ROUSSILLON , region and former province in S. France, corresponding to the present department of Pyrénées-Orientales. In 1172 the county of Roussillon passed to the kings of Aragon and did not become a French possession again until 1642. Names of places such as the Iudegas quarter (territory of Clayra, township of Rivesaltes) or a Villa Iudaicas (near Sainte-Hippolyte), whose existence is confirmed from the 11th century, indicate that there were at that time some Jews in Roussillon. The first documentary evidence of the presence of Jews there, however, dates only from 1185 and concerns a Jew in *Perpignan. Jews lived in Elne, Collioure, Arles-sur-Tech, Banyuls-sur-Mer, Thuir, Céret, Salces, Ille-sur-Tet, Prades, Millas, and *Villefranche-de-Conflent. In 1243 a Jewish quarter, the Call, was set aside in Perpignan, and from 1251 Jews were compelled to live there. The communities of Thuir, Ille, and Céret (perhaps others too) had their own cemeteries, like *aljama of Perpignan. In 1276 the county of Roussillon was awarded to the king of Majorca, who exercised his authority over the Jews of Roussillon through the intermediary of the count. Subsequently the royal procurator was responsible for civil and criminal jurisdiction over the Jews of Roussillon. Until 1314, when the wearing of the *badge was imposed, the Jews wore a cape as a distinctive garment. Pedro iv of Aragon, who annexed the kingdom of Majorca (1344), authorized the Jews of Roussillon to travel to France for business purposes. In addition to engaging in such occupations as commerce (including peddling) and moneylending, Jews of Roussillon worked as bookbinders, tailors, goldsmiths, and especially as dyers. The anti-Jewish persecutions of 1391 in Spain reached the Jews of Roussillon in 1392. There was a similar delay of one year a century later at the time of the expulsion from Spain (1492), when a number of Jews from there sought refuge in Roussillon, only to be expelled in 1493, along with the Jews of Roussillon.
The Jews of Roussillon produced scholars who distinguished themselves through their mastery of many different branches of learning, both secular and Jewish. Most notable were the Jewish physicians who served in the towns and villages of the province, such as Bernard de Jorena in Perpignan in 1226, Solomon Moses de Villemanȳa in Elne in 1327, and Jacob de Guanges in Elne in 1380. Jacob Bonjuhes functioned in a similar capacity in Ille in 1407 and Thuir in 1410. Many Jews of Roussillon studied science and medicine at the University of Montpellier in the 14th century, a period when Perpignan flourished as a center of learning. There was much literary interest as well; poets included Jehoseph *Ezobi and *Phinehas b. Joseph ha-Levi. The study of Bible flourished; an intense polemic developed at the beginning of the 14th century between the partisans and opponents of the study of philosophy. At the center of the controversy was Levi b. Abraham of Villefranche-de-Conflent, probably the grandfather of *Levi b. Gershom, who brought down upon himself the ire of the Orthodox of his time, including Solomon b. Abraham *Adret, for his support of philosophic studies; he also studied astronomy. By the end of the 14th century, Perpignan had become a center for the study of astronomy. Rabbinic studies also were not lacking. The most prominent scholars of Roussillon were Menahem b. Solomon *Meiri (1249–1306), Abraham b. Isaac *Bedersi, and Isaac b. Judah de Lattes. Prominent in an earlier generation was Abraham b. David de Roussillon, Meiri's grandfather. Among the Hebrew manuscripts at the University of Bologna is a maḥzor with glosses by a R. Judah Roussillon (rej, 120, 124). Jews continued to pursue their intellectual and cultural interests until their expulsion in 1493.
Gross, Gal Jud, 632f.; P. Vidal, in: rej, 15 (1887), 19–55; 16 (1888), 1–23, 170–203; J.G. Gigot, in: Cerca. Centre d'Etudes et de Recherches Catalanes des Archives, 30 (1965), 253–7.