In France, an uncertain future for Jews

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Source: The Washington Post

By James McAuley

France is home to the largest Jewish community in Europe, and its most troubled.

A wave of anti-Semitic violence in recent years has shaken Jews in this country to the point where growing numbers no longer see a future here.

Some have simply left. In 2015, approximately 8,000 French Jews abandoned France for Israel — a record number that has grown with each passing year. Meanwhile, others have decamped to London and elsewhere.

“I don’t have any hope anymore, honestly,” said Noemie, a middle-aged French Jewish woman who appeared in a recent BBC documentary with her mother, who said she no longer even felt safe publicly identifying as Jewish in France. The documentary aired in April.

But those statistics — and the stories behind them — are complicated. Not every case can be attributed to anti-Semitism, and many French Jews who have officially relocated to Israel still spend a portion of every year in France.

There are some Israelis, such as Omer Shatz, a human rights lawyer living in Paris, who consider France safer than Israel, where the prospect of stabbings, bombings and attacks are a seemingly inescapable reality.

“In terms of security, I don’t believe that Israel is a safe place for Jews,” he said. “Or for anyone else.”

But a sense of anxiety nevertheless pervades a community that accounts for just 1 percent of the total French population but nearly half of all victims of what French authorities call “xenophobic” violence.

“Jews — who have been living in France for 2,000 years and have been full citizens since 1791 — now feel that they are looked upon as second-class citizens,” said Roger Cukierman, president of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions, an umbrella organization of community leadership.

In the historic fount of liberty, equality and fraternity, Jews are now struggling to consolidate safety and security in a France where radical Islamist violence has been rising.

In the past decade, France has seen a number of high-profile anti-Semitic attacks.

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