The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

Crossing Borders, Building Communities: The Establishment of the Third Community in Basel

Jewish life in northwestern Switzerland is mainly influenced by people and ideas crossing over from the Alsace region, what is today a part of the French administrative region Grand Est. And even though very different approaches were undertaken towards Jewish Emancipation between the states of France and Switzerland, the borders themselves were not as strict or impenetrable as commonly told.

In the first half and around the middle of the 19th century Jews in Switzerland, being almost exclusively French citizens, were depending on the advocacy of foreign states for claiming their basic right of residence. On the other hand, notable Jewish proponents of reform were acting as intermediaries between policymakers, a recently developed public sphere and their respective communities in providing this support.

Looking into Basel I will focus on Rabbi Moïse Nordmann of Hégenheim, who played an important and public role for the Jewish struggle for emancipation in Northwestern Switzerland, even though he neither held Swiss citizenship nor was he officially appointed to the city’s reestablished community.