Ancient province of France, bounded by Poitou, Brittany, Maine, and Touraine. It now includes the whole of the department Maine-et-Loire as well as parts of Mayenne, of Sarthe, and of Indre-et-Loire. This province, at one time a duchy, like all the neighboring region seems to have been settled by Jews at an early date One of the earliest rabbis known, Joseph Ṭob-Elem (about 1050), bore the title of chief of the community of Limousin and of Anjou. The rabbis of the province took part in the synods presided over by Rabbenu Tam previous to the year 1171. One Samuel of Anjou was a pupil of the celebrated Tosafist R. Isaac, abbreviated "RI" of Dampierre. But almost nothing is known of the history of the Jews of Anjou. The first circumstantial information furnished by contemporary documents is the mention of the massacres, of which the Jews were victims, in 1236; but it is not known whether the murderers were inhabitants of the province. These massacres were, in fact, the work of the Crusaders, who began their exploits in Brittany and continued them in Poitou. Three thousand Jews in Anjou were killed and five hundred submitted to baptism in the year in question. A rabbi, Solomon b. Joseph D'Avallon, composed an elegy on the martyrs.
This catastrophe did not completely annihilate the Jews of the province. They are met with again in 1239 and in 1271, at which latter date they are found complaining that they are obliged to wear the "wheel," or Jewish badge, and that certain persons seized property that should pass to them as their rightful heritage. Charles I., duke of Anjou, protected them against the greed and arbitrariness of the bailiffs. But their term of respite seems to have been brief. In December, 1288, the Jews were formally expelled from Anjou by Charles II. on charges of religious propagandism, of usury, and of engaging in trade with Christians. These were the stereotyped accusations that almost invariably accompanied such measures; to what extent they were true in this case it is impossible to determine.
A number of Jews returned to Angers in the fourteenth century, where they inhabited a particular quarter, and were subjected to vexatious regulations, little inducement being given them to remain. From this period all trace of them is lost. In modern times not a single Jewish community has been reestablished in the province. Some localities, such as Saumur, Segré, and Baugé—one of whose rabbis, Moïse, was a contemporary of R. Tam—have preserved the names of streets or quarters which attest the presence of Jews in these places in the Middle Ages.
- Gross, Gallia Judaica, pp. 64 et seq.;
- Brunschvieg, Les Juifs d'Angers et du Pays Angevin, in Rev. Ét. Juives, xxix. 229 et seq.