Switzerland / German-Speaking Switzerland

Biel / Bienne

Bienne. Photo de Wikipedia

It was the clock-making industry that attracted Alsatian Jews to the Jura beginning in 1835.

Among the great names in this industry was Achille Picard. From 1858 onwards, devout Jews met in a prayer room.

They opened their  Moorish synagogue in 1884. Its most recent interior renovation, in 1995, stressed the contrast between sober walls and the twelve multicolored stained-glass windows featuring biblical subjects, the work of Israeli artist Robert Nechin.

The 1999 exterior renovation brought back four small domes shaped like bells that had been removed in 1956. The facades are light beige, discreetly decorated with red motifs on the friezes and around the windows.

The synagogue was the victim of antisemitic attacks in 2021. Anti-Semitic insults were marked on the door.

A section of the cemetery of Tanzmatten and later of  Biel-Madretsch was given to the Jewish community by the town council.

While the Jewish population reached 500 people at the beginning of the 20th century (a good part of whom came from Eastern Europe), there were only 150 in the early 1990s.