France, in Western Europe, encompasses medieval cities, alpine villages and Mediterranean beaches. Paris, its capital, is famed for its fashion houses, classical art museums including the Louvre and monuments like the Eiffel Tower. The country is also renowned for its wines and sophisticated cuisine. Lascaux’s ancient cave drawings, Lyon’s Roman Theater and the vast Palace of Versailles attest to its rich history. Considered one of the top tourist destination, France offers fabulous historic heritage combined with some of the most diversified natural environment. Historically and culturally among the most important nations in the Western world, France played a highly significant role in international affairs, with former colonies in every corner of the globe. Bounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, the Alps and the Pyrenes, France has long provided a geographic, economic, and linguistic bridge joining northern and southern Europe. It is Europe’s most important agricultural producer and one of the world’s leading industrial powers.
France is among the globe’s oldest nations, the product of an alliance of duchies and principalities under a single ruler in the middle Ages. Throughout the country's stormy history - from the Roman period through the present - Jews have lived in France, their fate intimately tied to the various kings and leaders. Despite physical hardship and anti-Semitism, Jewish intellectual and spiritual life flourished, producing some of the most famous Jewish rabbis and thinkers, including Rashi, a renowned and singularly the most outstanding Jewish Biblical commentator of the Middle Age, as well as Rabenu Tam.
A Jewish presence in France goes back to the Roman period with isolated individuals rather than an established community. After the Roman conquest of Jerusalem, boats filled with Jewish captives landed in Bordeaux, Arles and Lyons. Archeological finds of Jewish objects with menorahs imprinted on them date back to the first through fifth century.
Large numbers of Marranos, secret Jews, from Portugal came to France in the mid-1500. The majority of them did not remain faithful to Judaism and assimilated into French society. This was the first time since 1394 when Jews were allowed to legally live in the kingdom of France.
Jews have contributed to all aspects of French culture and society and have excelled in finance, medicine, theater and literature. Currently, France hosts Europe’s largest Jewish community - 480,000 strong - and Paris is said to have more kosher restaurants than even New York City. Between January and November 2015, 6,500 French Jews made Aliyah, and thousands more are predicted to make their way to Israel by the New Year.