By Dr. Henry Abramson – Kosher River Cruises Scholar in Residence 

It was well after midnight on the fifth of Tishrei of the year 5085 (1324 in the Gregorian calendar), as the Jews of Manosque gathered in their synagogue for the solemn recitation of the Selichot prayers, that one Leonetus, a Jew from northern France, entered the holy sanctuary. With the congregation begging God for forgiveness of their human failings and beseeching the Eternal One for a year of health and material blessings, Leonetus hoped he could find a few volunteers to help him with the mitzvah of burying a fellow Jew from a neighboring region. 

What he saw shocked him beyond comprehension: he expected to hear the plaintive notes of the prayers chanted by a learned Rabbi, a respected elder whose gravitas would inspire these Provençal Jews to repentance, much as the selichot prayers had inspired him in his own village to the north. But the prayer leader was a mere boy, hardly even bar-mitzvahed! Leonetus could not hold back his righteous indignation, and he shouted aloud that such a thing as an unbearded chazan was an affront to God himself! 

One might expect that this moment might be recorded in the Rabbinic writings of the era or in the community records of Manosque Jewry, but not in the transcripts of the criminal proceedings of a Provençal court. Yet that is precisely where historians Joseph Shatzmiller and Pinchas Roth learned what happened afterward. 

Bonitus, the father of the young prayer leader, was incensed that the prayers of his young son Carcasaunus were interrupted (the strange names are likely the Latin-based names used by these Jews in secular court). He accosted Leonetus, who reacted with zealous violence, punching the father in his stomach with a club, and a melee ensued, landing both of them in custody.  

Beyond the irony of Jews engaging in fisticuffs over a relatively minor difference of opinion during the holy 10 Days of Repentance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, this 14th century incident illustrates the tensions simmering below the surface between the native Jews of Provence and the French Jews, recently exiled from the north. Although the regions would, centuries later, be reunited in modern France (after Jews were allowed to return from their expulsion and eventually emancipated with the revolution), the regional differences between Provence and northern France were sharp and, apparently, argument-worthy. 

The fascinating history of Provençal and French Jewry will be our focus his fall as we cruise the beautiful Rhône River with Kosher Riverboat Cruises. Join us! 

Henry Abramson, PhD 

Lectures in Jewish History and Thought 

Kosher River Cruises for over 25 years has run the only All-Kosher (entire boat kosher), All-Inclusive, All-luxury cruises, includes all tours, open bar, fabulous entertainment, lecture programs, special guests, airport transfers, modern kosher cuisine, plus so much more! 

Join us on one of our fabulous upcoming cruises: 

  • The Netherlands – Holland & Belgium: Tulips, Waterways & Windmills – August 21-28, 2023 
  • Enchanting Rhone – Southern France & Provence – October 1—26, 2023 
  • Panama & Costa Rica Expedition (On the Worlds First All Kosher Mega Yacht) – January 16-24, 2024. 
  • The Delightful Douro – Portugal May 28 – June 4, 2024 

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