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Book Notes: The Carrière of Carpentras, Marianne Calmann

A. N.

<plain_text><page sequence="1">The Carriere of Carpentras. Marianne Calmann, (Littman Library/Oxford University Press, 1984) 286 pp. Among the many Jewish communities of Europe perhaps none were more unusual than those of Southern France, in the Venaissin. There were four communities there, in Avignon, Cavaillon, LTsle-sur-Sorgue and Carpentras. They lived under the protection (and control) of the Papacy which ruled over this little enclave, so that anomalously, even after all other Jews had been expelled from France, these Jews lived in what was virtually a world of their own. They developed their own language, Judeo-Provencal, and their own rites and liturgies. Indeed, they managed to produce forms of prayer which were unique even to their own particular community, so that the prayer-book of Carpentras was virtually useless for the Jews of Avignon. Of these communities that of Carpentras was probably the most learned and for long the largest. It has now been made the central point of a study which illuminates the history not merely of that particular community, but of the Comtat as a whole. It was in 1460 that the comparatively easy life of the Jews of Carpentras came to an end. They had been nominally restricted to a group of streets in 1344, but for over a century rule had been benevolent. However, following a riot in 1460 new restrictions were imposed and finally enforced in 1487. By these decrees all Jews were compelled to live in the street, or carriere, de la Muse; gates were to be erected at each end; and those Jews from out of town who could not find accommodation in the carriere were to be expelled. The 336</page><page sequence="2">Book Reviews gates were closable from the inside-thus giving the Jews protection from future riots. If there was to be any physical expansion it could only be by building on top of existing structures. And so began the history of the Carpentras ghetto, which remained in being until its physical destruction during the French Revolution. Much of this book tends to be thematic rather than strictly narrative; the nature of the materials largely dictates that. Equally, much of the data relates to the latest period of the community's existence, the eighteenth century. But the picture which emerges is extraordinarily vivid. One of the interesting topics illustrated is that of the size of the community. A chart shows for example a steady increase during the eighteenth century; the population earlier had ranged from a low of some dozen families in the late-sixteenth century, to a high of over 100 in 1600, only to decline once again as a result of plague within thirty years. But it soon mounts strikingly, so that by the third quarter of the eighteenth century it has reached a peak of over 400 families, falling away rapidly to a mere 220 families on the eve of the Revolution. Small wonder then that the community finds itself compelled to exclude the so-called Bettel-Juden, the wandering bands of beggar Jews trying to secure refuge within an already crowded ghetto. Small wonder, again, that the picture which emerges is one of continuing decline, both in the economic activities of individual members of the community and in its overall wealth. The wealthiest and most enterprising found little to keep them, so that there is a pattern of emigration away from the town and from the Comtat. Yet there is a remarkable element of continuity. Eighteen families registered in 1754 are to be found in the lists of 1522, while no fewer than seven families listed in the Revolutionary census of 1796-7 can be traced back to a register of inhabitants of 13 3 7. Marianne Calmann has presented us with a fascinating picture of a small segment of European Jewish life. The Comtat could not be described as an important part of that life, but it had its own contribution to make, and we must be grateful to her for her work and her loving analysis of this community. A.N. 337</page></plain_text>

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