Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Shana Tova!! Happy Jewish New Year!!

Did you know the oldest synagogue in France dates from 1367 and is located in Carpentras in south of France.  It still functions as a religious site where weddings, bar mitzvahs and daily ritual services are held.  It was renovated in the 18th century in a baroque style and holds in the cellar level a  mikve (Ritual bath) and even two ancient bakeries – one  used to bake daily bread and the other used to bake the unleavened bread for Passover.

Carpentras is located in the former Comtat Venaissin , a small enclave around the city of Avignon that extended  to the Mont Ventoux that was once under Papal control.  This land owned by the Count of Toulouse was bequeathed to the Holy See in 1229.  It became a refuge for French Jews who had been chased out of the French Kingdom at different times in the Middle Ages.  Though not living in ideal conditions, they received better treatment under papal rule than in the rest of France.  They were called “Pope’s Jews”.  We see remnants of Jewish presence in Avignon, Cavaillon, Isle sur La Sorgue  and in the town of Carpentras where the oldest synagogue still exists today.  The Papal’s control of the comtat Venaissin was ceded to France during the French Revolution in 1791.

 The synagogue of Carpentras is open for visits (except Saturday and Jewish Holidays) and a  Jewish Music Festival takes place there in early August.  Contact for tours of Provence and other French regions.

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