On our recent Rhone Cruise, we were able to explore the Jewish history of Provence, France with Dr. Henry Abramson.

The city of Avignon stands along the Rhone, a bastion of antiquity in the Provence region of France. The remnants of its Pont d’Avignon protruding over the waters of the river, while the intact structure of the Papal Palace rises over the city walls. Nested within this city’s modernized streets, a reminder of Jewish heritage remains. Guided by Dr. Henry Abramson, Dean of Touro College and Kosher River Cruises’ scholar in residence, we explored the Place Jerusalem of Avignon, and the synagogue within.

Avignon was once the home of the popes, an enclave of Papal power in the south of France, far away from Rome. In a time when the Jews of the region were persecuted, Avignon became a place of refuge, with Place Jerusalem, the Jewish carriere or quarter, serving as their home.

The Avignon Papacy lasted from 1309 to 1377, before the pope’s seat of power was moved back to Rome, but the legacy of Avignon’s Jewish population remains.