Orléans: (Loiret département, Centre région) Print
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Orleans (Latin for 'golden'), is a city and commune with a population of 105,000 in northcentral France on the Loire River where it curves south towards the Massif Central, about 130 km southwest of Paris. This capital of the Loiret département and of the Centre région was badly damaged during WWII. Orléans was the most important Jewish community of the north, outstripping Paris and Troye. The various councils that met at that time in the city enacted special laws against the Jews. In 533, the Second Council of Orleans forbade marriages between Jews and Christians, under pain of excommunication of the latter. The third, in 538, forbade Christians to permit Jews to act as judges and prohibited the Jews from appearing in public between Maundy Thursday and Easter Monday, also interdicting the clergy from eating with them. The fourth council in 541 decided that any Jew who should induce one of his former coreligionists to return to Judaism or who should appropriate a Christian slave or should induce a Christian to embrace Judaism, should be punished by the loss of all his slaves. If, on the other hand, a Christian became a Jew and gained his liberty on condition of adhering to the Jewish faith such terms should be invalid; for it would not be just for a Christian convert to Judaism to enjoy freedom. This Jewish community dates from the sixth century, 585. When Gontran, King of Burgundy, made his entry into Orleans in 585, Jews mingled in the throng hailing his arrival with joyful acclamations. They delivered a Hebrew address to him, but the king received them with derision, saying: "Wo to this wicked and treacherous Jewish nation, full of knavery and deceit! They overwhelm me with noisy flatteries to-day; all peoples, they say, should adore me as their lord; yet all this is but to induce me to rebuild at the public expense their synagogue, long since destroyed. This I will never do; for God forbids it." In 1099, the population consisted of about 1200 souls. Under Philippe Augustus and Saint Louis, it was the only city of the center of France to have a Yeshiva. Among the rabbis are Barouk Ben Yeouda, who died in 1293 and whose headstone was found in 1888 in the wall of the church St Vincent du Châtelet in Orléans. At the beginning of the eleventh century, the report spread through Europe that the Calif Ḥakim Bi-Amr Allah had destroyed the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem at the instigation of the Jews of Orleans, who had warned him by letters written in Hebrew of the departure of an expedition for the deliverance of the Holy Land. Although this accusation was utterly baseless, the Jews of Orleans, to escape a general massacre, were obliged to leave the city for a time. They soon returned, however, to resume their studies. Their academy was one of the most noted in France in the twelfth century; and their savants, known as the "Anciens" of Orleans, took part in the synod held at Troyes about 1150 under the leadership of R. Tam and of RaSHBaM. Philip Augustus expelled them in 1182 and turned their synagogue into a church that he gave to the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem in the year 1200. [January 2008]

Like their coreligionists in other cities of France, the Jews of Orleans were obliged to wear the wheel badge for which they were forced to pay an annual tax. In 1285, the badges in the bailiwick of Orleans brought fifty livres to the treasury, but in 1295 only thirty sous. The special tax imposed on the Jews amounted in 1298 to 500 livres, but in 1299 to 40 livres only, while by 1301 it had risen to 265 livres. The sale of their estates, exclusive of personal property, plate, and jewels, amounted in 1306 to the sum of 33,700 livres, 46 sous, 5 deniers. Their great school building, confiscated by Philip the Fair, was sold at auction at the same time and brought 340 livres, while the smaller school, situated in the city, brought 140 livres. The 1904 Jewish population was only a few. Sources: Jewish Encyclopedia. http://www.viejuive.com/associations/communautes/orleans/index.htm has history in French of the synagogue and photos. 150 families from North Africa have made up the Jewish population since 1960. [January 2008]

Synagogue and Centre Communautaire Georges LEVY at 14, rue Robert de Courtenay - 45000 ORLEANS, Tél 02-38-62-16-62. [January 2008]

11 Grand Cimetière d'Orléans: Jewish Section [January 2008]