Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Noshing (and more) in Paris - The Jewish Neighborhood in Marais

If you are wondering what to do on a Sunday in Paris and are in the mood for food, plenty of people, and shopping (some upscale), make your way to the Jewish section of the 4th arrondissement between the metro stops St. Paul and Hotel de Ville. If you have purchased the indispensable red Paris Classique par Arrondissements at a newsstand (about 10 Euros and HIGHLY recommended) you will find the rue des Rosiers and some nearby streets marked by blue Stars of David on the maps flagging the one hundred plus year old Jewish neighborhood. For historical information about this neighborhood you can find interesting information by Toni Kamins, author of The Complete Jewish Guide to France, at the link for the Marais neighborhood in Paris.

I stumbled upon this bustling neighborhood when I took a wrong turn for the Mémorial de la Shoah, a museum and memorial dedicated to the Jewish genocide of World War II. Shoah means catastrophe in Hebrew and is the term used in France for the Holocaust. The memorial is powerful and devastating, with a remembering wall containing 76,000 names of Jews deported from France, extensive archives from the period including the yellow stars that Jews were forced to sew onto their clothes, and the crypt, a symbolic tomb for the six million Jews killed. The crypt contains the ashes of victims from eight concentration camps and ghettos mixed with soil imported from Israel. When I entered the crypt tears welled up in my eyes before I even had read what lay there. The Mémorial de la Shoah is about learning, remembering and honoring. It is a good idea to visit the Memorial with a before or after walk through the lively and flourishing Jewish neighborhood a few blocks away to see that in spite of such horrors and persecution, people, traditions and beliefs can persevere.

I have not seen so many Jewish establishments since I was a kid growing up in New York City. Rue des Rosiers is a wonderful site with long lines out of bakeries and delis filled with challah, rugelah, hamentaschen, bagels and much more “gastronomie Yiddish.” Definitely arrive hungry if you like this kind of fare as it will be a never-ending feast from one store to the next.

Bon Appetit, Es gezunterheyt! עס געזונטערהײט

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