From Scotland to Cavaillon (France) and from
Dublin to Berlin via Stockholm and Copenhagen, the European Jewish
heritage of the North West of Europe offers a variety of examples
of the testimony of the life of Jews in that region marked again by
their history and the important fluxes of migration of Jewish
across the European continent. Following the destruction of the
Temple in 70 of the Common Era in Jerusalem, Jews dispersed
themselves. Jewish presence has been identified in Germany as early
as the year 321 in an Edict of the Emperor Constantine. They then
were dispersed across Europe, fleeing persecutions. Let us note for
instance, the mass exodus of the Jews of Spain in the 15th Century.
Thus, Jewish heritage in this region has been influenced by
Ashkenazi as well as Sefardic Jews.
Most of the heritage has been clearly influenced
by the Ashkenazi traditions (the region of Alsace in the East of
France exceptionally counts no less than 100 Jewish sites) yet a
few exceptions remain. Namely the famous synagogues of Cavaillon or
Carpentras in the South of France: these remain genuine jewels of
French and European history. Carpentras was even classified as a
world historical monument in 1924.
Painting - amulett. Alsacian museum of
the netherlands, belgium and germany
Moving northwards, one must mention the famous
Jewish heritage in the Netherlands, namely the famous Portuguese
synagogue of Amsterdam or the ultimate genuine Western European
shtetl (Yiddish word for Jewish village) of Antwerp,
which contains a rich Jewish cultural and folkloric Yiddish life
with its numerous synagogues, shops and schools.
Synagogue in Berfield, Germany. Photo
In Germany, despite the destruction caused by the
atrocities of the holocaust, the Great Synagogue of Berlin remains,
thanks to the brave action of a German policeman who claimed that
it was under police protection due to its cultural richness.
Other attractions remain in Germany, namely the
deepest mikve (ritual bath) in Friedberg which has 72 steps
and is 25 metres deep as well as the Worms synagogue, where the
famous Torah commentator, Rabbi Salomon ben Isaac better
known under the name of Rachi installed himself around 1060
of the Common Era.
switzerland, scandinavia, the united-kingdom and
In Switzerland, one may note the sole Jewish
Museum which is in Basle. This museum hosts documents on the
history of Swiss Jews as well as the Zionist Congresses which were
held there at the end of the 19th century under the leadership of
Moving eastwards towards Scandinavia, one should
mention the rich Jewish heritage in Stockholm, Copenhagen and
Helsinki. One should also discover the Synagogue of Trondheim in
Norway which is the most northern synagogue of the world as well as
having been the only synagogue to have been for a time a
Synagogue in Stockholm, Sweden
On the other side of the Channel, the Jewish
presence in the United Kingdom and Ireland dates from William
the Conqueror in 1066 who encouraged Jews, usually merchants
and artisans, to follow him on the island. Much legacy remains:
London hosts a number of historical synagogues, Liverpool, further
North, is the home to one of the most beautiful synagogues of
Britain. The Synagogue founded on 3rd September 1874 has been
decorated in particular late Victorian style.
Finally in Ireland, one may retain the peak
presence of Jews as being at the end of the 19th Century
particularly in Dublin but also in most of the big Irish towns
namely Limerick, Dublin and Belfast. The Ballybough cemetery of
Dublin, where no one has been buried since 1908, remains.