Gate to the Orient
Marseille is France’s largest Mediterranean city and port, it also boasts the second largest Jewish population in France with a population of 80,000 strong. The earliest presence of Jews in Marseille can be traced to the 6th century. Several centuries later in 1165, the Spanish-Jewish traveler Benjamin of Tudela reported that there were 300 Jewish families in Marseille. One of the letters sent by Maimonides was to the “Wise Men of the Congregation of Marseille.” Along with much of Europe, the 15th century brought persecution and expulsions the Jews of Marseille. The modern Jewish community was re-founded in 1760, and in 1864 the Nathan Solomon designed oriental-style Temple Breteuil opened. To this day, it remains an inspirational testimony of the legendary Jewish community of the port of Marseille.
The community today is made up of Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews who moved from North Africa in recent decades, making for a lively mix in the metropolitan area. Walking around the city, you will find synagogues, countless kosher grocery stores and restaurants, as well as many Jewish schools and kindergartens So whether one takes a walk along the Corniche – the spectacular coastal promenade – or takes an excursion in the Bay of Marseille to the Island of If, where the Château d’If was made famous by the novel The Count of Monte Cristo – there is much to do and see alongside Jewish Marseille.
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