Jewish city story of Colmar

Colmar is a town in the Grand Est region of northeastern France, near the border with Germany. Its old town has cobblestone streets lined with half-timbered medieval and early Renaissance buildings. The Gothic 13th-century, Eglise Saint-Martin church stands on central Place de la Cathédrale. The city is on the Alsace Wine Route, and local vineyards specialize in Riesling and Gewürztraminer wines.

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Selestat Synagogue

Sélestat is an ancient community, which disappeared in the 16th century. It was not reconstituted at the 19th century. The oratory, dating from 1836 and installed at the Poêle des Laboureurs, was replaced by a synagogue, built in 1890. The latter, ransacked by the Nazis, was restored after the war without the original dome. The rabbinate of Sélestat dates from 1866 and replaces that of Muttersholtz. In the 14th century the community was relatively large, judging by the size of the Jewish quarter. The synagogue was located in an alleyway, which is still visible today, next to the "pharmacie du Soleil" in the "rue des Clefs" (then "Judengasse") and which connected with the "rue Ste-Barbe" (then "Schmiedgasse"). The name of Rabbi Ahron, to whom people came from Strasbourg to study the sacred texts, and especially that of his son, the famous Rav Schemouel Schlettstadt, who directed the yeshivah (talmudic school) of Strasbourg and is known as a compiler and decision-maker, have been preserved from this century. The synagogue having been destroyed in 1470 to make way for the former St. Barbe arsenal, the community acquired, through the intermediary of the Magistrate, the former Poële des Laboureurs to establish its new place of worship. This building can still be seen at no. 3 Rue Ste-Barbe (rear part of the Boespflug building). The expression "auf der Judschul" (which previously referred only to the Place Ste-Barbe) was commonly used to designate the future Rue des Juifs, which became Rue Ste-Barbe in 1910. After several waves of persecutions and expulsions, notably in 1349, during the Black Death, when the Jews of Western Europe were accused of having poisoned the wells, they were definitively expelled from Sélestat around 1650. However, Jewish merchants and showmen were authorized to come and practice their trade at the annual fairs as well as the weekly markets. This situation lasted until the Revolution. In 1622, on the other hand, the Jews of Bergheim, Ribeauvillé, Scherwiller and Dambach founded the present Israelite cemetery in Sélestat. It had to be enlarged several times afterwards. This is where Reisel Sée, whose filial love was immortalized by the moralists of the Revolution, was later buried. In 1890, the architect of the city of Selestat, Alexandre Stamm (1835-1906), designed a new building. It has a central plan, like many Rhine synagogues, and is in the Romanesque-Byzantine style. It is a beautifully colored building with alternating pink sandstone, light sandstone and brick. The dome on a drum "with oculus" which decorated it was destroyed by the Nazis in 1940 and was not rebuilt. During this restoration, the old ritual bath (Mikveh) from 1836, part of an earlier building, was discovered in the basement. The Hebrew inscription above the main door means: "This is the door of the Lord. The righteous shall pass through it". Image credit: © Ralph Hammann - Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons I, Olevy, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons


Wintzenheim Jewish Cemetery

When entering the cemetery, this "Bäjs Aulem", this "House of Eternity", the contrast is great between the oldest sandstone tombs of the Vosges, whose sagging stone leans like an orant bent in prayer, and the order of the most recent burials, to whom the the rigidity of the marble or granite slabs confers a certain bourgeois respectability. A monument also commemorates members of the community and neighboring villages who perished in the resistance or in deportation during the Second World War. Opposite the entrance, a large rectangular square. A tiny plaque placed on the ground recalls that four hundred graves were torn from this cemetery, carried away by Nazi barbarism. The traces of at least three generations have thus been erased. The graves, like the Jews at the same time, went to an unknown destination. This void, redoubled by the near absence of Jews, in a place once inhabited by a community bustling , does not fail to question us. It is all the more significant that the Jews have participated for nearly five centuries in the history of the city. Until the end of the 18th century, the Jews of Wintzenheim had to bury their dead in the cemetery of Jungholtz, about thirty kilometers away. They had to pay a tax in each village and in each borough crossed. It was not until 1795 that they were authorized to open a cemetery along the road to Turckheim. When it was created, the cemetery occupied an area of ​​26 ares. A 16-acre plot, acquired in 1826, allowed it to be enlarged in order to bury the Jews of Turckheim, Ingersheim, Wettolsheim and Munster as well. The oldest tomb that remains today dates from 2 Germinal of the year II (1797). The oldest tombs, from around 1797 to 1860, are characterized by a relative uniformity, in accordance with the imperative of simplicity and equality which must unite the Jews in death. They respond to a restraint that refuses the ostentation of social disparities: each tomb is made up of a vertical sandstone slab. Most do not wear decorative patterns. Some are surmounted by a ball, a pine cone, a stylized flower, or even a decorated pediment. From the second half of the 19th century, there is gradually more variety in the decor: hands of the Cohanim, ewer of Lévy, weeping willow and winged hourglass. Religious, and above all social, distinction imposes its mark.

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Hopla Guide

Hi there! We are Laura et Georges, the team behind Hopla Guide. We run this project together, and in our spare time, we run our life together. We are an international couple, she’s Argentinian, he’s French, but both “Made in Alsace”. Travellers, food lovers, culture addicts, wanderers... our lives brought us in many places, from Europe to Latin America. Every trip, we seek for authentic experiences. We want to discover it all, but freely, spontaneously. During our trips, we found ourselves with two options: either we had to follow a guided group, losing our independence, or wander around with the feeling of missing out on important places. What to see ? In what order ? And what souvenirs to buy and bring back home ? Is there no other way? What if we could visit a city on our own, with freedom and flexibility, and be sure we are going to see everything, learn about the local culture, and have fun at the same time? What if we could be guided explorers? One day, we decided to put our abilities together and innovate. Laura has a master's degree in tourism specialized in management, marketing and eco-sustainability. Georges has a master's degree in history of art from Paris-Sorbonne university. We both have professional experience in tourism companies. That is how Hopla Guide started. We built a solution, reimagined guided tours, and created a complete experience, both physical and digital. Cultural information had to be accessible to the explorer at any time, so we chose to build a mobile app, allowing interactivity and flexibility. But we wanted to go further and create something that doesn't stay on your phone but materialises in the real world. So we selected exciting items that enhance the visit and bring the tour on another level of interaction, using other senses : touch, taste and smell. We believe in slow tourism, in a respectful and deeper way of discovering. We empower little groups to live a true cultural exploration, not just a quick run in the city to take some pictures and go away without learning anything. Our explorers are meant to get an honest grasp of the local identity. We invite you to take part in our story and give a chance to another kind of cultural experience.

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yannis wissinger August 4, 2022

The Jewish Story of Colmar, France

Colmar is a town in the Grand Est region of northeastern France, near the border with Germany. Its old town has cobblestone streets lined with half-timbered medieval and early Renaissance buildings. The Gothic 13th-century, Eglise Saint-Martin church stands on central Place de la Cathédrale. The city is on the Alsace Wine Route, and local vineyards specialize in Riesling and Gewürztraminer wines. It is believed that Jews settled in Colmar around the middle of the 13th century; there is a document from 1278 that mentions the Jews living there. The town’s first Jewish community consisted of a synagogue, a mikveh, a cemetery, and a "dance hall.” The Jewish quarter was situated between the western rampart, the present Rue Chauf-four, and the Rue Berthe Molly (formerly the Rue des Juifs). In 1348, during the Black Death persecutions, the Jews of Colmar were all condemned to death and were burnt at the stake the following year. This event took place at what is known still today as "Judenloch."  [caption id="attachment_31442" align="alignnone" width="1600"] Colmar synagogue[/caption] Several years later in 1385, Jews were once again allowed to reside in Colmar. The community consisted of around 29 adults by 1392 but the population started to decrease until 1468 when only two families remained. In 1510, the emperor gave permission to the town to expel the remaining Jews and many moved outside the town to the surrounding areas. They were still able to continue their commercial relations with the burghers of the town, but in 1530 they were forbidden to lend to the burghers. In 1534 they lost the right to trade within Colmar, and in 1541 were forbidden to enter the city even to attend markets and fairs.  This was a result of a decision that Joseph (Joselmann) Gershon of Rosheim made and the result is not well-known. The negative attitude of the burghers toward the Jews remained unchanged, even after Colmar was formally annexed to France in 1681. During the 18th century, there were a few Jews who were authorized in the town in order to prepare ritual food for Jews who visited the town for trade purposes. Finally, after the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, Jews were again allowed to settle in Colmar and the Jewish population reached approximately 1,200 in 1929. During the Holocaust, Jews in Colmar shared the fate of the other Jews in Alsace and Moselle. They were expelled from their homes, and their synagogue, which was built in 1843, was completely ransacked. After the war the survivors rebuilt the  Jewish community, restored the synagogue, and set up new institutions, including a community center. In 1969 there were over 1,000 Jews in Colmar.  

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