From the 1300s until the era of Napoleonic dominance over Europe, very small numbers of Jews settled in Luxembourg and Arlon (today Belgium). However, frequent persecution, such as massacres at the time of the Black Death (1349) and expulsions (1391 and 1530), prevented communities from developing deep roots in the grand duchy.
Napoleon’s influence laid the foundation for a religious framework established along the French model in 1838, and this remains as the Consistoire Israelite. A synagogue was built for the first time in 1823, and by 1880, there were 369 Jews in the capital city and some 60 families elsewhere in the duchy. A second synagogue was dedicated in 1899, as was one in Esch-sur-Alzette.
In the 1930s, the Jewish population swelled from 1,500 to 4,000 due to immigration from Germany. During the wartime German occupation of Luxembourg, evacuations to France and efforts by Christian rescuers enabled the majority of these Jews to survive. Some 720 Jews were eventually deported to Nazi death camps, of whom 690 were murdered.
The Consistoire Israélite de Luxembourg is constitutionally recognized as the community’s representative to the government and is the organ through which the chief rabbi and one communal functionary are appointed. Both are financed by the government.
Full diplomatic relations were established between Israel and Luxembourg in 1949. Israel’s ambassador to the grand duchy resides in Brussels.
Kosher food is not locally produced, but families who observe kashrut obtain meat and other foodstuffs from Brussels, Metz and Strasbourg.
For up to date information on Kosher restaurants and locations please see the Shamash Kosher Database
Most of the Jewish post-World War II population of 1,200 is dominated by returning Luxembourgers and their descendants. There has also been some immigration from France. Eighty percent of the Jews live in Luxembourg City and there is a smaller community in Esch-sur-Alzette.
The community’s main synagogue is situated close to the center of Luxembourg City. Orthodox traditions are followed. There is also a Chabad Center, which offers many activities and boasts an extensive Jewish library. A Talmud Torah offers a weekly class for youth, held in the community center.
Sites of Jewish interest include the Great Synagogue of Luxembourg (Luxembourg City); the Canal Synagogue (Esch-sur-Alzette); and the Old Cemetery (Rue Jule Wilhelm, Passage de Treves).