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The officially recognized religious community and synagogue for Jews in and around Berne, Switzerland’s capital city.

Bern, the capital city of Switzerland, had a Jewish community in the middle ages. However, after various pogroms all Jews were driven out of Bern by 1427. An important role was played by the legendary ritual murderer, Rudolf of Bern, who died around 1294 and was honored in Bern Cathedral as a martyr. Karl Howald proposed a theory that the figure depicted on the Kindlifresser fountain represents a Jew, because of the pointed hat similar to that worn by Jews. This theory is however almost certainly incorrect.

The Jewish Community Bern (German: Judische Gemeinde Bern, JGB) is now the officially recognized religious community for Jews in and around Bern. It was founded in 1848 by Jews originating from Alsace, France as the Corporation of Israelites in Bern. In 1867 it was reorganized as the Cultural Association of Israelites in Bern and in 1908 renamed to the Israelite Cultural Community Bern. As the range of activities undertaken by the community grew, the name “Cultural” was no longer appropriate and therefore dropped in 1973. In addition, the name “Israelite” was often confused with “Israeli”; hence in 1982 the term was replaced with Jewish, leading to the name used to the present day – Jewish Community Bern.

The first female professor at the University of Bern was a Russian-Jewish philosopher Anna Tumarkin (1875-1951) who was appointed to the position in 1898. In 1906 she was awarded the title Honorary Professor and in 1908 Extraordinaria, and thus the first female professor in Europe with the right to assess postgraduates and professors, and with a seat in the senate. In 1911 she was awarded Swiss citizenship.

In a Bernese court case lasting from 1933 to 1935, the anti-Semitic text The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was declared to be fictional and the publisher was fined accordingly. However, in November 1937 the ruling was annulled on a legal technicality. During the original trial Carl Albert Loosli was called as an expert witness. He had already been fighting antisemitism for many years, with his text Die Schlimmen Juden (The Bad Jews) from 1927. Further information can be found in Wikipedia, the SIG factsheet or the Alemannia Judaica.

The Berne synagogue was built during 1905-6 in the so-called Maurisch architectural style. It was formally inaugurated on the 10th September 1906. The building was designed by Eduard Rybi who, together with Ernst Salchli, also designed St. Ursula’s Church. It was inaugurated in 1906 and extended with an adjacent community building in 1971.

Sources: Wikipedia and the website of the Jewish Community of Berne