Menu JTA Search

Behind the Headlines the Jews of France

– For nearly all men and women, there is the Paris of art, of culture, the galleries, the museums, the grand boulevards, the parks, the superb restaurants, the banks of the River Seine.

For Jews, there is also another Paris, not as well known, but it is there. It can be found in the rue des Rosiers in the Pletzel, in the excitement of the crowds in this neighborhood where the buildings lean at add angles to the streets below.

The scene reminds one of New York’s Lower East Side. There is the small Moroccan Oratoire, the Jo Goldenberg restaurant with the musicians playing Yiddish and Israeli music, the selling of yarmulkes and kiddush cups and products from Israel and the print shops running off invitations in Hebrew and Yiddish.

There are many other faces of Judaism in Paris. For example, in another neighborhood, one can walk along the rue Richer, from rue Faubourg Poissonniere to the rue Faubourg Montmartre. There one meets the Jews of France, the Fourth largest Jewish community in the world. Their names are on the outdoor signs and they read: Zazou, Samy Azar, Azar Fils.

They are the Jews of North Africa who have established wonderful kosher restaurants, bakeries, snack bars, bookstores and small businesses. Synagogues abound here and one meets rabbis and teachers, business persons and students and professionals.

MANY JEWISH NEIGHBORHOODS

Both neighborhoods are in their own way representative of this large community of 385, 000 Jews who live in and around the French capital. In the rue Richer, one sees the Sephardic Jews who have brought a new dynamism to French Jewry. Many are religious. Many have visited Israel and support the Jewish State. They do not live in this commercial area, and at night they return to their apartments thoughout Paris and the suburbs.

But the Jews of Paris don’t reside in one particular neighborhood; they live everywhere. They reside on the Left Bank and the Right Bank, in the student quarter, on the Champs Elysee and on the Blvd. Saint-Michel and in the narrow streets near Place Saint-Paul known affectionately as the Pletzel which is located in the Marais.

Incidentally, it is now “in” to live in the Marais which is one of the oldest and most interesting parts of Paris, especially with the remodeling and refurbishing of several-century old buildings, as in the Place des Vosges.

But it is the Pletzel, of course, where one finds the Jewish past. It is, after all, the section where the Jews lived as far back as the 13th Century. It is the area the Jews of Eastern Europe came to at the turn of the century as they fled Czarist Russia. Later, too, they came from Poland, and Rumania. They found a haven in Paris in the 1920’s and 1930’s.

The name Pletzel is probably a Yiddish derivative of the French words: “little place. ” From the Saint-Paul metro (subway) stop one can traverse the rue Pavee, rue des Rosiers, rue des Ecouffes, rue Ferdinand Duval, rue Geoffroy I’Asnier, where Jews have lived and worked for centuries.

Signs and posters note Jewish concerts, meetings and socials. There are numerous synagogues, including an Orthodox synagogue at 10 rue Pavee which was dynamited by the Nazis in World War II but restored after the Liberation.

KOSHER GASTRONOMICAL DELIGHTS

Paris is the gastronomical capital of the world and the traveller seeking kosher cuisine can certainly savor a wide variety of East European and North African specialties.

In the Pletzel is La Rose d’Or, the first kosher pizza parlor in Europe. Located at 54 rue des Rosiers, it specializes in pizza, and other delicacies. Nearby is another strictly kosher restaurant at La Bonne Bouchess, I rue des Hospitalieres St. Gervais.

In the Pletzel, American tourists often visit Jo Goldenberg’s restaurant at 7 rue des Rosiers. Open from 8 a. m. until 2 a.m., the restaurant is not kosher. It is kosher style and the cuisine is definitely European. Ambiance is king here. There is an atmosphere of singing and dancing and “music does fill the air.”

Born and raised in the Pletzel, Jo Goldenberg is proud of his guest list which has included Charlie Chaplin, Abba Eban, Barbra Streisand, Charles Aznavour, Simone Veil and many others.

MOVING JEWISH SITES

Located in the Pletzel at 17 rue Geoffroy 1, Shnier, a few short blocks from the rue des Rosiers is the Memorial to the Unknown Jewish Martyr, one of the most moving Jewish sites in Paris. It is a tribute to the Six Million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. The museum, part of the complex, includes documents and photographs of World War II. It is open daily except Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 12 noon, and from 2 to 5:30 p.m.

A short walk away, across the River Seine, is another important memorial. Located in a small garden behind Notre Dame on the tip of the Isle de la Cite is a monument dedicated to the 200,000 men and women of all races and religions who died in the Nazi death camps in World War II.

Finally, a journey to Paris is not complete without reporting on the activities of the Jewish Museum at 42 rue des Saules. And it is in the area of Jewish art and culture that an item of significant news may be made in 1981.

The museum itself, crowded into the third floor of a community center, may move to a mansion in the Marais, it has been announced by the Ministry of Culture. When that occurs the Strauss-Rothschild collection in storage in the Musee de Cluny will be turned over to the new headquarters of the enlarged Jewish Museum.

Moreover, this spring, the entire Strauss-Rothschild collection will be shown in the Grand Palais, a fitting tribute to the Jews of France who have contributed so much to the country.

Tomorrow: Part Three

NEXT STORY