose to remain in the city after the liberation. As a result, the postwar community gained greater importance than it had enjoyed prior to the war. In 1960, there were over 3,000 members of the community. Thanks largely to the arrival of Jews from North Africa, the Toulouse community became one of the most important Jewish centers in France. In 1987, it had a Jewish population of 12,000. The Jews of Toulouse maintain a full range of communal institutions, including three synagogues, kosher butchers and restaurants, and a community center. Toulouse is also the center for the regional consistory.


Gross, Gal Jud, 213f.; B. Blumenkranz, Juifs et chrétiens … (1960), index; G. Saige, Juifs du Languedoc (1881), index; Y. Dossat, in: Archives Juives, 6 (1969/70), 4f., 32f.; E. Szapiro, in: REJ, 125 (1966), 395–9; J.H. Mundy, Liberty and Political Power in Toulouse (1954), index; J. Coppolani, Toulouse (Fr., 1954), 44–50; A. Thomas, in: Annales du Midi, 7 (1895), 439–42; C. Douais, in: Bulletin de la société archéologique du Midi, 2 (1888), 118f.; P. Wolff, Commerce et marchands à Toulouse (1954), index; Z. Szajkowski, Franco-Judaica (1962), index; idem, Analytical Franco-Jewish Gazetteer (1966), 195f.; idem, in: JQR, 41 (1958/59), 278–81. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Guide pratique de judaîsme (1987), 39.

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