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Bordeaux's: Synagogues, History, Transportation and Wine


Professor Arnie Greenberg

At the southern point of the great Gironde river on France’s west coast is the ancient and inviting city of Bordeaux. Once the center of France’s western Jewish population, it is a city of most religions.

Luckily for us we paid no attention to the guide who told us that Bordeaux's celebrated synagogue was closed. We found it and while there were no guides to show us around, this mostly Sephardic (southern) place of worship was a ‘find’ worth searching for.

As we approached, we could see many people entering the building in their best party clothes. We were told that a wedding would be taking place and yet we were invited inside to attend, no questions asked.

We did go in and take some pictures, but we did respect everyone's privacy and soon left. Later, I would discover that two ladies from my group actually watched the ceremony and congratulated the bride and groom.

I entered this 1,500-seat house of worship and was awed by its size, its cleanliness and its architecture. On the floor I noticed two ceramic designs, one with the Star of David and one with the year 1882, the year of construction. The street in front is named for a beloved Chief Rabbi of Bordeaux.


(A Star of David adorns the synagogue) - click to enlarge
(A Star of David adorns the synagogue)

(The date showing when the Sephardic synagogue was rebuilt due to fire) - click to enlarge
(The date showing when the Sephardic
synagogue was rebuilt due to fire)

Funding came from the sale of the original land, donations and The synagogue is now the home of its grants by both the city and national governments.

(The synagogue, has a seating capacity of 1,500) - click to enlarge
(The synagogue, has a seating capacity of 1,500)

During the war it was badly desecrated and used as a prison for Jews waiting to be sent to concentration camps. A plaque in the courtyard lists the family names of those who perished.

Today the synagogue in Bordeaux is one of the largest in France with a length of thirty meters and a seating capacity of 1,500 worshipers. The Jewish community exceeds 6,000.

There is a staircase access from the hall to the women's section located on the first floor, separated from the main hall by a glass wall according to orthodox tradition. There are two rows of columns supporting the upper floor. These were made of metal at the Eiffel shops in Bordeaux. The scrolls and Ark are located, naturally, at the eastern end of the prayer hall.

There are panels for each of the Ten Commandments and another one specially designed to depict the twelve tribes of Israel. The building contains only the best marble, imported from Carrera, Italy.

The seven-branch menorah captures your view as you enter. It is located in the center of the room and since it was all lit up, it gave the massive room a golden glow.

The impressive and inviting building itself was declared a national monument in 1998. It is lit up on the outside for all to see after dark.

(The seven-branch menorah captures your view as you enter the synagogue) - click to enlarge
(The seven-branch menorah captures your
view as you enter the synagogue)

But there’s more to Bordeaux. It’s the city of wine therefore it’s a city with excellent restaurants and hotels. The electric street cars link the city with quiet, modern and comfortable transportation. Started in 2003, the city transit system now has 89 stops and carries as many as 250,000 people a day. It can also be exciting to walk around and visit the special traffic free commercial streets.

You can drive from the east through the Dordogne valley through the great wine centers of St Emilion or Libourne. You can fly from Merignac airport to most centers in France or you can take a fast train to or from Paris.

If you have a car, you might want to drive west to a seaside vacation spot of Arcachon on the west coast. Here you can experience the climb up the largest natural sand dunes in France. The views are spectacular.

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You can Contact Professor Arnie Greenberg at


Over the past few years, Professor Greenberg has traveled with groups to France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Prague and both Sorrento and the Bay of Naples plus most of Sicily. His tours traveled to the far reaches of the globe including Italy and most of China (Beijing -Hong Kong) and to Russia where his group cruised the waters from St.Petersburg to Moscow. 

"He took a group to Greece and another to northern Russia. In Nov 07 he took a tour group to much of India and ended his tour groups by revisiting France. He now travels with his wife and friends. They winter in Argentina or San Miguel Mexico.  His newly found spare time is taken up with his painting and writing. "I must write every day." His current work is a cautionary manual for would-be tour leaders..  "So You Want To Be A Tour Leader." 

Arnie now travels with friends. He continues writing Travel articles about unusual places but often concentrates on novel writing. Two books based on French Art will be published this year.  Keep reading his web for travel ideas.  His next novel HELLSTORM'S Folly, will be available this fall. He now lives in British Columbia.

Go to: or contact him directly at

(More about the writer.)


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