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Switzerland has had a settled Jewish community since the 13th century. In 1213, Basel was one of the largest Jewish communities in Europe and the first recorded mention of Jews in Switzerland, The community was made up of Jews mostly from Germany and France Jews settled in Bern by 1259, St. Gall in 1268, Zurich in 1273, Schaffhausen, Diessenhofen, and Luzerne in 1299.

Notable Jews

  1. Ruth Dreifuss Swiss president (1999 - 2000)
  2. Dr. Samuel Teitler First Jewish Swiss Supreme Court Justice
  3. Jeff Agoos US soccer international
  4. Ernest Bloch composer Geni
  5. Felix Bloch physicist, Nobel Prize (1952) Geni
  6. Alain de Botton writer
  7. Albert Cohen novelist
  8. Arthur Cohn film producer
  9. Maurice Abravanel conductor
  10. Camille Dreyfus Swiss chemist Geni
  11. Henri Dreyfus Swiss chemist Geni
  12. Al Dubin lyricist
  13. Jean Dunand-Gotscho sculptor, painter, lacquerer
  14. Albert Einstein physicist, Nobel Prize (1921) Geni
  15. Edmond Fischer biochemist, Nobel Prize (1992) (Jewish father)
  16. Robert Frank photographer
  17. Meyer Guggenheim businessman Geni
  18. Jeanne Hersch philosopher
  19. Mathilde Krim AIDS researcher (convert)
  20. Dani Levy (1957 -) film maker, theatrical director and actor
  21. Rolf Liebermann Swiss music administrator and composer
  22. Saly Mayer Courageous Jewish leader in World War II
  23. Meret Oppenheim surrealist artist
  24. (Rachel) Félix , stage actress (Swiss-born)
  25. Tadeus Reichstein chemist, Nobel Prize (1950)
  26. Edmond Safra banker Geni
  27. Jean Starobinski literary critic
  28. Sigismond Thalberg, pianist, composer
  29. Regina Ullmann poet
  30. Charles Weissmann biochemist
  31. Gerard Wertheimer owner of Chanel.
  32. Leon Trotsky Geni


  1. R' Abraham Isaac Kook Geni In 1914 Rav Kook traveled to Europe for Agudat Yisrael convention in Berlin. Stranded due to the sudden outbreak of World War I, he spent two years in St. Gallen, Switzerland. Source
  2. Rabbi Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg Geni (1884-1966) Noted European Orthodox rabbi, posek, rosh yeshiva, best known as author of the work of responsa "Seridei Eish". After WWll moved to Montreaux, Switzerland, where he lived until his passing in 1966.
  3. Meyer Kayserling (1829 - 1905 ) Swiss Chief Rabbi from 1861 to 1870.
  4. Rabbi Bezalel Rakow Geni (May 15, 1927 – July 20, 2003) After WWll ived in Montreux, Switzerland 1948 to 1964.
  5. Alexandru Şafran Geni (September 12, 1910 – July 27, 2006). In 1948, he became chief rabbi of Geneva, where he remained until his death. There he worked with United Nations, Red Cross, and other organization to improve human rights.
  6. Rabbi Moshe Soloveitchik Geni (1915 - 1995) Rabbi Moshe lived in Montreux, Lugano, Lucerne and Zurich. He revolutionized Swiss Judaism and acquired a reputation as the leader of European Orthodox Jewry.
  7. HaGaon Rav Kopelman Geni (1905 -2011) In 1948, R’ Koppelman took over as Rosh Yeshiva for R’ Moshe Soleveichik at the yeshiva in Lucerne, Switzerland.



In the fourteenth century, Jews from Alsace, Ulm, Nuremberg, France, and various southern German cities began to settle in Neuchâtel, Biel, Vevay, Pruntrut, Solothurn, Winterthur, Zofingen, and various places in Aargau and Thurgau. During this time, the Jews of Switzerland were regarded as "Kammerknechte" (in English, Chamber farmhands) of the Holy Roman Empire and were under their protection as long as they paid an annual tribute. In some towns, they instead had acquired the "Judenregal" (right of protecting the Jews and imposing taxes on them).

A Jewish community in Geneva was established by the end of the 18th century. According to the Jewish Encyclopedia online, "The modern history of the Geneva community begins with the year 1783, when a number of Lorraine Jews settled in the suburb Carouge, which belonged to the Duke of Savoy until he ceded it to Geneva in 1816. Under French domination several Jews settled in Geneva, enjoying complete freedom until 1815, when French rule ceased. The law of Nov. 14, 1816, forbade their owning land in the canton. Not until 1841 did they again receive civic equality.

Expulsion and Emancipation

In 1622, at the diet of thirteen cantons, all Jews except for physicians were expelled from all of Switzerland except two villages in the Aargau canton. Aargau did not join the Swiss Confederation until 1803 hence they were exempt from requiring the expulsions. The drive to emancipation was a long and hard battle, though generally resembling the patterns of the rest of Western Europe. Prior to emancipation Jews were generally considered resident aliens and required special permission to marry, and their business activities were heavily regulated.

The First Zionist Congress was held in Basel in 1897. It was originally supposed to be held in Germany but was moved to Basel because of rabbinical protests in Germany. It was Theodor Herzl's wish to center the Zionist movement in Basel, with a special congress building there, but his wish was never realized.

Basel was the host of nine more congresses: including the second, attended by Chaim Weizmann. At the Congress in 1929, held in Switzerland, the Jewish Agency was formed.

Many Jews from Alsace and Eastern Europe immigrated to Switzerland in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Source

Intellectual Elite

From emancipation onwards, Switzerland became a major haven for the Russian Jewish intellectual circle. Imbibing Western ideals about freedom, Switzerland helped shape the ideology of these Russian Jewish intellectuals. Chaim Weizmann wrote of his university days in 1898:

"If Russian Jewry was the cradle of my Zionism, the Western universities were my finishing schools. The first of these schools was Berlin, with its Russian-Jewish society; the second was Berne, the third Geneva, both in Switzerland."

Around this time, prominent Jews who would become leaders of the Russian Revolution such as Georgi Valentinovich Plekhanov, Marxist philosopher and leader of the Russian Social Democratic movement, and Leon Trotsky, were also in Switzerland.

Albert Einstein' spent his youth in Switzerland and received his doctorate from Federal Polytechnic Academy in Zurich and was employed by the Swiss patent office. Leon Trotsky studied law in Switzerland. Zev Jabotinsky was sent to Bern as a reporter for the Russian press. In 1903 he was elected as a Russian delegate to the Sixth Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland.

The Holocaust

Prior to and during the Second World War, Switzerland gave refuge to about 23,000 Jewish refugees although the government decided that Switzerland would serve only as a country of transit. These Jews were protected during the Holocaust due to Swiss neutrality. The Jewish refugees, however, did not receive the financial support from the government that non-Jewish refugees received. Many more Jews were prevented from entering, effectively shutting the border.

George Mandel-Mantello greets The Satmar Rebbe, Joel Teitelbaum, when he arrives in Switzerland on the Kasztner transport from Bergen-Belsen.

Post-World War II

In 1956, after the Sinai Campaign and Hungarian uprising, the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities looked after Jewish refugees from Egypt and Hungary. In 1968, it also looked after Jews who fled to Switzerland from Czechoslovakia. Switzerland has generally been seen of as supportive toward Israel, while maintaining its noted neutrality.

According to the 1990 census, 17,577 Jews (0.26% of the total population) reside in Switzerland.

The Jewish population is well represented in the textile and clockwork industries as well as manufacturers and wholesales. Switzerland does not have much Jewish representation in Switzerland's largest industry -- chemicals. They also do not play a significant role in public banking, but European banking magnate.

Switzerland's first woman president (January 1-1999 - January 1, 2000) Ruth Dreifuss was Jewish.

Many international Jewish organizations, such as the World Jewish Congress, have offices in Switzerland. Switzerland, particularly in the large cities, has numerous Jewish institutions, youth groups, thriving synagogues, kosher restaurants, Jewish bookstores, and other signs of a flourishing Jewish life.

Important Sites

There are several very important tourist sites that are a must see! Most important are the Three Kings Hotel in Basel and the Stadtcasino. Theodor Herzl stayed at the Three Kings Hotel in August 1897, during the world's first Zionist Congress. Besides Herzl, the hotel has also been visited by Napoleon, Dickens, Voltaire, and Metternich. The Congress itself was held at the Stadtcasino — a concert hall.

Basel also has Switzerland's only Jewish museum and the Great Synagogue is a national landmark.

Jewish Swiss Cemeteries

BADEN/AG: Jewish cemetery: In use since 1879, 353 graves

Jewish Museum at Kornhausgasse 8, Tel. 25-95-14 contains fragments of Jewish tombstones from 1222. Source: Israelowitz, Oscar. Guide to Jewish Europe. Brooklyn, NY: Israelowitz Publishing, 1995, p. 321. [October 2000] Wie die Israelitische Gemeinde in Basel zu einem eigenen Friedhof Gekommen ist/ eine Berichterstattung von S. Bloch-Roos. Basel: Basler Handelsdruckerei A. Galliker, 1902. 54 p. microfilm; 16 mm. At the Leo Baeck Institute: ID # MfW W687 Ueber den judenfriedhof in Zwingen und Judenniederlassungen im Fuerstbistum Basel/ von Nordmann, Achilles/Basel: 1906. [120]-151 p. illus. 24 cm. Detached from Basler Zeitschrift fuer Geschichte und Altertumskunde, Bd. 6, Heft 1. At the Leo Baeck Institute: ID # GT 3264 Z9 N6

Jewish cemetery: In use since August 1903, capacity 4,800 graves, used 3700

Jewish cemetery: In use since 1871, capacity 2,000 graves, used 1753


CAROUGE/ GE: Jewish cemetery: Located near Geneva (Switzerland) on the other side of the "Arve" river. The older inscriptions are from about 1779. The total number of stones is about 720. Entirely and very well renovated in 1996 by the "Communaute Israelite de Geneve". Because of the 1876 legal interdiction against the establishment of new cemeteries in the 'canton de Genève', a new cemetery was located in Etrembières (France). With its entry in Switzerland, the village of Veyrier was created in 1920. The cemetery of Carouge was used again in 1943-1944 during the German occupation of the Haute-Savoie. Source: Jean-Daniel Greub-Hirsch

Jewish cemetery: The cemetery is located in "Les Eplatures" between La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle. There are hundreds of stones. The oldest inscription is 5 December 1872 (Cecile Hirsch). The Jewish community of La Chaux-de-Fonds principally comes originally from the village of Hegenheim (Alsace, near Basle, Switzerland) and from others villages of Alsace.

The cemetery and its little chapel are active. The same architect erected the very beautiful synagogue of La Chaux-de-Fonds (located between the "rue de la Serre" and the "rue du Parc") about 1900 and the synagogue destroyed by the German troops in Strasbourg, France. The synagogue of La Chaux-de-Fonds was recently entirely renovated. Source: Jean-Daniel Greub-Hirsch; e-mail:

Jewish cemetery: Street address is Islen near Davos. In use since 1931, capacity 945, used 180

{10686} also see Tiengen, Germany - The newer section of the cemetery 

Endingen-Lengnau -- Verein fuer Erhaltung der Synagogen und des Friedhofs Endingen-Legnau [The Association for the Preservation of the Synagogues and the Cemetery of -- ] published a complete register of the burial sites, with name index and arranged by dates, supplemented by a volume of narrative which includes, among other documents and photographs, a facsimile of the first Jewish census of 1761: Der Judenfriedhof Endingen-Lengnau. 2 vols. 400 pp. Menes Verlag, Postfach 5070, CH 5405 Baden. Sfr. 100 (about $66). (If you join the Association for Sfr 30/year, you may buy 1 copy (2 vols). Postage is additional for non-Swiss delivery).

Jewish cemetery: In use since 1904; 150 graves, 105 used


LA TOURDE PEILZ: Jewish cemetery: Cemetery has been indexed - 900 gravesites: source: Jean-Pierre Bernard, 8, rue du Bocage, 91400 Orsay, France did the indexing. Write to him in French.

Jewish cemetery: address: Av. Du Chateau, In use since June, 1892, capacity 2000, used 1800

Jewish cemetery: In use since 1918, capacity 540, used 466


LUZZERN/LU: In use since May 1, 1887, capacity and used 366 
II: In use since May 6, 1943, capacity 689, used 369

Unt. Friesenberg (ICZ) 
Oberer Friesenberg (IRG) 
Steinkluppenweg, In use since 1899-1968, capacity & used: 200 
Pfaffhausen-Wedstr., In use since Nov.26, 1939, no more information 
===AGUDAS(OR CHADASCH) used since: 1982, 270 graves, used 31