The area around the Rue des Rosiers has long been known as the Jewish Quarter of Paris, an epithet which is partly true and partly misleading. In fact, Jews have lived in Paris since late... Read More
The area around the Rue des Rosiers has long been known as the Jewish Quarter of Paris, an epithet which is partly true and partly misleading. In fact, Jews have lived in Paris since late antiquity, on and off between various expulsions, but their numbers remained small until the late 19th century.
Between 1870 and 1939, however, the number of Jews living in the French capital shot up from 6,000 to about 200,000, making Paris the third largest Jewish city in the world (behind Warsaw and New York). Jews came to Paris from their homes in the Alsace and Lorraine when these provinces were annexed by Kaiser Wilhelm's Germany in 1871, while Jews from Eastern Europe arrived on their escape from Czarist pogroms, and it was largely the latter group that settled around the synagogue of the Rue des Rosiers (dynamited by the Nazis).
Today, however, Jewish life in the capital carries a distinctly middle eastern flavor, largely due to the impact of yet another wave of Jewish immigration, the Jewish exodus from the former French colonies in North Africa.
Falafel and couscous are the standard fare of kosher restaurants, also in the Rue des Rosiers where Sephardic immigrants from Morocco and Tunisia have long replaced the Jews from Eastern Europe. Sasha Finkelsztajn's grandly old-fashioned bakery (no. 27) is, in many ways, the last of its kind. Jo Goldenberg's restaurant (no. 7) was, for many decades, the culinary standard bearer of the old-style Rue des Rosiers, but he let his lease expire when the annual rent climbed to a rumored 300,000. That's a lot of Pastrami sandwiches.
Commercial pressures in the très chic, très chère Marais appear to achieve what the Nazis did not: eradicate Jewish cultural life from the face of the area. Visit it as long as it lasts.