A translation of the story of the Jews of Schirrhoffen from À La Lisière de la Forêt: Schirrhein/Schirrhoffen compiled by Rose-Marie Vetter. Strasbourg: Editions Coprur (1995). Contibuted by Vince Falter.
In 1817, the Jewish community of Schirrhoffen obtained authorization to build a synagogue. It was set up on the site of the current # 7 Street of the Huts, a property that today belongs to Claude Voltzenlogel.
This synagogue was inaugurated one Saturday preceding the new Jewish year in 1818. This ceremony caused a rather serious incident that agitated all of the Jewish population of the village.
A few days before the inauguration, [an individual named] Frohny came to Alexandre [Weill] and said to him: "Alexandre, I want to save you, because I love you, but all the Jews will have their throats cut. Saturday, when you go to the new Synagogue, all the Catholics of Sufflen[heim] and Schirein will come to seize your temple to make a church of it."
The small Alexandre, whose spirit was always positive, did not need to hear this warning twice. He ran to his house and presented the statement to his father. He, in turn at once informed the schoolmaster Mr. Lévy and the mayor, Michel Heisserer. All the Jewish population, in agitation, gathered immediately, not to take measures for their defense, but to request God to divert this dreadful calamity.
While they were waiting, the mayor informed a higher authority, i.e. the prefect. There was much happiness in the Jewish population, when Friday evening, in the middle of the finish of the festival, one could hear the drum, and soon after, the steps of a Grenadier company sent by the prefect.
The arrival of the company comforted everyone. Friday evening, the whole company, drum, banner flying in the wind, preceded the procession by the small procession of taken care of the new synagogue. The rabbi went ahead of it to bless it. Some soldiers and grumbling old men poured out tender tears. It seemed that each one of them was regarded as the benefactor of three hundred hearts.
These brave men were of a chivalrous generosity. The Grenadier company had hardly arrived at the village that emissary of bad news left. The blow was averted. To prove that the alarm was false, all the Catholic youth of Sufflen took part in the dances that continued until the night of Monday. Never was a village festival merrier, nor more vibrant. One person said that harmony prevailed and was followed by all the tumultuous pleasures of youth. And all was thanks to an indiscretion by Frohny, and a Grenadier companys response.
In 1930, there was raised a question of selling the synagogue because it was not used any more. An offer to sell was published. Mr. Dolt wanted to acquire it. The prefectoral authorization necessary was granted, but Mr. Dolt did not have the 80,000 francs requested. The sale was thus deferred.
The synagogue was bombed and set afire at the time of the local combat during the liberation in 1945. What was left was nothing more than calcined walls, and there was no longer any question of rebuilding it. The Prime Minister Michel Debré closed down the old synagogue place of worship per decree, October 10, 1959. It was put on sale and was bought by Rene Fohr. Today, the house built on the site of the synagogue belongs to Claude Voltzenlogel.
A JEWISH SCHOOL
As of the end of the 18th century, a Jewish school functioned in Schirrhoffen. It was directed by the rabbi, Samuel Goetschel. It was a private school. The pupils met in the house of the schoolmaster, because Jews did not yet have the right to have a public school.
The Master taught them primarily Hebrew. At the age of three years and half, Alexandre Weill was led by his mother to the Rabbi Samuel who was to teach him Hebrew. This Master said to him: My child, for each letter that you will learn, an angel of the sky will [give you a great] reward. Alexandre learned Hebrew in one week.
The children fed the cows and the goats of their parents on the meadows during the day, and went in the evening to the Master where they studied late into the night.
Later, when he was hardly seven years old, the young Alexandre was entrusted to another Master. His parents and five other Jewish families of the village paid to maintain this new schoolmaster who was called Raphaël Lévy. Alexandre Weill admired him and had a grateful memory of him. He also informed us that in his youth a saintly Rabbi, by the name of Aron Lazarus, left the school of Lauterbourg and opened a Yeschiva, a small Talmudic school in Schirrhoffen. This rabbi was a Hasidic Jew. He spent two hours of his mornings consulting with two crowned phylactères. Then, after having taken his coffee, he taught Talmud and its wisdom to his pupils until midday. After the midday meal, he walked for one hour, a Hebraic book in his hand. He never knew how to read either German or French words. Study of the Talmud, in alternation with the study of the Bible or other Hebraic authors for certain pupils, began again at two o'clock in the afternoon and lasted until the moment of the evening prayer in the synagogue. The Master continued his studies during the night and its pupils took care, repeating the duties of the day to be able to give an account of them the following day.
In 1844, the Israelite community built a school because the number of Jewish children with Schirrhoffen was constantly increasing. It included two classrooms on the ground floor and two residences above. This school was transformed into a school for girls after the Second World War. Later, a courtyard which sheltered the children of the nursery school was added. Today, this building has been transformed by the commune into a dwelling house.
THE OLD JEWISH SCHOOL.
The schoolmasters in Schirrhoffen were Raphaël Lévy in 1814, Ephraïme Joachim and Samson Bamberger in 1836, and Loeb Dreyfuss and Samuel Kahn in 1841.
Schirrhoffen was managed from 1844 by a majority of Jewish elected officials who were strongly established in the commune. During over one half-century, the municipality was governed by [the following] Jewish mayors:
- From 1844 to 1864 by Raphaël Levy, teacher, then business man, born on August 16, 1797 in Wingersheim. He married May Cotton, of Schirrhoffen.
- From 1865 to 1871 by Leon Weill, business man, born in Hatten in 1821. He married Caroline Liebschutz, of Schirrhoffen, and died on June 23, 1909 in Schirrhoffen.
- From 1872 to 1881 by Abraham Weill, business man ' born on March 15, 1833 in Schirrhoffen. He married Pauline Wolff, of Herrlisheim.
- From 1882 to 1905 by Simon Heymann, a grain merchant, born on February 25, 1825 in Schirrhoffen. He married Sara Kahn de Schirrhoffen and died on February 27, 1905 in Schirrhoffen.
- From 1905 to 1907 by Solomon Kahn, broker, born on December 21, 1832 in Schirrhoffen. He married Sara Sommer, of Schirrhoffen, and died on January 20, 1907 in Schirrhoffen.
THE RABBINATE OF SCHIRRHOFFEN
This rabbinate was created around 1815 and existed until 1905. Aron Lazarus, Zacharie Lazarus, Simon Levy, and Sylvain Lehmann were the rabbis who were in Schirrhoffen.
Aron Lazarus was born in 1786 in Mainbernheim in Bavaria, where his father Abraham was a rabbi. He was initially a Hebraic teacher at the Jewish school of Lauterbourg and was installed as the rabbi of Schirrhoffen in 1815. On December 20, 1822, he married Rachel Sommer, daughter of Adam Sommer, a hawker of Schirrhoffen. Aron Lazarus was a very pious man, of strict orthodoxy. He spoke only Hebrew and Yiddish. He did not know German and French. He opened in Schirrhoffen a Yeschiva, i.e. a small Talmudic school where he accommodated such persons as Alexandre Weill. He died in 1854 and was buried in the Jewish cemetery of Haguenau.
Zacharie Lazarus, son of the rabbi Aron Lazarus, was born in Schirrhoffen on January 25, 1829. He followed the courses of the rabbinical school of Metz from 1847 to 1854. He succeeded his father as the rabbi of Schirrhoffen in 1854. On October 17, 1857, he married Marie Liebschutz, daughter of David Liebschutz, a tradesman of the place and leader of the community. He had two children: Delphine and Camille. He was named rabbi of Westhoffen in 1872 and died in that commune on November 29, 1897.
Simon Lévy was born 11 December 1838 in Balbronn. He was the son of the hawker Lévy Stag. He followed the courses of the rabbinical school of Metz from 1857 to 1864. He succeeded Zacharie Lazarus as rabbi of Schirrhoffen in 1872. He was very much a francophile rabbi here in German Alsace. He published various works, all in French. He died on October 4, 1898 in Schirrhoffen.
Sylvain Lehmann was born, July 23, 1875, in Guebwiller. Son of a leather merchant, he graduated as a rabbi in 1901 from the Hildesheimer Seminary of Berlin, doctor of philosophy. Sylvain Lehmann was the rabbi of Schirrhoffen from 1902 to 1910, then of Bischwiller from 1910 to 1938. He died in a road accident, May 5, 1938, on the road of Bischwiller.
In 1905, the Jewish community of Schirrhoffen counted no more than 188 people. Therefore the rabbinate was transferred to Bischwiller in 1910. The rabbi of Bischwiller came each week to Schirrhoffen to provide religious teaching to the Jewish children
of the commune. The latter provided him an annual allowance of 175 francs. Thereafter, the worship was removed from the synagogue of Schirrhoffen. Let us recall that to celebrate a Jewish ritual, one needs a mynian, i.e. a quorum of ten adult men. A community that falls to less than 40 [adults] can no longer function in a practical manner.
THE JEWISH CEMETERY
As of the middle of the 18th century, the Jews of Schirrhoffen buried their dead in the Israelite cemetery of Haguenau. They provided an allowance of ten schillings per body to the municipal authorities. This right [allowance] was abolished following the Revolution, but the Jewish community of Haguenau, which provided for all the expenditure incurred by procuring the place for the burial, received an annual tribute from the villages concerned.
On October 21, 1881 a Jewish cemetery was established in Schirrhoffen. The Jewish families thus no longer needed to take their dead to Haguenau. This cemetery still exists today, although there are no more Jews at Schirrhoffen. It is maintained by the voluntary effort of some villagers. It remains an eloquent testimony of the attachment of the inhabitants of Schirrhoffen to their past and the memory of the Jews who lived with them during more than two centuries.