City on the Rhône, France. Jews seem to have been established in the surrounding region at an early date. The fact that Pope Victor in the fifth century prohibited the Archbishop of Vienne (France) from celebrating Easter with the Jews shows not only that there were Jews in the towns surrounding Lyons, but also that the Christians were on terms of comparative intimacy with them.

First Mention.

It is chiefly in the ninth century that the presence of Jews in Lyons is incontestably demonstrated. They then formed a prosperous community and lived in a special quarter situated at the foot of the Fourvière hill, of which one street is still called "Rue Juiverie." Protected by the King of France, Louis le Debonnaire, and by Judith, his wife, they were special objects of aversion to the bishop Agobard, who, however, succeeded only in alienating himself from his sovereign, and failed utterly in his struggle against them.

The Jews continued to live in Lyons until the middle of the thirteenth century. The arrival of Pope Innocent IV., who took refuge in the domain of the archbishop, seems to have been fatal to them. The council held at Lyons in 1245 under the presidency of the pope expressed indignation at the relations existing between Jews and Christians and tried to repress the former. Not only were they precluded from holding any office; they were also obliged to wear on their dress a piece of cloth of a special color and circular in form. About the same time Archbishop Philip of Savoy, setting an example which was to be imitated three years later by Jean, Bishop of Vienne, expelled them from Lyons.

For nearly a century there were no Jews, except temporary residents, in the whole district. A manuscript copy of a tariff of taxes paid to the archbishop or metropolitan chapter for merchandise in 1340 shows that every Jew who passed through Lyons was obliged to pay 12 deniers on entering the city or else to receive a blow ("Archives du Rhône," an inedited manuscript).

In the Fourteenth Century.

Beginning with the fourteenth century, official records show that Jews had returned to Lyons and were living there. The ordinance of Charles V., dated Sept. 27, 1364, decreeing that the Jews of Lyons should contribute to the common charges, clearly proves their presence in the city. At that time they lived in the same quarter, St. Georges, which their predecessors had occupied two centuries earlier. In 1379 Jean de Tabaru drove them out of the Rue Dorée, adjacent to the Rue Juiverie, and bade them settle in another quarter, situated on the right bank of the Rhône. Their number increased daily, as is seen from a document of the time in which the city complains of the benefits derived by the clergy from the Jews ("Archives du Rhône," carton CC, 290). ln 1386 Charles VI. by letters patent renewed the ordinance of his father ordering the Jews to contribute to the expenses of the city ("Archives de la Ville de Lyon," CC, 290). They had then, as under Louis II., a conservator of their rights, the "magister Judæorum." In 1393 the archbishop claimed jurisdiction over the Jews, who protested, declaring themselves subject to the king. They lost their case, however, as is shown by a document of the fourteenth century in which are found the names of certain Jews of Lyons: Josson of Montmelian, Josson of Vermenton, Dalmon Moyses, Saussin, and Abraham Noblet ("Archives du Rhône," ch. metrop., fols. 116-119).


The edict of Sept. 17, 1394, by which Charles VI. expelled all Jews from France, did not immediately affect those at Lyons. Several historians give 1420 as the date of their definite departure from the city and of their arrival at Trevoux, whither they transferred the gold- and silver-thread industry. The names "Trefousse," "Dreyfus," etc., are probably Alsatian corruptions of "Trevoux," as certain malcontents among these Lyonnaise Jews were driven out later from Trevoux and took refuge in Alsace.

From this time until the middle of the eighteenth century Jews were not allowed to live in Lyons. Two documents, dated respectively 1548 and 1571, show that their presence was at these dates considered a scandal to the city and the Christian religion.

Syndic of the Community.

Toward the end of the reign of Louis XV. several Jewish families again settled at Lyons. Some of them came from the cities of the south—Avignon, Carpentras, and Cavaillon; others, from Bordeaux or Alsace. At the very beginning of this reign the community numbered about fifteen families. A special vault was assigned to them for burial in the ground adjoining the hospital; and the mortuary records, still extant in the archives of the city, show that between the years 1767 and 1787 thirty-two bodies were interred there. The syndic of the new community was Elijah Rouget of Avignon. In a letter dated 1781 the lieutenant-general of the police of Lyons confers this dignity upon him and indicates to him the formalities to be observed before the magistrates by those Jews who live in the city and by those who are merely passing through Lyons. The successor of Elijah Rouget in the syndicate was Benjamin Naquet, who held the office for twenty years.

During the Revolution little attention was paid to the Jews of Lyons, since there was only a small number of them in the city, and they passed unnoticed. One of them, however, figures among the victims executed by the revolutionary tribunal which was instituted under the Reign of Terror; this was Azariah Vidal, executed in 1793.

After becoming French citizens by the decree of the convention of Sept. 27, 1791, the members of the Lyonnaise community in 1795 acquired for a cemetery, at a cost of 12,000 francs, a piece of land located at the Guillotière.

The Rabbinate.

The history of the community during the first half of the nineteenth century includes nothing of particular interest. Numbering only 200 souls under the empire and 500 under the Restoration and the constitutional monarchy, it was controlled after 1808 by the consistory of Marseilles, its affairs being regulated by a board of administration. Of the numerous administrators may be mentioned Isaac Helft (1808-18), Isaac Cerf of Ricqlès (1828-38), and Nordheim (1838-51). Religious services were held in a modest prayer-house, first in the Rue Bellecordière, on the second floor of a house occupied by numerous tenants, then on the ground floor of one in the Rue du Peyrat. Until 1850 the service was performed by an officiating minister. In that year a decree of the president of the republic instituted a rabbinate at Lyons, which included in its jurisdiction the department of the Rhône, of the Isère, and of the Loire. On Dec. 26, 1850, Jacques Weinberg, rabbi at Ribeauville, was called to fill the post.

The Synagogue.

In 1854 the suggestion was made to create a new consistory with Lyons as its center. This was effected Aug. 24, 1857: it comprises the departments of the Loire, the Ain, the Isère, the Jura, the Saône and Loire, and the Doubs. The consistory of Lyons has been represented at the central consistory by the Orientalist Salomon Munk (1858-67); by Michel Alcan, professor in the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers (1867-77); by the poet Eugène Manuel (1877-1900); and by M. Camille Lyon, departmental chief in the council of state (the present representative). In the ten years succeeding its foundation the Israelitish population had become doubled. The consistory obtained from the municipal council of Lyons for the site of a synagogue a parcel of land situated in one of the most beautiful quarters, on the Quai Tilsitt, facing the hill of the Fourvière. On June 23, 1864, the new synagogue, built according to the plans of Abraham Hirsch, was inaugurated. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful in France. In 1864 a home for the aged was built. In 1870 a new cemetery, adjacent to the old one, was purchased. The various presidents of the consistory have been: J. Kuppenheim, Abraham Hirsch, Leon Kahn, and Henri Gaisman. M. Weinberg, who was the first to occupy the post of grand rabbi after the creation of the consistory, and who died in 1879, was succeeded by the present (1904) incumbent, Alfred Lévy, who was installed atLyons July 1, 1880, having previously been rabbi at Dijon (1867-69) and at Lunéville (1869-80).

Present Condition.

The Jews of Lyons at present (1904) number about 1,500 in a total population of 466,767. The annual communal budget includes 40,000 francs for religious purposes and 25,000 francs for charities. Besides the home for the aged mentioned above, there are: a board of charities, destined especially to help poor travelers, of whom there are always a great number at Lyons; two women's charitable societies; a young women's society for the protection of poor girls; a young people's society for educating poor boys; and two mutual aid societies.

Among those members who hold honorable offices and render distinguished services to the state may be mentioned: Edouard Millaud, senator; Abraham Hirsch, honorary chief architect of the city of Lyons; Aron, councilor of the Court of Appeal; Aron, chief engineer of the Paris-Lyon-Mediterranean Railway Company; Brahm, solicitor of the Court of Appeal; Edmond Weil, professor in the faculty of medicine; Emmanuel Lévy, lecturer in the faculty of law; Lang, director of the Ecole la Martinière; Lévy Léon and Weil, professors at the Lycée; Seyewetz, subdirector of the school of chemistry; Marc Lévy, professor at the school of commerce; Isidore, commandant of artillery and subdirector of the arsenal.

  • Menestrier, Histoire Consulaire de Lyon;
  • Prudhomme, Les Juifs en Dauphiné, Grenoble, 1883;
  • Archives du Rhône, carton CC;
  • ib., Actes Capitulaires, E 1;
  • Archives de la Ville de Lyon, carton BB;
  • Archives de Villefranche, carton AA;
  • A. Lévy, Notice sur les Israélites de Lyon, 1894;
  • Baluze, Opera Agobardi, Paris, 1866;
  • Inauguration du Temple Israélite de Lyon, Lyons, 1864;
  • MS. Lyons, No. 1464.
G. A. L.
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