France has the largest Jewish population in Europe and the third largest in the world after Israel and the United States. Half of French Jews live in and around Paris, in neighborhoods like the Marais, Belleville and Le Sentier. The city is home to more than a dozen synagogues, including the magnificent Grand Synagogue.
While Paris is the center of Jewish life in France today, this wasn’t always the case. For centuries, that center was Provence. And the Jews there had a surprising and powerful protector: the Pope.
Read all about the history of Jewish Provence in France Today!
People are often surprised to learn that France has the third-largest Jewish population in the world, after Israel and the United States.
And they are even more surprised to learn that for centuries the center of Jewish life in France wasn’t Paris, it was Provence… thanks to the Pope!
How did this happen?
Jews have long been subject to persecution in France, as in many places.
In the Middle Ages, French Jews were the victims of murders, riots, and outright expulsions. There were few places where they were allowed to live, even fewer jobs they were allowed to hold, and many were forced to wear a yellow star.
Life was intolerable… but hope beckoned in the south.
Learn all about the surprising history of Jewish Provence in My French Life!
Despite having deep Catholic roots, France has the third-largest Jewish population in the world, after Israel and the United States. Jewish communities have existed in the country since the first century and it has long been a center of Jewish learning.
You might think that Paris, with its famous Marais neighborhood, is the center of French Jewish life. And while that is true today, it hasn’t always been. For centuries, it was Provence.
Read more about Jewish history in Provence at Frenchly.