France / Alsace


Pfaffenhoffen Synagogue. Photo de Ralph Hammann – Wikimedia

The Jewish presence in Pfaffenhoffen probably dates from the beginning of the 14th century.

In 1683 the first synagogue in Pfaffenhoffen was built. However, it was destroyed shortly afterwards. This did not prevent the Jewish community from growing from three families at the turn of the 18th century to sixteen on the eve of the French Revolution. Following the three major wars and the rural exodus, it gradually diminished. Thus, there were only 69 Jews left in Pfaffenhoffen in 1936 and half of them after the Shoah.

The small  village shul from 1791, with its modest façade, is without doubt the most moving historical place in Alsace.

Pfaffenhoffen synagogue. Photo de Olivier Lévy – Wikipedia

Here, no ostentatious gilding or gleaming marble, but a simple synagogue with white walls and, on the first floor, its kahlstube, its kitchen and its room for the shnorrer of passage. Near the entrance, you will notice a stone fountain that is even older than the synagogue itself: its Hebrew date is 1744.

On the upper floor, the prayer hall has kept its wooden benches, its beautiful frame of the holy ark, decorated with the lions of Judah and the vines of Alsace. In the bull’s eye, you will pay attention to the blue and white windows which, according to the Talmud, allow to determine the morning time of the prayer: when, at daybreak, one manages to distinguish the two colors. This elementary way of marking time disappeared in the 19th century with the appearance of the pocket watch. In 2000, the synagogue was transformed into a museum.

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