Which areas of Marseilles are Jewish?
A wide staircase leads from the ring road up to the old core of Carpentras, a small town south of Mont Ventoux in Provence. It's pleasantly quiet here. In the center is the Place Maurice Charretier with the town hall and a few unpretentious cafés and restaurants. At the edge is a light gray house, crouched between two other buildings and pushed into a corner. If you don't know, you are very likely to pass it by ignoring it - it is the oldest synagogue in France.
Carpentras was once the capital of the Comtat Venaissin, which was papal property from the 13th century until the French Revolution. In 1305, a Frenchman was elected Pope for the first time, who also moved his seat from the Tiber to the Rhône. Before the construction of the Papal Palace in Avignon began, Carpentras was the residence from 1306 to 1309. Seven popes in a row ruled in the southern Rhône valley. Because of its asylum policy, the Papal States repeatedly became a place of refuge for the Jews expelled from the neighboring areas - people spoke of "les juifs du pape," the Pope's Jews. However, the protection was not continuous.
Ghetto For centuries there was - with interruptions - a Jewish community in Carpentras. The synagogue is documented as early as 1367. In the years 1741 to 1743 it was restored in the Rococo style. Before the houses across the street were demolished, it was in the center of the ghetto.
A large staircase leads up to the prayer room. What a difference to the inconspicuous exterior! In here it is almost buzzing with cheerfulness, it is colorful, glittering, light: various types of chandeliers and candlesticks adorn the room as well as ornamental wall paintings. A lot of light floods in through the partly colored windows.
The nice thing about all of this: this ancient gathering place is not a museum. After the Holocaust, a Jewish community came together again in Carpentras and used the synagogue all the time. "We are around 150 people from Carpentras, Orange and the surrounding area," says Meyer Benzecrit. He is a dentist and recently became the chairman of the community. This is mainly made up of the middle and older generation because, as Benzecrit says, “the young people mostly go to Montpellier or Marseille to study”. The congregation is too small for a rabbi, but there is a service every Shabbat whenever possible. And since 1999 the small community has been hosting an international festival of Jewish music every summer, this time at the beginning of August.
Mikveh Pernes-les-Fontaines is just a few kilometers south of Carpentras. There is a Place de la Juiverie in the small town. Much more than a private mikvah from the 16th century cannot be discovered in Jewish traces. So on to L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, another ten kilometers away, the island above the river Sorgue. The place is surrounded by two powerfully flowing arms of the Sorgue and completely criss-crossed by canals - it is the "Venice of Provence", they say. In the center is the Church of Notre-Dame-des-Anges. The wrought iron railing inside comes from the former synagogue. The juif quarter, the Jewish quarter, used to be located near the church. In front of the synagogue, a few remaining stones can be found on the edge of an area that is now used as a parking lot.
With the brochure Histoire et Patrimoine Juif en Provence, the Provencal Tourist Office wants to lure tourists on a route that encompasses 13 towns and villages with a Jewish past and partly also present. Continue to Les Milles, a village outside Aix-en-Provence. In September 2012 the “Camp des Milles” memorial was opened here. From the end of the 1930s, "enemy foreigners" were interned here, and later the place became a collection camp. In 1942 the Nazis deported around 2000 Jews from Les Milles to Auschwitz.
"Every year around 100,000 visitors come to us," says the historian Alain Chouraqui. It was mainly on his initiative that the memorial was designed in such a way that one understands what was happening here. Chouraqui has made "Camp des Milles" a place for intellectual debate. "The history of the Shoah," says Chouraqui, "is a strong indicator of a misguided modernity."
Kaschrut The head of the memorial site recommends that Jewish tourists definitely visit Marseille, the old port metropolis with its 44 synagogues and a large Jewish community of around 75,000 members. In the »JudaiCité«, the Jewish cultural center in Marseille, Michêle Teboul, the president of the regional Jewish umbrella organization CRIF (Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France) raves about the numerous kashrut addresses: restaurants, caterers, bakeries, pastry shops, delicatessen shops. In Marseille you can not only eat Provencal, but also Algerian, Tunisian, Moroccan, Israeli or Italian. "This is Marseille," says Teboul, "all the cultures and cuisines of the Mediterranean in one place."
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