'New Christians' remained titular Catholics. As such they were free to enter fully the economic and professional life of Bordeaux. By the beginning of the eighteenth century, however, these 'New Christians' began to discard their Catholic ways and by the time royal lettres patentes officially recognized them as Jews in 1723, they had established a tightly organized Jewish community able to oversee and discipline the activities of its members.
Emergence as Jews had, of course, placed restrictions on their lives. Prevented from participating in the chamber of commerce, the Jews of Bordeaux were also excluded from the guilds and municipal functions and were expected to pay significant sums for their privileges. But within these confines, they prospered, and wealthy shippers, brokers and bankers, many of whom owned land, could be found among them. Significantly, their willingness to live according to non-Jewish law in matters of inheritance, their emphasis on biblical rather than Talmudic Judaism, and their sensitivity to the secularized bourgeois world in which they lived, led the Jews of Bordeaux to identify as much if not more with their Christian neighbours than with their co-religionists in northeastern France. 'A Portuguese Jew is English in England and French in France', the Jews of Bordeaux explained to the French minister Malesherbes, 'while a German Jew is German everywhere because of his customs from which he rarely deviates'.3
When Alsace was annexed to France (1648 and 1697 for the city of Strasbourg), there were already at least 587 Jewish families spread throughout the countryside in tiny communities. Permission to reside in the cities and villages depended on the arbitrary decision of the more than sixty-one different local authorities, authorities whose privileges the French crown had promised to affirm. The Jewish population increased dramatically throughout the eighteenth century, bringing the number of families to more than 4,000 by 1784. With this sixfold increase came greater competition over the few avenues of livelihood open to Jews and an explosive hostility between them and their peasant debtors. 'As for intolerance', a lawyer to the Council of State wrote towards the end of the eighteenth century, Alsace is two centuries behind the other provinces of the kingdom. By persecuting the Jews, the people there believe they are fulfilling the decrees of heaven.'4
Not until 1965 with Pope John's Nostra Aetate would the Roman Catholic Church 'absolve' Jews from the deicide charge. Almost two centuries earlier, however, modernizingmonarchs, Enlightenment ideology and the breakdown
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