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Chief Rabbis of Paris

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  • Seligman Michel (1739 - 1829)
    Premier Grand rabbin de Paris (1809-1829)député de la Seine, membre du Sanhédrin,
  • Zadoc Kahn, Chief Rabbi of France (1839 - 1905)
    Considered a brilliant orator, Zadoc Kahn was one of the founders, the first vice-president, and, soon after, president of the Société des Études Juives (1879). He was born in Mommenheim, Bas-Rhin on F...
  • R' Lazare (Lazard) Isidor, Chief Rabbi of France (1813 - 1888)
    ISIDOR, LAZARD: Chief rabbi of France; grandson, on his mother's side, of Hirsch Katzenellenbogen, chief rabbi of Upper Alsace; born at Lixheim, Lorraine, July 13, 1813; died at Montmorency 1888. At th...


French rabbi; brother of Jonas Ennery; born at Nancy 1792; died at Paris Aug. 21, 1852; studied Talmud under Baruch Guggenheim and at the rabbinical school of Herz Scheuer, in Mayence. He went to Paris, became teacher in the family of a wealthy coreligionist, and in 1819 was appointed director of the new Jewish school at Nancy. At this time he published his Hebrew-French lexicon, the first of its kind to appear in France. In 1829 he became chief rabbi of Paris; in 1846 chief rabbi of the Central Consistory; in 1850 chevalier of the Legion of Honor. Bibliography: Arch. Isr. Sept., 1852; Univ. Isr. Sept. and Oct., 1852.


Chief rabbi of France; grandson, on his mother's side, of Hirsch Katzenellenbogen, chief rabbi of Upper Alsace; born at Lixheim, Lorraine, July 13, 1813; died at Montmorency 1888. At the age of fourteen he entered the rabbinical school at Metz, which two years later became the Ecole Centrale Rabbinique of France, under government control. Isidor became rabbi of Pfalzburg, Lorraine, in 1838, where he attracted general attention by questioning the validity of the oath "more Judaico," which he refused to take, considering it an insult to his coreligionists. As an incumbent of a government office he was arraigned before the court though, defended by Crémieux, he obtained a favorable verdict. In 1844 Isidor went to Paris, where he was received with acclamation, and in 1847, at the early age of thirty-three, became chief rabbi of Paris, a position which he filled for twenty years. As chief rabbi Isidor achieved a great success, to which his personal popularity contributed, and he united the heterogeneous elements of the community into one harmonious body. In 1867 he became chief rabbi of France.

Isidor was conservative, and his enthusiasm for unity led him to oppose the Reform party. He was the creator of the rabbinical missions, and especially devoted himself to the task of assimilating Algerian Judaism with that of France. As an orator Isidor was distinguished. His literary efforts include only pastoral letters, funeral orations, sermons, etc. One of the finest of his funeral orations is entitled "Paroles Prononcées sur la Tombe du Commandant Franchetti."


Chief rabbi of Paris and of France from 1360 to 1385; son of Joseph b. Johanan of Treves, rabbi of Marseilles; pupil of Perez b. Isaac ha-Kohen and of Nissim b. Reuben of Gerona. In 1360 King Charles V. appointed him chief rabbi of the community of Paris and of all the newly organized communities of France, exempting him and Manecier of Vesoul from wearing the Jewish badge. Mattithiah founded a rabbinical school at Paris which soon attracted many pupils, eight of whom were called to various communities. He is probably identical with Mattithiah Treves (, the author of MS. No. 676, folio 147, containing a responsum, in the Paris Bibliothèque Nationale) and with Mattithiah "the Frank" (; author of a methodological treatise on the Talmud). Isaac ben Sheshet (Responsa, No. 271) applies to him the title of "Eben Boḥan" ("touchstone"), a term which has been held to imply that he composed a work bearin this name (Shabbethai Bass, "Sifte Yeshenim," x., No. 9). Zunz ("Literaturgesch.") mentions a liturgical poet by the name of Mattithiah b. Joseph "the administrator" ("ha-parnes"), but this latter epithet can apply neither to Mattithiah b. Joseph nor to his father.

Bibliography: Brüll, Jahrbücher, i. 93; Carmoly, in Arch. Isr. 1856, p. 261; Gross, Gallia Judaica, pp. 532-533; Léon Kahn, Les Juifs à Paris, p. 26; Grätz, Gesch. viii. 9; Ordonnances des Roys de France, v. 498; Zunz, Z. G. pp. 190, 193.


French rabbi and scholar; born at Paris July 7, 1856. He was ordained as rabbi by the Rabbinical Seminary of Paris in 1879; appointed assistant rabbi to the chief rabbi of Paris in 1882; professor of Jewish history and literature at the Paris Seminary in 1892; lecturer on Talmudic and rabbinic literature at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes in 1896.

During 1894-95 Lévi was director of "Univers Israélite." He is one of the leading spirits of the Société des Etudes Juives. On its organization in 1880 he was elected secretary and general manager of the "Revue des Etudes Juives," and in 1892 took charge of its bibliographical section. He has contributed to this journal papers on the Haggadah, the Talmudic and midrashic legends, Jewish folk-lore, the religious controversies between Jews and Christians, as well as on the history of the Jews in France.

Lévi has published in addition the following works: "La Légende d'Alexandre dans le Talmud et le Midrasch" (1884); "Trois Contes Juifs" (1885); "Le Roman d'Alexandre" (Hebrew text, with introduction and notes, 1887); "Les Juifs et l'Inquisition dans la France Méridionale" (1891); "Textes Inédits sur la Légende d'Alexandre" (in the "Steinschneider Festschrift"); "Relations Historiques dans le Talmud sur Alexandre" (in the "Kaufmann Gedenkbuch"); "Les Dix-huit Bénédictions et les Psaumes de Salomon"; "L'Ecclésiastique ou la Sagesse de Jésus, Fils de Sira," original Hebrew text, with notes and translation (part i., ch. xxxix. 15-xlix. 11; 1898; part ii., ch. iii. 6-xvi. 26; parts of ch. xviii., xix., xxv., and xxvi.; xxxi. 11-xxxiii. 3, xxxv. 19-xxxviii. 27, xlix. 11 to the end; 1901; the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres, on June 6, 1902, awarded to this last-named work one-half of the "Prix Delalande"); "Ecclesiasticus," class-room edition, Hebrew text, with English notes and English-Hebrew vocabulary, in "Semitic Studies Series," ed. Gottheil and Jastrow, 1903.

Bibliography: Moïse Schwab, Répertoire des Articles Relatifs à l'Histoire et à la Littérature Juives Parus dans les Periodiques de 1783 à 1898, pp. 228-231, Paris, 1899 (Supplement, 1903).


French rabbi and author; born at Bordeaux, Nov. 12, 1831. He received his early education in his native city and took a course of study at the rabbinical college of Metz, to which he was sent with a scholarship by the community of Bayonne in 1852. On the completion of his studies in 1857, he was appointed assistant to the chief rabbi of Paris, and became chaplain of the Paris lyceums of Louis le Grand, Vanves, and Chaptal. He was one of the six founders of the Alliance Israélite Universelle (1860), and in 1865 was delegate from Bayonne to the convention for the nomination of chief rabbi of France. In 1866 he was elected chief rabbi of Belgium, and wasauthorized by a special decree of the emperor to accept the office though remaining a French citizen. While holding this position, he took part in the synod of Leipsic (June 29—July 4, 1869).

During the Franco-Prussian war (1870-71), Astruc distinguished himself both as a French patriot and as a Jewish minister. He was a member of the comité du pain, whose chairman, the Comte de Mérode, leader of the Belgian Catholic party, cared for the wounded. In his capacity of secretary to the "Belgian committee for the liberation of the territory (Alsace and Lorraine)," Astruc revisited Metz after an absence of twenty years.

Elie-Aristide Astruc. In 1879 Astruc resigned the chief rabbinate of Belgium to return to his native country. Before his departure the King of the Belgians created him a knight of the Order of Leopold. After officiating as chief rabbi of Bayonne from 1887 to 1891, he retired to private life.

Astruc is a successful writer. The first of his works was a French metrical translation of the principal liturgical poems of the Sephardic ritual, entitled "'Olelot Eliahu" (Elia's Gleanings), published in 1865. In 1869 he published "Histoire Abrégée des Juifs et de Leurs Croyances," a small book which caused a sensation at the time, on account of the author's boldness. As Astruc said, he wished "to separate the kernel from its shell"; that is, to disengage the great ideas of Judaism from venerable but partially legendary traditions. A second edition of the work was issued in 1880.

In the pulpit Astruc displayed the same independent yet moderate views, and always boldly proclaimed his moral convictions and his attachment to the Jewish faith. His more important sermons were collected and published under the title "Entretiens sur le Judaisme," 1879. In 1884 he wrote "Origines et Causes Historiques de l'Anti-Sémitisme," which was translated into German and Hungarian. He contributed to various reviews—among others, the "Revue de Belgique," "Revue de Pédagogie," and the "Nouvelle Revue"—a number of articles in which he endeavored to impress non-Jews with correct views of the history and doctrines of Israel; also essays on the political societies of Belgium, on Pope Leo XIII., etc. (PHOTO: )


French Orientalist and writer; born June 23, 1841, at Haguenau, Alsace; died at Paris March 30, 1900. Cahun's family, which came originally from Lorraine, destined him for a military career; but owing to family affairs he was compelled to relinquish this, and he devoted himself to geographical and historical studies. In 1863 he began to publish in the "Revue Française" a series of geographical articles and accounts of his travels in Egypt and the neighboring countries. About the same time he published in the daily press letters of travel, and a geographical review which was the first of its kind. In 1864 Cahun set out to explore Egypt, Nubia, the western coast of the Red Sea, and Asia Minor.

Returning to France in 1866, he became a political writer on the staff of "La Liberté"; but when that paper supported the empire, Cahun left it, and joined the staff of "La Réforme" (1869) and "La Loi." During the Franco-Prussian war he was correspondent for several papers. On Sept. 4, 1870, he entered the army as a volunteer, and was appointed sublieutenant of the 46th foot in the following November. When peace was established he resumed his Oriental studies, devoting himself chiefly to researches concerning the Turks and the Tatars.

In 1875 he was appointed to the Bibliothèque Mazarine, where he was specially engaged in the compilation of an analytical catalogue from the year 1874. Meanwhile Cahun had begun to publish a series of historical novels dealing with ancient history, in the style of the journeys of Anacharsis in Greece. They are said by one critic to be written in temperate and pure French, combining interest with genuine archeological knowledge. It was Cahun's intention to present facts of ancient history that were not generally known, and thus make contributions to general history and geography. These novels include: "Les Aventures du Capitaine Magon," on Phenician explorations one thousand years before the common era (Paris, Hachette, 1875); "La Bannière Bleue," adventures of a Mussulman, a Christian, and a pagan at the time of the Crusades and the Mongolian conquest (ib. 1876); "Les Pilotes d'Ango," dealing with French history of the sixteenth century (ib. 1878); "Les Mercenaires," of the time of the Punic wars (ib. 1881); "Les Rois de Mer," on the Norman invasions (Chasavay, 1887); "Hassan le Janissaire," on Turkish military life of the sixteenth century (crowned by the French Academy); "La Tueuse," scenes from the Mongol invasion of Hungary in the thirteenth century (1893). Cahun contributed many literary articles to the "Revue Bleue," "Le Journal des Débats," etc., and several critical, geographical, and ethnographical papers to the "Bulletin de la Société d'Ethnographie," "Bulletin de la Société Académique Indo-Chinoise," "Bulletin de la Société Japonaise," "Bulletin de la Société Americaine," "Bulletin de l'Athénée Oriental," etc.

In 1878 Cahun set out on a fresh series of journeys accompanied by his wife. The two intrepid travelers visited central Syria, the mountains of Ansairi (1878), the Faroe islands and Iceland (1879), central Syria and Mesopotamia (1880). In 1879 the "Tour du Monde" published an account of his travels through Syria and the mountains of Ansairi. He also issued a volume treating the same subject, entitled "Excursions sur les Bords de l'Euphrate" (Paris, 1884). His scholarly study of local customs, "Scènes de la Vie Juive en Alsace," with preface by Zadoc Kahn, chief rabbi of Paris, appeared about the same time (ib. 1885). In 1884 he published "Le Congo, la Véridique Description du Royaume Africain, Traduite pour la Première Fois en Français sur l'Edition Latine Faite par les Frères de Bry en 1598, d'Après les Voyages Portugais et Notamment Celui d'Edouard Lopez en 1578" (Brussels, 1884).

In 1890 Cahun established a course of lectures at the Sorbonne, where he taught the history and the geography of Asia. A résumé of one section of this course has been incorporated in the "Histoire Générale" of Lavisse and Rambaud. Cahun's "Introduction Générale à l'Histoire de l'Asie" (1896), based on material gathered during his travels, is a complete and exact history of that continent. He also undertook the restoration of some ancient caststhat are of great geographical interest. Some years before his death Cahun ceased writing for the Parisian periodicals, but to the end he contributed to "Le Pharé de la Loire." He left unfinished a history of the Arabs, and a historical novel dealing with the story of the Arabs. He was a member of several learned societies.


Michel Seligmann(1739 Phalsbourg - Paris) - Chief rabbi of Paris - In Paris in 1809

Married Babet Lazard (b. 1756 Mutzig) ; among his children: Julie (1789 Rosheim), Fanchette (1801 Rosheim), Jeannette (1796 Phalsbourg), Henry (1800Paris).