Wednesday, June 3, 2015

France: "Being discreet about your religion became a Jewish value"

Via Haaretz:
Horvilleur comes from a long line of French rabbis, but says that “as a child I never felt part of a French-Jewish community. My grandfather was both a rabbi and a professor of ancient Greek, in love with French culture. No one wore a kippa then on the street, and he was horrified when I went to live and study in Israel.

“I was angry when I went to a Jewish summer camp and heard other teenagers speak of non-Jews as ‘the French.’ But in recent years all the Jews seem to have made this transformation to a joint identity, and I feel that I have lost a part of my more complex identity.”

Like most other French Jews, Horvilleur links this change to the growth of the Muslim minority in France. “Jews never demanded to celebrate their identity externally,” she says. “Being discreet about your religion became a Jewish value. The Muslims, however, arrived with much stronger demands of the Republic and the Laicite doesn’t fit in with that.”

And yet, the Jews are still coming to terms with their status as members of community in a republic that has long abhorred the notion of communitarism.

When, in the wake of the Hyper Cacher attacks, Prime Minister Valls addressed the Jewish community in the National Assembly, promising that all of France would stand behind the Jews, “it was both reassuring and very weird,” says Zylberman. “Talking in the National Assembly about a separate community within France is unprecedented.”

Last month in a Hebrew class for senior citizens at a Paris community center, a student suddenly became agitated. “She saw a doodle that a child had left on the desk,” says Hebrew teacher Revital Shloman. “He wrote 'Je Suis Juif' ['I am a Jew’], and she got all flustered, saying that it just wasn’t done to make such an issue of being Jewish.”  more

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