January 28, 1790: A Petition to the National Assembly from Leaders of Jewish Communities
French Jews numbered about 30,000 in 1789. Most of them lived in the east, in Alsace and Lorraine, or in the south, around Bordeaux and Avignon. There were only about 500 Jews in Paris. Unlike the 700,000 or so Protestants in France, whose legal existence had finally been recognized in 1787, the Jews had no statute granting them rights as a group. Individual Jews had in a few cases received specific privileges, and some Jewish communities, especially those of Bordeaux, had been granted certain rights, but there was no uniformity. In spite of the leadership of men like Robespierre, Clermont-Tonnerre, Duport, and Abbé Grégoire, who insisted that the principles of the revolution required equal rights for Jews as individuals, it was not until September 27, 1791, only three days before the closing of the National Assembly, that all Jews were voted the rights of citizens. Anti-Semitic prejudices, particularly in the east, coupled with fears of Jewish economic competition, account for the delay. The lack of uniformity in existing conditions and privileges of Jews in various parts of France was also a factor, together with differences of view among Jews themselves—for example, concerning the desirability of retention of the corporate organization of the Jewish communities,enerally opposed by the French revolutionaries with their vision of an individualistic society.
KeywordsJewish Community Corporate Organization Dominant Religion National Assembly Catholic Religion
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