The exodus begins
Prime Minister Manuel Valls' sincere empathy
notwithstanding, French Jews are leaving. Here's one whose family has lived in France for nearly 300 years who has decided this week that enough is enough
(Hat Tip: Instapundit
In January 1992, I took my Uncle René to the Bastille. It was our
last opportunity to go to the opera. René was about to join his daughter
in Israel, ending three centuries of our family's existence as French
Jews - Jews who were as proud of their republican heritage as they were
meticulous in their religious devotions.
Our family lived in the ninth arrondissement and normally went to
the opera at the old Palais Garnier, a chandeliered relic of French
pomp. René did not think much of the concrete Opéra Bastille. Nor of the
country's direction. When I asked why he was leaving France, he said:
In the wake of last week's Islamist attacks on cherished freedoms
- and on innocent families out shopping for the Sabbath - there has been
much talk of renewed unity. Yesterday's march through Paris was a
stirring symbol of that.
But the rift between the Republic and its Jewish citizens did not begin last week. It has a longer history.
My family were hugely proud of being French. We can trace our
lineage back to the dawn of citizenship records, to 1727, in a village
on the outskirts of Strasbourg. Our patriarch was Grand Rabbin of the
Lower Rhine, the first Jewish preacher to deliver sermons in French.
When the Germans occupied Alsace-Lorraine in 1870, we moved to Paris. My
ancestors were never going to live under any flag but the Tricolore.
We founded an orthodox synagogue at the back of the Folies-Bergère.
My Aunt Fifi would giggle as we passed display cases of half-naked
entertainers, whispering to me about what went on in there. On the day
she was born - Aug. 1, 1914 - my grandfather went off to the Front,
serving for the full four years, never omitting to wrap a Jewish talit
around his French uniform at morning prayers. A wooden board in the rue
Cadet synagogue lists more than 20 members of our family who gave their
lives for France in that war and others - who "fell on the field of
honour," in the official phrase.
Oh my.... Two of the three times I have been to Paris, I have stayed in the 9th arrondissement. I remember that street well, although usually I prayed in the nearby Rashi Synagogue
(link in French).
We were part of France - until France ceased to be France. The problem
was not the waves of North African immigration from the Sixties onwards.
Those waves actually contained many Jews: Uncle René, annoyed by a
young Israeli rabbi, stormed out of rue Cadet to form a new community
with Moroccans and Tunisians.
But the alienated populace in the outer suburbs, ignored by the
Republic and exploited by radical preachers, contributed to Jewish
unease. Some streets were no longer safe to walk in a skullcap.
Anti-Semitic rhetoric was heard on the Right, on the Left, and from the
banlieues. Murderous attacks on Jewish schools aroused no national
outrage on the scale seen in the past week.
So Jews fled in their thousands - many to London, where two new
communities have sprung up in my own neighbourhood. Some 3,300 left for
Israel in 2013, rising to 5,000 last year. Many more French Jews
acquired homes abroad.
France awoke too late to the exodus. Last September, prime minister
Manuel Valls, whose violinist wife is Jewish, put on a skullcap at a
central synagogue and announced to the world that "a France without Jews
is no longer France." This weekend, for the first time since the Nazi
era, that same synagogue had to shut for the Sabbath because the state
was unable to protect its worshippers.
France is in a state of moral confusion. Yesterday a million marched
in Paris and the impressive Mr. Valls declared: "We are all Charlie, we
are all police, we are all Jews of France."
How I long to believe that. My Jewish friends were out on the
streets of Paris this weekend, hoping that, after this tragic moment,
the tide will turn. For myself, I am unable to pretend that life will go
on as before. My history, as a Jew of France, is over.
It's the end of an era. And it's time to move on.
Labels: France, French anti-Semitism, Manuel Valls