Society

In New York, Signs Of A Quiet Exodus Of Jews From France

Last March's killings at a Jewish elementary school in Toulouse shocked many, but French Jews have been feeling less secure for years. Some leave, though security isn't the only reason.

Orthodox Jews at home in NYC
Orthodox Jews at home in NYC
Maurizio Molinari

NEW YORK - Every Saturday at around 12pm on the sidewalks of the Upper West Side you can hear French being spoken. It’s coming from groups of people who are coming out of the synagogues on 75th, 78th and 84th streets, where increasing numbers of French Jews are appearing each week.

They’re families with kids, young people, teachers and executives. The consulate on Fifth Avenue hasn’t estimated the exact numbers of this phenomenon but it’s definitely increasing. In the “Manhattan Day School” the teachers are showing the daughter of a family around, who just arrived with very few days warning.

Meanwhile, Alessia Lefebure, director of the “Alliance Program” between Columbia University in NYC and “Sciences Po” in Paris, speaks of “a notable number of Parisian Jewish teachers who want to teach here.” To understand what’s happening, we have to go to the Jewish Centre on 86th Street where, in March 2012, the Jewish New Yorkers urged their French counterparts to commemorate the victims of the shooting in the “Ozar Hatorah” school in Toulouse, where the jihadist Mohammed Merah killed a rabbi and three children.

Leading the ceremony was Zachary, 29, a transport manager from Strasbourg. “If New York is full of French Jews- he explains- it’s because in 2002, in connection with the second Palestinian Intifada, a season of physical aggression began towards us from the Arabs that still hasn’t stopped. It just brought the conflict from the Middle East onto our streets.”

More than 80% of the almost 600,000 French Jews -- France is the second highest community, apart from the US, outside of Israel -- come from Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria. Sephardic families who had spent centuries in coexistance with Muslims were forced to leave the Maghreb because of Arabic pogroms in the 1950s and ‘60s and found in France an accord between monotheistic faiths. “The symptoms of Muslim intolerance against us began before 2002- adds Daniel, a French bank worker in Manhattan- but the second Intifada made the atmosphere asphyxiating”. “The killing of Ilan Halimi, 23, in February 2006 was the first shock. Then others followed suit,” explains David, father of two, from the Parisian suburb of Les Lilas. “When I was a school boy, 20% of the residents were Jewish, now there’s almost none of them still there.”

Moving away from France follows a path that Noam Ohana, manager of the BeaconLight Capital, describes as this: “We moved from the suburbs of Paris to the centre, to the 16th arrondissement, where there are more kosher restaurants than in Manhattan, after that the next step is Israel or New York.” Ohana’s theory that appears in his book “From Sciences Po to Tzahal (Israeli Defense Forces)”, is that the French Jews leave for reasons that include, but are not limited to, intolerance but also reasons that encourage people to leave the upper middle class, or better opportunities in respect to a society that no longer allows them to think big.” In other words: it’s France who has become weak.

What Zachary, Daniel, David and Noam have in common is that they all attended the public schools, formed by the “secular state” and they have realized that in the past 5-6 years it has changed because of the rampant religious controversies.

On mobile phones, some people have saved images of the Marseillaise singing throughout the “Stade de France” in August 2001, when a France-Algeria soccer match, friendly match meant to establish brotherhood between the two nations, broke down into pitch invasions and riots. They look at the event again and again, more and more incredulous for the “intolerance towards our nation.” David's sister was attacked in Nice by some Arabs. "Episodes that occur continuously in the streets or in the subway - adds Aharon, a designer in a start-up - they force you to walk with your head down, put a hat on to conceal the kippah." The response from the police is to "often not classify the attacks as anti-Semitism but as robberies or violence" which conceals the true extent of the phenomenon.

Political sympathies are halfway between right and left. Ohana knows that from within Hollande’s Socialists "there is a determination to ensure greater security for the Jews," but whether they can be convinced to go back to France, there are many who are cautious: "They can not control the aspirations of people, Jewish or not, who want to go elsewhere to pursue their dreams." Aharon is more concrete: "Finding a job in a corporation in France for practising orthodox Jews is impossible but in New York, you do not even need to explain it. Everyone knows that on Yom Kippur, on religious holidays, or on Saturdays we do not work." The result is that Paris has become a city that Jews leave quietly but continuously, carrying on their traditions and symbols elsewhere. Like the jerseys of the “Menorah FC" who play in Harlem, they’re helping to shape the identity of a France, where Muslims increase whilst Jews decrease.

There are nearly 600,000 French Jews, accounting for the third-highest Jewish population in the world after the U.S. and Israel. More than 80% of Jews in France come from backgrounds in Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria -- Sephardic families who had spent centuries in peaceful coexistance with Muslims until they were forced to leave the Maghreb because of Arabic pogroms in the 1950s and 1960s.

A turning point

The anti-Semitic torture and killing of Ilan Halimi, 23, in February 2006 was "the first shock," recalled David, father of two, from the Parisian suburb of Les Lilas. "Then others followed....When I was a school boy, 20% of the residents were Jewish, now there’s almost none of them still there.”

Moving away from France follows a path that Noam Ohana, the manager of BeaconLight Capital, describes in his book: “From Sciences Po to Tzahal (Israeli Defense Forces).” He says French Jews move from the provinces to the center of Paris, then to the 16th arrondissement (neighborhood), "where there are more kosher restaurants than Manhattan" -- After that, "the next step is Israel or New York.”

Ohana says that French Jews actually leave for a variety of reasons that include, but are not limited to, intolerance. "There are other motivations...to pursue better opportunities in respect to a society that no longer allows them to think big.” In other words: it’s France itself that has become weak.

What most New York transplants have in common is that they attended the public schools, formed by the “secular state,” but they have realized that in the past 5-6 years that it has changed because of the rampant religious controversies.

Aharon, a designer in a start-up says the tension "forces you to walk with your head down, put a hat on to conceal the kippah." He says police too often classify attacks as simple robberies or assaults, rather than hate crimes, underplaying the extent of anti-Semitism.

Aharon is more concrete: "Finding a job in a corporation in France for a practicing Orthodox Jew is impossible, but in New York, you do not even need to explain it. Everyone knows that on Yom Kippur, on religious holidays, or on Saturdays we do not work."

The result is that Paris is now a place that Jews are quietly, but steadily leaving, helping to change the identity of France where the number of Muslims continues to grow.

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Spencer Tunick Nude Installation in Israel

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Salam!*

Welcome to Monday, where the UK pays homage to slain MP David Amess, Myanmar frees thousands of prisoners, and Facebook gets ready to build its "metaverse." Please fasten your seatbelts: Worldcrunch also takes stock of the long-lasting effects — good and bad — the pandemic has had on the air travel industry.

[*Azeri - Azerbaijan]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

Myanmar to free political prisoners: Myanmar's junta chief Min Aung Hlaing has announced the release of 5,636 prisoners who had been jailed for protesting the coup that ousted the civilian government in February 2021.

• Powerful Haiti gang behind the kidnapping of U.S. missionaries: The notorious 400 Mawozo gang is believed to be behind the kidnapping in Haiti of a group of Christian missionaries, including 16 U.S. citizens and one Canadian. The brazen kidnapping on Saturday comes as crime is spiking since the killing of President Jovenel Moise in July.

• UK to pay tribute to David Amess: British lawmakers will pay homage in parliament to colleague David Amess, who was stabbed to death Friday in what was described by the police as a "terrorist incident." Officers arrested a 25-year-old suspect whose father, Harbi Ali Kullane, worked as a media adviser to a former prime minister of Somalia.

• COVID update: Russia has registered more than 34,000 cases of new infections in the past 24 hours, a new record since the start of the pandemic. Meanwhile, police in the northeast Italian city of Trieste used water cannons to clear striking dockworkers protesting Italy's new requirements that all employees be vaccinated.

• At least 26 killed in floods in India: Torrential rain has triggered floods and landslides in India's southern coastal state of Kerala, killing at least 26 people.

• Facebook to hire 10,000 in EU to develop "metaverse": The U.S. social media giant plans to hire 10,000 workers in the European Union over the next five years to build a "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet that the company touts as the future.

Punishing parents for children's bad behavior: After limiting gaming hours for minors, China is now considering legislation to reprimand parents if their children exhibit "very bad behavior" or commit crimes.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

Colombian daily El Espectador dedicates its front page to Alex Saab, "owner of the secrets" of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The Colombian businessman, wanted by U.S. authorities for allegedly laundering money on behalf of Venezuela's government, has been extradited from Cape Verde to the U.S. where he is scheduled to appear in court today.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

4.9%

China's economy registered its slowest pace in a year as the country faces a looming energy crisis with power shortages and increasing pressure on its property sector. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the period between July-September rose 4.9%, the weakest numbers since the third quarter of 2020 and significantly lower than forecasts. The world's second-largest economy faces a debt crisis linked to the China Evergrande Group debt crisis, while energy shortfalls have dropped factory output to its weakest since early 2020, when heavy COVID-19 curbs were in place.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

7 ways the pandemic may change the airline industry for good

Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.

⛽ Cleaner aviation fuel: With air travel responsible for roughly 12% of all CO2 emissions from transport, and stricter international regulation on the horizon, the industry is increasingly seeking sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based fuel. In Germany, state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that the world's first factory producing CO2-neutral kerosene recently started operations in the town of Wertle, in Lower Saxony. The plant, for which Lufthansa is set to become the pilot customer, will produce CO2-neutral kerosene through a circular production cycle incorporating sustainable and green energy sources and raw materials

.🛃 Smoother check-in: The pandemic has also accelerated the shift towards contactless traveling, with more airports harnessing the power of biometrics — such as facial recognition or fever screening — to reduce touchpoints and human contact. Similar technology can also be used to more efficiently scan physical objects, such as explosive detection. Ultimately, passengers will be able to "check-in" and go through a security screening anywhere at the airports, removing queues and bottlenecks.

✈️ The billion-dollar question: Will we fly less? At the end of the day, even with all these (mostly positive) changes that we've seen take shape over the past 18 months, the industry faces major uncertainty about whether air travel will ever return to the pre-COVID levels. Not only are people wary about being in crowded and closed airplanes, but the worth of long-distance business travel, in particular, is being questioned as many have seen that meetings can function remotely, via Zoom and other online apps.


➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"The crimes committed that night are unforgivable for the Republic."

— Emmanuel Macron became the first French president to commemorate the killing of as many as 200 Algerian independence protesters by Parisian police in 1961. For 40 years, French officials ignored the massacre, which took place a year before Algeria gained its independence from France after an eight-year war. In 2012, French President François Hollande acknowledged the killings for the first time on a visit to Algeria, and Macron took it further by attending Sunday's commemoration at the site where the events happened in the French capital. Still, many had hoped the French President would go further and take responsibility for a "state massacre," for a crime many historians consider the most violent repression of a peaceful demonstration in post-War Europe.

📈💥  IN OTHER NEWS

​Low trust, high risk: The global rise of violence targeting politicians

The deadly stabbing of British Parliament Member David Amess confirms an ongoing study on trust and governance in democracies around the world: It's bad. In The Conversation, James Weinberg — the study's author and a lecturer in Political Behavior at the University of Sheffield — writes:

⏪ The assassination of Amess, who was stabbed to death in his constituency on Friday, is a tragic moment for democracy. What makes it even more devastating is that such a catastrophic failure is not without precedent or predictability. Labour MP Jo Cox was shot at her constituency surgery in 2016. Before her, another Labour MP, Stephen Timms, survived a stabbing in 2010. And Andrew Pennington, a Gloucestershire county councilor, died in a frenzied attack in 2001 while trying to protect local Liberal Democrat MP Nigel Jones.

☝️ Beyond these critical junctures in the public debate about politicians' safety, elected representatives must live with an increasingly insidious level of popular cynicism that threatens violence on an almost daily basis.

🇬🇧🇳🇿🇿🇦 Not only are these experiences of abuse or threats of physical violence felt across both sides of the political aisle in the UK — they also appear to be growing more common in other democratic contexts where the climate of politics has been presumed to be both calmer and more volatile, from New Zealand to South Africa.


Read the full piece from The Conversation, now on Worldcrunch.com

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

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