Thursday, November 10, 2005

"Despite the relative silence, the Jewish community remains wary."

The above sentence refers to which of the following conflicts/eras:

a) The Dreyfus Affair.
b) Germany in the early 1930's
c) The U.S. post-9/11
d) The riots in France, currently underway
e) The Spanish Inquisition

Nobody, of course, would expect the answer to be "e."* The answer might be "f) all of the above," but I have not included that as an option. No, the answer is, in fact, "d) The riots in France, currently underway." An advisor to CRIF is quoted as saying, "We are concerned as Frenchmen, and we are a little more concerned as Jews."

The "JTA" and "Jewish Week" websites (and the CRIF site, which is in French) are filled with all sorts of information about the French Jewish response to the riots--and to life in France in general--including this: "About 3,000 Jews move from France to Israel each year, one of the highest rates of Jewish immigration from any single country." Is this true? Starting in what year?

The JTA piece on how relieved French Jews who've made aliyah are to be out of France includes a quote from "[Lionel] Levi, sipping a Perrier in the Netanya sunshine." Also quoted is "Claude Ben David, who made aliyah with his wife and children 14 years ago and now owns Chez Claude, a Netanya falafel** restaurant." So maybe it's easier to be French-Israeli than Jewish-French?

So the riots are not specifically anti-Semitic. While the rioters are of the same background as those who have been committing anti-Semitic acts in France, and while the riots are being referred to as a French intifada, Jews are not currently the target. French Jews by and large made a point of saying the Dreyfus Affair, too, was a French problem and not a Jewish one, despite the obvious anti-Semitic motivation behind Dreyfus's conviction and the still more obviously anti-Semitic outbursts--demonstrations, cartoons, etc.--that were such a huge part of the Affair. But does that mean that French Jews ought to move to Israel at the slightest hint of possible future anti-Semitism? How much danger is too much? Jews who cry, "anti-Semitism!" at anything and everything--see Seinfeld's "Uncle Leo"--get no sympathy. But if French Jews are scared, even if their fears eventually prove irrational, they can only be expected to act on how they feel. I would like to see all French people stay in France and work things out amongst themselves, and see only those French people with a Zionistic passion moving to Israel, but the world is not my personal social experiment, so those who wish to leave should leave.

*Apologies to Monty Python.
**I have eaten falafel twice today. At lunch, I asked a man working at the falafel place (who, it should be noted, very much resembled the kibbutz guy who was supposed to have taken Fran's virginity on "The Nanny") if they had forks and his answer was, "ken." Does this mean that I look Israeli or that the man at the falafel place understands but does not speak English? Discuss. At dinner, I did not order falafel, but accompanied Sam and Molly to Taim, where they ordered falafel and I ordered zatar bread and something that was supposed to be eggplant but was in fact tomato sauce. But then they brought over samples of their falafel, which were all mine, given that I was the only one of us stupid enough to have not ordered falafel in the first place. Sooo much falafel. Too much? Most likely. I must issue a fatwa against my own future falafel consumption. I am not qualified to do this? Hey, if a rabbi is qualified to declare Taim not only kosher but also vegan, then anyone can do anything. It's America, isn't that the point?


Alex B. said...

A lot of French Jews move to Montréal as well, where there's a historically well-established and well-integrated Jewish community in a French-speaking environment.

Phoebe said...

That's interesting--any idea about the numbers?

Anonymous said...

The French Jewish establishment used to get very annoyed when American Jewish groups would make statements about anti-semitism in France that they (the French Jews) considered to be too strident. But Their policy of softly, softly doesn't seem to be working very well either.

Alex B. said...

I wouldn't know. The Québec government doesn't keep numbers as to the religion of the immigrants who move here. I would tend to think that Montréal gets less French Jews than Israel does.

I do know, however, from a Radio-Canada report, that the face of the Jewish community in Montréal is changing and becoming more French-speaking and religious, as recent Sephardic immigrants from France and North Africa tend to have more children and be more religious than the English-speaking Ashkenazim who established here a long time ago.

The Québec government is actively seeking potential immigrants in France because, well, they speak French and integrate their new society fairly easily. I would tend to think that, if the situation doesn't get any better for Jews in France, a lot of them will be considering moving here.