Synagogue of Nantes. Photo by Jibi44 – Wikipedia

Little is known about the history of the Jews in Gallo-Roman Armorica before the Council of Vannes which, around 465, legislated on their relations with clerics.

Their ancient and lasting establishment in Brittany is however attested in the 13th century, in Rennes, Fougères and, above all, in Nantes. The anti-Judaism which marks the crusades ends after a period of looting and murder, in their expulsion from the Duchy (ordinance of Ploërmel, April 10, 1240).

It was not until the 17th century and especially the 18th century to find traces of their presence in Nantes, but also in Saint-Malo and Rennes, frequenting the great fairs of Brittany.

Having become French citizens, the Jews experienced a long period of peaceful life in the 19th century. Very few in number, they are hardly more than two hundred throughout Brittany, but nevertheless form dynamic communities in Brest and Nantes where in 1871, the first synagogue in Brittany was inaugurated.

Brest. Photo by Aodhanbzh – Wikipedia

The anti-Semitic violence of 1898 and 1899, (year of the second Dreyfus trial in Rennes) did not spare the region. Leading academics were teaching in Rennes at the time: Henri Sée, Victor Basch, the latter was founder (on January 22, 1899) of the Rennes section of the Human Rights League which, in ten years, grew from 21 members to more than 600.

The presence of Jews at the time of the Second World War is authenticated by the commemorative plaques installed in the community center, recalling the names of the 70 families deported from Ille et Vilaine: 131 (250 disappeared for the whole of Brittany).

It was in the early 1960s that the Jewish community of Rennes was formed in an organized form with mainly Jewish families from North Africa joined by a few Ashkenazi families, including survivors of the extermination camps.

Centre Edmond J. Safra de Rennes

In 1963 a first association was born chaired by Mr. Rozenfeld who organized meetings at his home and who organized the first office of Yom Kippur. Subsequently, on each Yom Kippur, the Hall of Fine Arts was rented to accommodate the offices led by an officiant who came from Paris with a Séfer.

At the end of 1969, the relentless activity of a group of friends gathered around Mr. Henri Ohana led to the inauguration of the first premises allocated by the municipality to our community now under the presidency of Mr. Jacques Habib. We obtained from the mayor Mr. Henri Fréville a very small room then a second less cramped room still in the district of Maurepas.

Saint-Malo. Photo by Pline – Wikipedia

Later, the municipality granted an apartment in the Maurepas neighborhood house where it was possible to build the first synagogue worthy of the name and which dominated the community for twenty years.

In the twenty-first century, the combined efforts of the Mayor, Mr. Edmond Hervé, the Safra Foundation, the Jewish community and its president, Mr. Bernard Lobel, led to the construction of a real cultural and religious center, the Edmond Center. J. Safra, which was inaugurated on January 20, 2002.

(Source: Israelite Cultural & Religious Association of Rennes)