The Jewish Community of Besançon Between Beauty and Serenity

The Jewish Community of Besançon Between Beauty and Serenity

by Genevieve Wittmann

The most beautiful synagogue in France?

I have an appointment this morning on the Quai de Strasbourg, along the Doubs. The river surrounds the old Franche-Comté city in a wide loop. The buildings on the other side form a somewhat austere continuous line: white stone facades, tall narrow windows, pointed roofs bristling with sitting dogs. The building at the foot of which I have an appointment and which faces them, looks completely different! The eye immediately perceives as an architectural fantasy, a joyful madness, the residence of a maharaja perhaps, placed at the edge of the water. The square white building features turrets at the four corners and a central dome on the roof. The pointed windows are narrow, adorned with skilful stone interlacing. The main entrance resembles that of a palace from the Arabian Nights tales. If we did not note the presence of the Ten Words on the pediment, we would hesitate to identify the building. The one that looks so proud in the center of Besançon is the synagogue; one of the most beautiful in France!

Jews present since the Middle Ages

For now, it’s raining downpours on the city and I take shelter under the magnolias with their thick shiny foliage. But the advantage of having an appointment in the city of France, the cradle of watchmaking, with an architect who creates luxury watchmaking, is… that he is punctual! Alain Silberstein is the president of the community. He welcomes me in the oratory at the back of the synagogue and we start a long casual conversation on the history of this community, its future in 2022 and of course other subjects around Judaism, philosophy , of faith, of the Holocaust.

It’s called Oriental

The interior of the synagogue is a sumptuous jewel of Moorish architecture. The white and sky blue nave is delicately embellished with sculpted lace along the women’s galleries on the first floor. Five large domes illuminate the entire synagogue. At the far end rises in the distance, dressed in purple and gold, the Aron haKodech (holy ark), surmounted by three sculpted bulbs. We find these motifs painted along the stairs leading to the galleries. A beautiful organ sits above the large entrance door with a fixed arch, rounded, in the shape of a bulb. The wooden benches lined up on either side are themselves entirely sculpted, stars and diamonds cut into the backrests.

The rest of the article can be found in the next issue of Israel Magazine

Check out a copy of the magazine for free and then click on the right ledge

Your magazine is delivered to your home in complete confidentiality
Subscribe to the magazine by phone or by whats app 00972 (0) 54 254 45 20 or 01 86 98 27 27

By email paypal

Or directly on the site

Or Subscribe to the magazine delivered to your home in complete confidentiality. Fill in the form

Leave a Comment