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Provence

The term used by Jews to refer to the Jewish communities of what is today the southern third of modern France, encompassing the regions today called Provence, Languedoc, and the Rousillon. Major cities of Jewish Provence in the medieval period include Narbonne, Lunel, Béziers, Montpellier, Perpignan, and Avignon, among others that where home to renowned scholars. Provençal Jewry may have dated to as early as the Roman period, but begins to take shape in the central Middle Ages, first under the cultural orbit of the northern communities of Tzarfat and Ashkenaz in the 11th and 12th centuries, later coming under the aegis of Sefardi culture from beyond the Pyrénées in Iberia in the 13th and 14th centuries. In this way, Jewish Provence was a crossroads culture where diverse learning traditions met.

After the general expulsion from French Crown and associated territories in 1306, most Provençal Jews moved into territories controlled by the Crown of Aragon to the West or East to the papally-governed province of Avignon, some reaching Italy. Though Jews were allowed to resettle a number of times in French Crown lands throughout the 14th century, only to be expelled again, the order of general expulsion effectively ended the cultural life of the great Provençal Jewish community.

Among the leading figures of Provence are Raavad, Yithak Sagi Nahor, Radak and the Kimchi family, Menachem ha-Meiri, Rezah (R. Zerachia ha-Levi), the Ibn Tibbon family, Yaakov Anatoli, and the Lattes family.

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