History or comments

In the city known as the watch capital of the world and home of the famous architect Le Corbusier

The first recorded Jewish presence in La Chaux-de-Fonds was in 1772 yet it was not until ten years later that they were allowed to stay in the city and trade for extended periods of time. In 1818 six Jewish families, all of Alsatian origin, settled permanently in La Chaux-de-Fonds. In 1853 the first synagogue building was acquired. At that time, since other Swiss towns were reluctant to grant Jews permission to settle, the liberal authorities of La Chaux-de-Fonds allowed their city to become the largest Jewish community in Switzerland. This was the period of the flourishing Swiss watch industry and Jews were a very active and vital part of that industry.

In 1896, when there were 825 Jews in the city, the Byzantine cupola-style synagogue was inaugurated. The architecture of the La Chaux-de-Fonds synagogue was greatly influenced by the Strasbourg synagogue, which was destroyed by the Nazis. Still in use today, the Synagogue is crowned by a 32 meter high dome with 24 windows and covered with polychrome tiles.

For more than 100 years the city was known as the world capital of the watch making industry. With the decline of the watch industry La Chaux-de-Fonds experienced economic problems and by 2004 the Jewish community had dwindled to little more than 100 individuals. The Synagogue was fully restored in 1981 and 1982 with particular attention to authenticity of decoration and details. This temple is classified as “historical monument of regional importance” by the Swiss Confederation and the State of Neuchatel.