In Manuel Valls, French Jews get a presidential candidate they can trust

Manuel Valls, second from left, hosting a delegation of the Conference of European Rabbis at his office in May 2015. (Eli Itkin/Conference of European Rabbis)

PARIS (JTA)  — Although his country is entering one of the most dramatic election campaigns in recent memory, Isy Morgensztern had no intention of exercising his right to vote.

A left-wing Ashkenazi Jewish filmmaker from Paris, Morgensztern was too disappointed with the ruling Socialists under French President Francois Hollande to vote for them a second time in elections scheduled for April. But he is too disgusted by the Muslim baiting of the center- and far-right candidates to vote for them, either.

That changed on Monday, when Prime Minister Manuel Valls announced his candidacy just two days after Hollande said he would not seek a second term, citing polls showing he is the least popular French president in decades.

Many French Jews admire Valls, 54, for his tough stance against anti-Semitism. The Spanish-born prime minister, who once cited his marriage to the French Jewish musician Anne Gravoin in proclaiming an “eternal bond” with her people, has distinguished himself from other French leaders by calling anti-Zionism a form of anti-Semitism. And he has led a relentless legal assault on the anti-Semitic comedian and provocateur Dieudonne M’bala M’bala.

These moves and others have earned him a hero status among France’s Jewish community of 500,000.



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