Some are going to England, others to Montreal and still others to Israel, but one thing is certain; the Jews of France are leaving in droves after the rise in anti-semitism in the country culminating in the shootings at the kosher supermarket Super Cache and at the offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. For the first time since the Nazi occupation, the Great Synagogue in Paris was closed for Shabbat following the shootings.
The wave of anti-semitism has been engulfing France for some time, culminating to cries of “Death to Jews” in the streets during this past summer’s Operation Protective Edge– the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Two synagogues were firebombed in the summer, prompting Newsweek — and not a Jewish publication—to draw comparisons to pogroms.
Even before recent conflicts, anti-semitic incidents rose 58% in 2012. With many French Jews afraid to congregate at the steps of a synagogue, be seen wearing a yarmulke or even send their children to Jewish schools, many are leaving. The Jewish Agency in Israel estimates 7, 000 French Jews will make aliyah, but thousands are going to Great Britain. This has not been a new trend, as manyFrench Jews have emigrated to Britain so far, with several British Jewish communities starting French language Torah classes as part of their synagogue lectures. While only 11% of British Jews said they felt anti-semitism was a big problem in their country, nearly half of British surveyed harbored anti-semitic views to some degree. Felix Froea, who made aliyah from France because he saw the terrorists shootings in Paris as empowering far right leaders like Marine LePen, and told the Guardian, “In a few days, it will be like nothing happened. In two months we will be called filthy Jews again.” Sadly, if anti-semitism in Great Britain worsens to resemble the situation in France, French Jews seeking refuge may experience a similar cultural amnesia as Froea fears will happen in France.