Impossible to evoke Le Marais without thinking about the famous rue des Rosiers, one of the best known in the neighborhood. A symbol of the Jewish history of the Marais, it is located in the heart of the Pletzl (“small square” in Yiddish).

The exact location of this square remains unknown. For some, it is located at the location of the Saint-Paul metro station; for others, from rue des Francs-Bourgeois and rue de Rivoli.

In any case, this artery owes its name to the route of Philippe Auguste's surrounding wall, below which rose bushes grew.

From the 13th century the Jewish community found hospitality in France and in Paris they lived in Le Marais.

As we know, France is the first country in Europe to recognize people of the Jewish faith as full citizens, granting them full civil rights.

Synagogues, religious schools and kosher businesses come together to resemble a small Shtelt (village).

Then in successive waves the Ashkenazi Jews fleeing pogroms and persecution arrived in 1881, then in 1900 until 1914 from Romania, Austria-Hungary or Russia. Once again, it is in le Marais let them anchor themselves.

The Yiddish expression “Men ist azoz wie Gott in Frankreich”, that is to say “Happy as God in France” (often translated as happy as a Jew in France) became popular.

However, Le Marais is an unsanitary neighborhood, where poverty and tuberculosis thrive. After the Second World War, entire blocks of buildings had to be destroyed.

The Marais preservation and rehabilitation plan launched by the Minister of Culture André Malraux in 1962 made it possible to save the district, which escaped destruction.

Rue des Rosiers and elsewhere, old buildings, inhabited by modest families, are restored. Not far from the Jewish quarter, the restoration of the Hôtel Salé in the 1970s, then the opening of the Picasso Museum in 1985, revitalized the district.

Meanwhile, at number 7, the terrorist attack on rue des Rosiers, perpetrated against the Goldenberg restaurant on August 9, 1982, caused the death of six people. Twenty-two others are injured. Attributed to the Palestinian terrorist movement, this massacre shocked France.

In the 1990s, sociology evolved. Grocery stores, fishmongers and bookstores are closing and being replaced by trendy ready-to-wear boutiques. 

“Gentrified”, the district certainly loses a little of its soul but it still attracts tourists from all over the world. Because it preserves the memory of a Yiddish culture with its last old storefronts. Preserved, they perpetuate the memory of the neighborhood.

Moreover, it is still possible to find the best traditional dishes, such as apfel strudels (at the Finkelstajn pastry shop), hallots (braided buns for Shabba at Murciano) and falafels (The Ace of Falafel).

Resident of the neighborhood and real estate professional (Agence des Enfants Rouges), Philippe Gaudry recommends three institutions:  the two butcher shops on rue des Ecouffes which face each other at numbers 6 and 7 of the street, one for its marbled meat, the other for its cold meats and of course the Marianne restaurant, famous for its Central European cuisine.

Text: Clara Mendy
Photos: ©Katia Barillot

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