Wednesday, August 3, 2016

France's embattled and worried Jewish community has new leader

Interestingly, like most European Jewish leaders, Francis Kalifat mentions immigration to Israel (Aliya), but will not speak of those Jews who are leaving to other countries like America, Canada, the UK, Australia etc.

The Jerusalem Post reports:
[...] On June 1, Kalifat, now an energetic 64 years old, became the first president of the powerful Conseil Representatif des Institutions Juives de France (CRIF) to hail from that part of the community which arrived, often destitute, from North Africa a half-century ago. He shares his outlook for the community and organization, in an interview with The Report.

Today, Sephardi Jews of North African origin make up three-quarters of French Jewry and the overwhelming majority of community activists, as older, established Ashkenazi Jews increasingly melt into France’s largely secular society.  [...]
“The French Jewish community is currently going through one of the most difficult periods it has encountered since the end of World War II,” says Kalifa. He cities as an example the several murderous attacks against French Jews in the past few years, including the January 2015 killing of four shoppers in a kosher supermarket by an Islamist gunman in Paris, on the same day staff at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo were slaughtered.

Young hotheads in France’s six million- strong Muslim community, Europe’s largest, are blamed for hundreds of anti-Semitic incidents a year, including an average of two physical attacks on Jews each week. The violence began in 2001 with the start of the second Palestinian Intifada in the West Bank with whose residents the French Arabs identify.

Police and Jewish community statistics show there were more than 800 anti-Semitic incidents in France last year, accounting for more than half of all racially motivated occurrences, even though Jews make up less than one percent of France’s total population.

As a result, all Jewish schools and synagogues are now guarded under tight security by the French army, which has detailed about 7,000 soldiers – close to 10% of its combat troops – to guard Jewish premises.

Aliya, or immigration to Israel, has shot up, with about 8,000 French Jews moving there in 2015, making France the single- largest source of immigration to the Jewish state. Figures available so far for this year, however, indicate the number of departures has dropped by about a third compared with 2015.

Kalifat says the reason is the November 13 terrorist attacks, when Islamist gunmen simultaneously attacked a Paris concert hall and several outdoor cafés in the city center killing 129 people and wounding 350.  Ironically, that bloodbath has made more Jews inclined to stay, he says.

“Until November 13, the Islamists had targeted the French state through its police and soldiers, or by murdering journalists who symbolized a free society," he says. "Jews had been attacked for being Jews, and our community felt isolated and in danger, especially in neighborhoods where there were large populations of North African Arab origin.”

“The reflex for some Jews was to seek safety in Israel. But since last November, Jews realize that it is all of French society that is under attack, so Jews no longer feel so isolated even though they do still feel endangered, but like all the French.”

Kalifat says there will be no change to CRIF’s stand-offish attitude toward the right-wing National Front (NF) party, which has put out feelers to “the Jewish street.” The NF’s leader Marine Le Pen presents herself as “the best shield” for Jews in the face of local Arabs. Le Pen is the daughter of the party’s founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who repeatedly offended Jews and was thrown out of the party.
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