BRUSSELS (French, Bruxelles):
Capital of Belgium. There are no records as to the date when Jews first settled in Brussels; but as many of them were scattered over the province of Brabant at the time of the Romans, it may be assumed that they established themselves at Brussels as soon as it was founded by St. Gery, bishop of Cambray, in the seventh century. The Jews of Brussels underwent all the vicissitudes of their Belgian coreligionists. The Crusaders left many sanguinary traces of their passage at Brussels. During the thirteenth century and at the beginning of the fourteenth the Jews of Brussels, protected by the subsequent rulers, attained, in common with those of other communities of Brabant, a high degree of prosperity. The calamities which culminated in the massacre and banishment of the Jews of Brussels in 1370 began with the spreading of the Black Death throughout Europe. A chronicler of that time, Li Muisis, gives an account of this tragedy, for which see Belgium.
This catastrophe, which took place in 1349, was followed twenty-two years later by a similar one. A banker of Enghien, distinguished by his wealth as well as by his philanthropy, was assassinated in his own garden. His wife and son took refuge in Brussels. The assassins spread the report that the Jews had stolen from a church consecrated wafers in order to pierce them with poniards. This brought about the burning of hundreds of Jews at Brussels (May 22, 1370) and a general banishmentfrom Belgium. The event is known locally as the miracle of St. Gudule, and was commemorated by an annual festival. Eighteen tableaux, which represented the piercing of the host and the miracle of the spurting of the blood, were painted; and these paintings are still preserved in the Church of St. Gudule. On the Jewish side, the martyrs of Brussels were commemorated in the "Memorbuch" of Mayence and in a Hebrew elegy.After the Peace of Utrecht.
From 1370 till the end of the Spanish domination over Belgium, there is no trace of Jews at Brussels. Their reappearance there dated probably from the Peace of Utrecht (April 11, 1713), when Belgium became part of Austria. A decree banishing Jews from Brussels was issued July 18, 1716; but it was not enforced: a gift to the crown overcame all difficulties. A similar decree issued forty years later had the same result. Several Jews received the right of citizenship in Brussels. Among them was one named Philip Nathan, who, in 1783, requested the government to assign a place for a new cemetery for the Jews; the old one, situated near the Porte de Namur, having disappeared in consequence of the dismantling of the fortress.
Many families of position from Germany and Holland, such as the Landaus, the Lipmanns, the Fürths, the Hirschs, and the Simons, settled in Brussels. The Jews were still subjected to special imposts. It was only after 1794, when the French became masters of Belgium, that Jews could settle freely in Brussels and enjoy the rights of citizenship. An imperial edict dated March 17, 1808, divided the Jews living in French countries into consistories. Brussels was included in the consistory of Crefeld. On the overthrow of Napoleon, Belgium was united with Holland; and the Jewish community of Brussels became the head of the fourteenth religious district of Holland. After the revolution of 1830 Brussels became the head of the Belgian consistories, and a chief rabbi was nominated. The chief rabbis have been: E. Carmoly, Henri Loeb, Aristide Astrue, Abraham Dreyfus, and the present (1902) rabbi, Armand Bloch. The government contributes largely to the support of Jewish worship. In 1890, according to the official statistics, Brussels had 150 registered Jewish households.
Brussels has the following Jewish communal institutions: Société de Bienfaisance Israélite, Société des Secours Efficaces (Dames), Société des Mères Israélites et Ecole Gardienne, Orphelinat, Comité d'Apprentissage de la Jeunesse Israélite, Maison de Retraite pour les Vieillards, Hakeneset Kallah, Cercle des Amis Israélites, l'Egalité (mutual aid), and Ménahem Abélim.
- For the earlier period: Carmoly, Revue Orientale, i. 42 et seq.;
- Emile Ouverleaux, Notes et Documents sur les Juifs de Belgique, in Rev. Et Juives, vii. 117 et seq., 252 et seq., viii. 206, ix. 246 et seq. For modern times: [H. Sommerhausen], Briefe aus Belgien, in Monatsschrift, i. 499, 541 et seq.;
- idem, Briefe aus Brüssel, in Monatsschrift, ii. 270 et seq.;
- Verordeningen voor het Israelitisch Kerkgenootschap binnen het Koningrik der Nederlanden, The Hague, 1822.