NÎMES (Hebrew, or = "city of woods"):
Chief town of the department of Gard, France. Jews were settled here in very remote times. Hilderic, Count of Nîmes, gave a favorable reception to a certain number of Jews who were driven out of Spain in 672 by King Wamba. In the twelfth century the Jewish community of Nîmes was one of the most important in Languedoc, one of its members, named Durand, occupying toward the end of the century the high position of subprovost ("sous-viguier"). Its academy had at its head one of the most celebrated rabbis of the Middle Ages, R. Abraham ben David (RABaD III.), the bitter and irreconcilable enemy of Maimonides (see Abraham ben David of Posquières). "Provence," writes Moses ben Judah of Béziers to Abraham ben David, "has three prominent academies, Montpellier, Lunel, and Nîmes. The first is the Temple mount; the second is the entrance into the outer court; and the third is the Temple itself, the seat of the Sanhedrin, whence the Law is disseminated throughout Israel" ("Temim De'im," No. 7).
The council convoked by Bishop Bertrand II. in 1284 adopted the most severe measures against the Jews. The same bishop, however, was obliged in 1295 to take the Jews under his protection in order to defend his own interests, which were threatened by Philip the Fair.
Driven out of Nîmes in 1306, the Jews returned to the town in 1359. In 1363 Marshal d'Audenham intervened in their behalf and ordered the seneschal of Beaucaire to act with justice and equity in the collection of taxes from them. They were again expelled in 1394 by order of Charles VI., and they then settled in various parts of Provence and in the Comtat-Venaissin. Some of their descendants obtained permission in 1680 to sojourn in Nîmes; but in spite of this they were soon expelled under penalty of the confiscation of their property.
Of the Jewish community of Nîmes in the MiddleAges the only traces that remain are a tombstone with a Hebrew inscription (transcribed by J. Simon in "Inscriptions Tumulaires Hébraïques du Moyen-Age à Nîmes"), and three epitaphs, likewise in Hebrew (transcribed by Poldo d'Albenas in "Discours Historial de l'Antique et Illustre Cité de Nismes," pp. 190, 191, and reproduced by Ménard in "Histoire de la Ville de Nismes," vii. 475, 476). The municipal library, too, contains several Hebrew manuscripts which have been made the subject of a very interesting study by J. Simon (in "R. E. J." iii. 225).The Ghetto.
The Jews' quarter was situated in the Rue de la Fabrerie, now Rue du Chapitre, as is evident from the deed of sale of a house in 1306 by Isaac de Portes to Vitalis de Boerian and to the Jewess Blanche. In 1359 there had been assigned to the Jews as their place of residence a part of the Rue Corrègerie Vieille (the present Rue de l'Etoile); but, to shield them from maltreatment at the hands of their Christian neighbors, the Rue Caguensol and Rue Fresque (formerly the Rue de la Jésutarié or Juiverie) were assigned to them at their own request as their special quarter.Synagogue and Cemetery.
From a document dated 1089 it is learned that the synagogue was situated in the Rue du Chapitre on the spot where later was erected the Hôtel de la Prevôté, now the Maison Maroger de Rouville. In 1789 the synagogue was situated in the Rue Carreterie, the present Rue Jean Reboul. At the time of the Revolution the Israelites of Nîmes offered in support of the cause the seventeen pieces of silver-work which were used in their religious services or which ornamented the scrolls of the Law. In 1794 seven heads of families at their own expense erected a temple in the Rue Roussy with a ritual bath ("miḳweh") and an oven for the baking of unleavened bread. The municipality of Nîmes acquired this building in 1844. Improvements in it were made in 1865 and again in 1893.
The most ancient cemetery was situated on Mont-Duplan, known in the eleventh century as the "Poïum" ("Podium Judaicum") or "Puech-Jusieu." For each burial the Jews paid to the monks of the monastery of St. Baudile, to whom the land belonged, a fee of one pound of pepper or nine sols. From 1778 the Jews buried their dead in gardens situated in various parts of the city. In 1785 they acquired a cemetery on the Rue du Mail. This was closed in 1809, and the present (1904) cemetery on the St. Gilles road was then used.In the Eighteenth Century.
Restrictive measures against the Jews were taken in 1729, 1731, 1745, and 1754 by the intendant of Languedoc. Having returned to Nîmes, they petitioned in 1784 for admission into the gild of cap-makers "as apprentices and as master workmen." This request was denied, as was also a similar request which they made the same year to the gild of hose manufacturers and to the different trade syndicates. In 1787 Mordecai Carcassonne, one of the most important members of the community, addressed to the minister De Lamoignon a memorial in which he claimed the right, by virtue of the liberal edict of Nov., 1787, to be admitted into the corporation of textile merchants. The reply was not long delayed. The hour of the Revolution had struck.
Under the Reign of Terror Mordecai Mirargues, the ḥazzan, was obliged to bow before the altar of Reason. David Crémieu, after having been imprisoned at the Palais, was transferred to Nice, and José Carcassonne paid with his life for his devotion to the interests of his city (July 18, 1794).
In 1806 the Jews of Nîmes numbered 371. Five of them, Joseph Roquemartine, Mordecai Roquemartine, Abraham Muscat, Montel Abraham, Jr., and Bezaleel Milhaud, were members of the Great Sanhedrin.
The Jewish community of Nîmes has numbered among its members the following scholars: Abraham ben David (mentioned above), Judah ben Abraham, Don Vidas, Judah ben Solomon ben Jacob ben Samuel ben Menahem, and Moses ben Abraham. In modern times many Jews of Nîmes have distinguished themselves in literature, science, and art. The most illustrious of them was undoubtedly Isaac Adolphe Crémieux (see S. Kahn, "Notice sur les Israélites de Nîmes," pp. 35-37).
At the present time (1904) the Jews of Nîmes constitute a very small proportion of its population.
Besides Nîmes the following places in the department of Gard possessed Jewish communities during the Middle Ages:
- Aigues-Mortes ( or ; "Dibre Ḥayyim," p. 111a).
- Aimargues (; I. de Lattes, Responsa, No. 26; comp. "R. E. J." xxxi. 290).
- Alais (): In the charter of Alais, dated 1200, article 55 treats of the Jews, and article 121 treats of the oath which was imposed upon them. In the fourteenth century Jews were quite numerous in this locality. They owned houses, vineyards, and fields. Several scholars of Alais are mentioned, among them Jacob ha-Levi, Solomon Bonseigneur, and Jacob ben Judah (Bardon, "Histoire de la Ville d'Alais," pp. 149, 150, 279; "Archives Municipales," series cc., pp. 22, 24, 106; comp. Gross, "Gallia Judaica," p. 59).
- Anduze (): Home of the cabalist Jacob ben Samuel ("R. E. J." x. 101, xii. 49; comp. Steinschneider, "Cat. Bodl." col. 2819), who cites a printer Abraham of the same place.
- Aramon ("Archives d'Aramon," B B. 2).
- Janves (Saige, "Les Juifs du Languedoc," pp. 278, 320; comp. "R. E. J." ii. 19, 39; xii. 193).
- Portes (Saige, l.c. p. vii.; comp. "R. E. J." ii. 46).
- Roquemaure (; Maulde, "Coutumes d'Avignon," p. 290; comp. Gross, "Gallia Judaica," p. 629).
- Sommières (; I. de Lattes, l.c. No. 26; Renan-Neubauer, "Les Rabbins Français," pp. 517, 746; Saige, l.c. p. 282).
- Vézenobres (Bardon, l.c. p. 212). See also Beaucaire; Milhaud; Posquières; Saint Gilles; Uzès.
- Dom Vaissète, Histoire Générale du Languedoc, i. 350-360 et seq.;
- Dom Bouquet, Recueil des Historiens de France, ii. 708;
- Ménard, Histoire de la Ville de Nismes, i. 41, 85-92 et seq.;
- E. Germer-Durand, Cartulaire du Chapitrede l'Eglisc Cathédrale de Notre-Damme de Nîes, pp. 168 et seq.;
- Saige, Les Juifs du Languedoc, pp. 11, 14, 35, 41;
- Joseph Simon, Histoire des Juifs de Nîmes au Moyen Age;
- S. Kahn, Notice sur les Israélites de Nîmes (672-1808);
- R. E. J. ii. 34, 46; iii. 225; x. 288; xx. 147;
- François Rouvière, Histoire de la Révolution Française dans le Département du Gard, iv. 104 et seq.;
- Renan-Neubauer, Les Rabbins Français, pp. 517, 665;
- idem, Les Ecrivains Juifs Français, pp. 779, 780;
- Zunz, Z. G. p. 473;
- Gross, Gallia Judaica, p. 398.