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La Chaux-de-Fonds


LA CHAUX-DE-FONDS , town in the canton of Neuchâtel, W. Switzerland. The first official evidence of Jews dates from 1772; they attempted to establish residence there in 1777 but were refused by the authorities. In 1782 they were permitted to remain and trade within the city area for extended periods of time but in 1790 this permission was revoked. In 1818 six families, all of them of Alsatian origin, settled in La Chauxde-Fonds and by 1844 the number of Jews had grown to 65. A community was organized in 1833 and the first synagogue building acquired in 1853. Since other Swiss municipal authorities were reluctant to grant Jews permission to settle, liberal city authorities helped La Chaux-de-Fonds in housing the biggest Jewish community in Switzerland in 1850. This was the period of the flourishing Swiss watch industry, in which Jews, too, were active. The Alsatian rabbi Jules Wolff, a student of the rabbinical seminary of Paris, was elected rabbi there in 1896 and served until 1955. In 1895 a beautiful new synagogue in Byzantine cupola-style was erected, which is still in use today and was recently renovated. Until 1945 La Chaux-de-Fonds had a distinctly Alsatian-Jewish character. With the decline of the watch industry, the city and the community had great economic problems. In 2004 the Jewish community of La Chaux-de-Fonds had 107 members.


F. Guggenheim-Gruenberg, Die Juden in der Schweiz (1961); A. Weldler-Steinberg, Geschichte der Juden in der Schweiz, 2 vols. (1966/70), index; A. Kamis-Muller, Vie Juive en Suisse, (1992); L. Leitenberg, "Evolution et perspectives des communautés en Suisse romande," in: Schweiz. Isr. Gemeindebund (ed.), Jüd. Lebenswelt Schweiz. 100 Jahre Schweiz. Isr. Gemeindebund (2004), 153–66, 461.

[Uri Kaufmann (2nd ed.)]

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