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BRAY-SUR-SEINE:

Small town situated between Provins and Montereau, in the department of Seine-et-Marne; belonged formerly to Champagne. In the twelfth century it had an important Jewish community, including such rabbis as Jacob the Tosafist, and R. Isaac. Several commentators were born here: R. Matathia, Phineas, and Menahem (it is possible that the latter two are identical); and there were also some very rich Jews in the city.

An Israelite having been assassinated in 1191 by a subject of the king of France, his coreligionists obtained permission of the countess Blanche of Champagne to hang the murderer, and in commemoration of the hanging of Haman they selected the day of Purim. According to Christian reports, they tied the hands of the murderer behind his back, and after having placed a crown of thorns upon his head, led him through the city, beating him with a stick. Philip Augustus, king of France, taking advantage, perhaps, of the fact that the Christian was his subject invaded the domain of the countess of Champagne, placed guards at the gates of the castle of Bray, and seized the Jews and burned more than eighty of them at the stake, among whom were the rabbis Jacob and Isaac aforementioned. According to a contemporary, R. Ephraim of Bonn, the attempt had first been made to convert them to Christianity. Only children under thirteen years old escaped the persecution.

This massacre did not put an end to the community, however, for documents show that there were still some Jews in the city in the twelfth century. Among the best known may be mentioned Matathia or Eliab, son of R. Isaac, who died in 1191; Deodatus or (Dieudonné) and Hély, bankers, who were at the Petit Châtelet in Paris in 1204-6, and in 1221 at Provins. In that year Thibaut IV., count of Champagne, was in their debt. All traces of this community have been lost since the fourteenth century. No Jews live there to-day.

Bibliography:
  • Rigord, Histoire de Philippe-Auguste;
  • Ephraim of Bonn, in Hebräische Berichte über die Judenver-folgungen Während der Kreuzzüge, p. 70;
  • Gross, Gallia Judaica, p. 123.
G. I. L.
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