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French Jews


    In 1806, Napoleon Bonaparte had a problem. Jews had been living in France for a thousand years, since Charlemagne, but until the French Revolution, they had remained, in Abram Sacharís words, disinherited politically, restricted economically, and despised socially. Suddenly, in 1791, they were granted citizenship along with everyone else living in France. But although fifteen years had gone by, it still wasn't clear to many in France how this was going to work.

    And so Napoleon gathered in Paris a select group of over one hundred Jewish notables, including rabbis, businessmen, financiers and scholars to represent all the Jews living in France. They came to be called a "Sanhedrin" -- a Hebrew/Greek term referring to the supreme judicial body in ancient Judea.

    In France, as in the Germanic lands, new developments in popular agitation against the Jews included the spread of accusations against them, however, unlike the German Emperors who challenged the authority of the pope, the kings of France were sympathetic to the wishes of the popes, especially to their Jewish policy, which further diminished the opportunities for the Jews for long-term success in France.


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