When her 7-year-old son, Noah, came home from school with a black eye, Virginie Selem decided she had finally had enough.
“He told me someone at school had called him a dirty Jew,” says Selem, a mother of three living in Alfortville, a middle-class suburb southeast of Paris.
Selem describes her family as not especially religious, but at the start of the next school year, she took her three children out of the French public education system and put them in a private Jewish school.
“When [Noah] was in public school he came home feeling ashamed,” Selem says. “I wanted my kids to come home from school without feeling shame.”
French law prohibits collecting statistics based on race, ethnicity and religion, so it is difficult to quantify the number of Jewish students leaving public schools. But anecdotal evidence — and a steady flow of Jews leaving not only French schools, but France itself — points to a climate of insecurity that may be getting worse.
Much of that insecurity seems to be fueled by tensions between France’s Muslim and Jewish populations at a moment of particular volatility after some high-profile terrorist attacks aimed at French Jews.read more