Is There a Future for French Jewry?

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Recent years have seen a rise in anti-Semitic incidents in Europe, and French Jews have in particular suffered from violence and threats. Many have responded by leaving—moving to Israel, the United States, and Canada.

In this 2005 Azure article, French sociology professor Shmuel Trigano explains that French hostility toward Jews as Jews is not new; indeed, it is embodied in the French Republic, which understands its citizens as French primarily, and other identities as unfortunate. Trigano sees in France the anti-Semitism of the Dreyfus Affair coupling with more recent leftist sympathies for the Palestinians and the growing Muslim population in France, leaving no home for a Jewish life in the Republic.

This augurs poorly for the future of Jewish life in France. For Jewish continuity is a question not only of survival, but also of a meaningful existence. One may rightfully wonder: Can there be Jewish intellectual creativity, and an authentically Jewish contribution to the public debate, under such conditions? Can Jews live as a community, but also as full citizens, if their own right to do so is under incessant assault, not only from the immigrant population, but from the French establishment as well? . . .

The Jews of France are rapidly approaching a crossroads. If not today, then tomorrow, they will face an impossible choice: Either they revert to the prewar model of Jewish identity, in which their peoplehood is sacrificed to an individualistic definition of Judaism, and at the same time hope that France overcomes the combined forces of decentralization and Arab communal self-assertion so as to re-establish the conditions which made this option possible in the first place; or they can affirm their Jewish peoplehood by choosing to live more complete Jewish lives somewhere other than France. One thing is certain: If they choose the latter option, the Jewish state will be there to welcome them.

Read the whole essay in Azure.

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