Has the time come for Jews to say au revoir to France? In an article for the forthcoming edition of Vanity Fair, Marie Brenner examines the causes of and justifications for the exodus of France’s Jewish population.
Brenner weaves a narrative that includes testimony from police and government officials, activists, fellow journalists, Jewish watchdog groups, a posh luxury goods executive, witnesses from a wide variety of anti-Semitic incidents and assaults throughout France, a Parisian Imam, and an eighteen-year-old, well-heeled, university-bound high school senior who is heartened at the idea that, in America, she could outwardly display her Judaism and live unmolested.
Among the key subjects is Sammy Ghozlan, a former police chief who, in retirement, established and still oversees a civilian advocacy group whose “purpose is nothing less than to protect the Jews of France.”
From the piece:
Moving back permanently was out of the question, but it hasn’t been easy for Ghozlan to disconnect. “I am deeply French,” he told me. “I did my military service in the air force. I love France’s values, its culture, its history, its cuisine, philosophers, and artists. I never imagined that I would someday leave. I led the fight for 15 years and all our warnings made no difference.” In 2014, about 7,000 Jews left France for Israel, and this year the anticipated exodus is between 10,000 and 15,000. The Jewish Agency for Israel recently reported that, in 2014, 50,000 French Jews made inquiries about moving to Israel, an astonishing number. In many of France’s public lycées, Jewish students are insulted, classrooms are vandalized, books are defaced, and fights break out in the classroom with any attempt to teach the Holocaust. […]
But Jews make up less than 1 percent of the French population. Even so, according to the S.P.C.J., they are the target of 51 percent of all racist acts in France. The country has become Israel’s biggest source of immigrants.
The tone of the article is straightforward and bleak, and largely mirrors the conclusion of a similar piece in the April issue of the Atlantic, bluntly titled “Is It Time for the Jews to Leave Europe?” The author, Jeffrey Goldberg, concluded his essay with this thought:
I am predisposed to believe that there is no great future for the Jews in Europe, because evidence to support this belief is accumulating so quickly.
For Jews in France and the rest of Europe, emigration may be an appealing choice. A 2013 Pew poll revealed that, in that year, anti-Semitic hostilities had reached a seven-year high worldwide, Europe very much included. Last month, in Madrid, the head of the city’s culture department was forced to resign after he made a joke alluding to Jews in the gas chambers. In the thick of its financial meltdown, a poll revealed that 85 percent of Greece’s population believe that Jews have too much power over global finance. The list goes on. Yet for many, like Ghozlan, their European and national heritage is often as important to them as is their Jewish heritage (if not more). Brenner’s piece is a meticulously researched lens into these tensions. Read the whole thing here.