The Jews of France
Sarah Gorenstein - June 22, 2009
There may have been a few Jews in France during the Roman era and there are some reports of Jews landing in France by boat after the Roman conquest of Jerusalem. But it wasnít until the 5th and 6th century that Jewish communities began to be established, and during the 8th century there are some records of Jews being involved in medicine and commerce. Under the rule of the Carolingians, like Charlemagne, Jews began to become more numerous in France and their movements and trades were severely restricted. But they were permitted to engage in the export trade and served as messengers and merchants for the king. As Christian Europe entered its Crusade period in the early Middle Ages Jews did not seem to suffer much at first although there are reports of some Jewish communities being the choice of conversion or exile. After the Second Crusade a long period of persecution began for the Jews of France.
Sarkozy and Rabbi in Lyon
In 1181 King Philip Augustus put all the Jews in prison and demanded a ransom for their release. He also cancelled all of their loans and took a percentage of them for his own coffers. Jews were expelled and exiled from many communities and when they were allowed back in some were forced to wear a special badge identifying them as Jews.
These attacks on Jews continued through the reigns of Philip Augustusís sons but Jews somehow managed to maintain their presence and economic activity in France during this difficult period which saw them expelled and readmitted several times. They even developed centers for Jewish scholarship and learning and one of the most famous Jewish scholars was Rashi whose extensive study of scriptures is still being read today.
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