With 70,000 residents, Colmar is one of the largest cities in Alsace. It is known as the capital of Alsatian wine, and is home to the Musée Unterlinden, one of the most visited fine arts museums in France. Visitors will discover delightful boat rides on Colmar's waterways as well as traditional Alsatian and German medieval architecture in the city's historic center. Colmar's Jewish community traces its origin to the mid-13th century. The city's medieval Jewish quarter was located between the Boulevard du Champ de Mars (where the city wall once stood) and the Rue des Berthe-Molly (formerly known as the Rue des Juifs). The Jewish population dwindled in 14th century, and was completely expelled in 1512. Colmar became a French city for the first time in 1681. The Jewish community returned after the French Revolution, growing from 3 families in 1789 to over a thousand people by 1866. By the Second World War there were approximately 1200 Jewish inhabitants in Colmar, and roughly a third were deported and killed during the Occupation. Today the city's Jewish community includes approximately 1000 people, many of Northern African origin.
The current synagogue was inaugurated in 1843, vandalized by Germans during the war, then restored and reopened in 1959.
The museum's Jean-Claude Katz Room has an extensive collection of Jewish ritual and household objects, including a model synagogue decorated with an 18th century Holy Ark and embroidered curtains from the former synagogue of Bergheim, and a traditional dining room that includes a shabbat lamp and copper fountain.
The current Jewish cemetery on the Rue du Ladhof was established in the early 1800s. The medieval Jewish cemetery was on the Route de Rouffach, but it was seized in 1349. Later another Jewish cemetery was established near the Porte de Theinheim, on the modern-day Place du Saumon.
16th century Jewish houses
These well-preserved Renaissance houses were originally owned by Jewish residents of Colmar. They are now private homes.
Goxwiller is a beautiful town of 700 inhabitants who are mainly employed in agricultural and artisanal professions, especially winemaking.
Among the hundreds of small winemakers throughout Alsace, Vins Koenig is unique for producing kosher wines. Products may be sampled and purchased directly by visiting the winery, which is located on a street full of traditional Alsatian houses. Our visit will be accompanied by a wine tasting.
For most of its history Bischheim was a German-speaking town, and it became part of France for the first time in 1681. Although the first recorded mention of Jewish inhabitants in Bischheim dates from year of 1636, it is in fact likely that the first Jews of Bischheim were refugees expelled from Strasbourg during the 14th century. Bischheim was long home to the most important Jewish community of Alsace. Among its most noteworthy Jewish residents was Cerf Berr, whose efforts led to full civil rights for French Jews in the late 18th century. The community reached its peak in the 19th century with just under a thousand members. Today, a unique Jewish Ritual Bath Museums may be visited in Bischheim, along with numerous historic houses and buildings that may still tell the story of the cultural and religious heritage left by this once thriving community.
Jewish Ritual Bath Museum / Musée du bain rituel juif de Bischheim
On the museum's first floor, the David Sintzheim room displays Jewish ritual objects, including a Torah. On the lower level, a 48-step spiral staircase dating from the 1500s leads to a mikvah whose water emanates from the natural underground water table. The location was classified an official French historic monument in 1977.
Rue de l'Ecole
At times also named Riethgasse or Steingasse, the present-day Rue de l'Ecole became the center of Jewish life during the late 18th century. During this period, most of the houses on the street belonged to Cerf-Berr, leader of the Jews of Alsace. The home of Cerf-Berr's brother in law David Sintzheim was on this street, as was the yeshiva where he taught. The original synagogue of 1838 was also located on the Rue de l'Ecole, on the same site where the modern synagogue of 1959 now stands.
Old Malt House
In the middle of the 19th century, Abraham Schneegans opened a malt house on the Place du Marché, between the Rue Nationale and the Rue de la Robertsau. At the end of the First World War, Bischheim's malt house was bought by Henri Lévy, who ran it until the eve of the Second World War.
Site of 19th century glass and dishware factory
In 1879, Abraham Lazare opened a small company called G'Schirrfrommel that made glass and dishware on the Rue de l'Ecole, now the Rue de Robertsau. In the 1930s, his son Paul added a glass decorating studio to the family business, which was of particular interest to brewers who wanted their emblems and colors on beer glasses. Paul Lazare and his children perished in Nazi extermination camps. After the war, his sister continued the business, but it closed in 1972. The building it occupied was subsequently destroyed in 1994.
Zacharias Wolff residence
This remarkably restored building, which dates to at least the early 18th century, was purchased in the early 20th century by a horse trader named Gabriel Blum. It was the former residence of the rabbi Zacharias Wolff, who was director of the rabbinical school of Colmar. This house was the only multiple-residence building in Bischheim to have been occupied entirely by Jews.
This modest traditional Alsatian house was home to a famous musical family. Moyse Lévy, who later adopted the surname Waldteufel, arrived in Bischheim in the late 1780s and married Elle Lazare. They had five children, three of whom became musicians. Their son Lazare-Louis was a talented violinist and composer, and he founded a music school in Strasbourg. Lazare-Louis's son Emile Waldteufel is considered the father of the French waltz, having composed more than three hundred of them before his death in 1915.
La Barcarolle residence
Named after one of Emile Waldteufel's best known compositions, the Barcarolle residence was built in 1991 on the site of the former home of Jean-Georges Freysz, accountant of the Boecklin family. With nearly three acres of grounds, this vast bourgeois home had thirty doors and windows. During the French Revolution, it became the property of the Jewish banker Auguste Ratisbonne. Ratisbonne was a notable Jewish philanthropist, founding a Jewish school of arts and crafts and a home for the aging and ill that still exists today.
The Jewish community of Bischheim bought the land for this cemetery in 1797, and the first funeral stone dates from 1798. Expanded in 1848, the cemetery offers a diverse array of interesting monuments and funerary symbols.
Sephardic Cultural Room
This cultural center reflects the traditions of the Jews who have arrived from North Africa since the 1960s.
*This tour includes an overnight stay in a 4 or 5 star hotel in Alsace
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