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If you want to discover the Jewish History of Le Marais, Karen’s Jewish Virtual Experience is a good place to start. HiP readers get 10% off with the discount code HIPPARIS!
Karen Reb Rudel is a Jewish American who has called Paris her home for over 20 years. She lives with her French husband and young son in a small suburb just outside of the French capital and runs a walking tour company called Sight Seeker’s Delight. She has, by necessity, pivoted her company and now offers Virtual Experiences of Paris. Karen has a passion for sharing her Jewish heritage, and you’ll often find her in the heart of the Jewish Quarter of Paris, Le Marais.
Before COVID-19, Karen’s most popular walking tour was her Jewish History of Le Marais. Now, her Jewish Paris Virtual Experience is her most popular virtual visit. Join us as Karen Reb Rudel takes us through her perfect (Jewish) day in Paris!
Start your day with pastries
“Sunday is one of the best days in Le Marais as you feel like you’re really in Israel. Shabbat is from Friday at sundown until Saturday night. So, definitely don’t plan your Jewish day on Shabbat!
I get off at the Saint-Paul metro station and immediately head to the Rue des Rosiers. There’s a lot of famous bakeries in the area, but a few of my favorites are Murciano for Sephardic pastries (made with filo dough, honey, and dates) and Korcarz for Ashkenazi treats (made with poppy seeds, apples, and cinnamon).
After I’ve filled up on pastries, sometimes I’ll take a look in the Jewish bookstore, Librairie Du Temple. They specialize in Jewish culture and literature, and they have some great old books. Art 25 is a Jewish-centric gift shop and art gallery that’s fun to look in, too.
Definitely keep a lookout for the memorial plaques around the neighborhood which talk about the Holocaust. One of the better ones is outside the École de Travail ORT, a trade school specializing in adult education where many famous Jewish people have attended.
The synagogues aren’t that easy to spot
“You’ll find several different synagogues in Le Marais, but because of the anti-Semitism of the past few years, you can’t just roll in and out of every one. As great as that would be, we’re not living in a world where that’s an option. So, if you are outside of one of the six or so synagogues in that area, you won’t really know where they all are because you can’t tell what they are from the outside!
One of the more famous synagogues in Le Marais is the Synagogue Agoudas Hakehilos with its star of David on the exterior. It was designed by Hector Guimard, who did all of the Art Nouveau metro station entrances in Paris.”
After a bit of walking and shopping, it’s time for lunch
“Hands down, for a great kosher falafel place, you can’t miss L’As du Fallafel. It’s truly a Marais institution. They also make shakshuka, the ever-hip Israeli dish made with eggs and tomatoes. If you’re more interested in a pastrami sandwich, you’re going to want to go across the street to Florence Kahn, a Jewish bakery and deli. Jewish people are well known for saying, ‘We’ve been oppressed, let’s eat,’ and it’s true!
For some sweets treats, don’t miss Damyel for their famous Kosher macarons and chocolate. You can also go to Sumsum, which is run by Dutch-Israelis, to try their many varieties of halvah. Growing up, we only had two different options when it came to halvah: pistachio and sesame.”
“Eat your way through Le Marais”
“It’s good to eat your way through Le Marais because honestly, after reading a plaque about the Holocaust, you’ll need to put something sweet on top of all of that sadness. I always say, ‘If you don’t laugh, you’re going to cry,’ and this idea has gotten me through a lot of my own tough times as a Jewish person. A Jewish day in Paris is not all bagels and cream cheese.”
End your day at a museum (or two)
“While your whole day could be munching and noshing, you can also do a bit of shopping and go to a few museums. Start at the Shoah Memorial. “Shoah” is the Hebrew word for “catastrophe,” and several non-English speaking countries refer to the Holocaust as such. The Shoah Memorial in Paris is free to enter and is one of the few museums in Paris where all of the documentation is in both English and French. There is also the Museum of the Art and History of Judaism, which has a wealth of information of Jewish history in France.
Honestly, a day in Jewish Paris may have to be more than one day.”