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BESANÇON , capital of the department of Doubs, eastern France; from the 13th century a free city, annexed to France in 1674. The first reference to Jews in Besançon is found in 1245. The Jewish street was in the present Rue de Richebourg, and the cemetery in front of the present Porte de Charmont. Jewish bankers of Besançon are mentioned in the chronicles of the Anglo-French war of 1296–1301. In 1321, and between 1393 and 1404, Jews expelled from *Franche-Comté and *Burgundy reached the city. The Jews left Besançon in the 15th century, and in 1465 the cemetery was sold by the municipality. Jews were denied free access to Besançon from the end of the 17th to the end of the 18th century, a few permits of temporary residence for a limited period being granted to a small number of merchants. A permit of longer duration was issued to an engraver of semiprecious stones.

After the French Revolution the community in Besançon was reestablished. It numbered 20 families in 1807, and sent a delegate to the Assembly of Jewish notables and to the Sanhedrin convened by Napoleon. The community was administered by the *Consistory of Nancy until 1858, and then later by Lyons. The present synagogue, in Moorish style, was consecrated in 1869. In 1872 an independent consistory was set up at Besançon. The community was increased by Jews who left Alsace after the Franco-Prussian war of 1870. At the beginning of the 20th century there were 170 families living in Besançon.

[Zvi Avneri]

Holocaust and Postwar Periods

The community was largely destroyed and dispersed under the German occupation during World War ii. In May 1940, over one hundred Jews were deported by the Germans. After the war, the Jewish community slowly revived, and had 120 families in 1960. By 1969 their number had practically doubled, largely as a result of the influx of Jewish immigrants from North Africa. The community engaged a rabbi and cantor and maintained a number of institutions.

[Georges Levitte]


J. Morey, in: rej, 7 (1883), 2f., 19f.; 49 (1904): 2–7, 257–61; J. Auscher, in: ai, 31 (1870), 441ff., 472ff., 592ff.; M.A. Gerson, Essai sur les juifs de la Bourgogne au moyen âge (1893); A. Castan, Notes sur l'histoire municipale de Besançon (1898), 210, 278, 316, 348, 351; Z. Szajkowski, Analytical Franco-Jewish Gazetteer (1966), 185; R. Berg, et al., Guide Juif de France (1968), 148.