"Any time young people approach me in order to get married, I ask them various questions about their future. Eighty percent of them say they do not envision any future in France." This is what one rabbi in Paris told me last week. I heard similar statements from other French rabbis and lay Jewish leaders: "We have a feeling the words are on the wall now," one leader in the Lyons area confided to me. "It is not just our situation in this country deteriorating; it is also that the process is much quicker than expected."
Even the chief rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim, may be sharing that view now. A philosopher (holding a prestigious French agrégation degree in philosophy), a graduate of the French Rabbinical School in Paris, and a former student at some of the most orthodox yeshivoth (Talmudic academies) in Jerusalem, Bernheim was until recently very eager to reconcile traditional Judaism with Europe's "open society." He has just devoted a book to France as a nation and how Jews can contribute to France's public debates (N'oublions Pas De Penser La France), and in 2008, the year he was elected chief rabbi, he coauthored a book on Judeo-Christian dialogue (Le Rabbin et le Cardinal) with Cardinal Philippe Barbarin. Despite all that, Bernheim suddenly warned Jewish leaders a few weeks ago about a growing "rejection" of Jews and Judaism in France, something he linked to the global passing of "Judeo-Christian values" in French society as a whole.
|Caricature reprise d'un des nombreux sites antisémites français (chrétien) et qui illustrait un article attaquant ce blog (Philosémitisme).|
Muslim immigration is nurturing European anti-Semitism in more surprising ways as well. One unintended and ironic consequence of European Islam's demographic growth is that Jews are frequently amalgamated with Muslims. Many people use a widespread concern about a growing influence of Islam in Europe as a way to hurt Jews as well, or to hit them first. Clearly, there are outward similarities between Judaism and Islam. Both religions originated in the Near East, and are — as of 2012 — related to Near or Middle East countries. Both use Semitic languages. Both insist on rituals, particularly in terms of gender roles, family life, or food, that do not fit with the current mainstream European way of life.
However, differences between Judaism and Islam may outweigh similarities. As far as Near Eastern or Middle Eastern countries are concerned, Muslims turn to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the strongholds of anti-Western hatred, while Jews turn to Israel, the super-Western "start-up nation." In terms of ritual, kosher slaughtering — a quasi-surgical operation — is as remote from halal slaughtering as from secular slaughtering. Jewish circumcision is performed on newborn babies and is much closer to secular prophylactic circumcision (as it is largely practiced in the United States) than to Islamic circumcision, which is performed on boys in their preteens or early teens. And when it comes to relations between politics and religion, there is simply a chasm between the two religions. Judaism (including Orthodox Judaism) is not interested in mass conversion; does not seek to wrest Europe or any historically Christian part of the world from Christianity; recognizes the supremacy of state law over religious law in non-ritual matters; and sees Western democracy — a polity based on the rule of law — as the most legitimate political system.
The charge was made in Le Point, an important right-of-center newsmagazine, by Michel Onfray, a commercially successful dabbling philosopher and a long-time supporter of the radical Left, who himself reviewed and approvingly quoted Who Is God? (Qui est Dieu), an essay by another controversial author, the former diplomat Jean Soler. In the 1970s Soler, who holds an agrégation degree in Greek and Latin classical studies but was never academically trained in anthropology, Semitics, or Near Eastern history, applied a structuralist approach to the study of Jewish rituals and won some polite applause from French, Israeli, and American scholars. Later on, when structuralism fell out of fashion, he sort of remixed his early work with neo-Marcionite currents in 19th century and early 20th century German and French Biblical criticism which claimed there was no spirituality at all, and indeed no real monotheism, in the Old Testament, a narrowly "tribalist" book. Or that everything spiritual in the Old Testament was a transplant from other cultures, either Pharaonic Egypt or Indo-European Iran.
Michel Gurfinkiel is a Shillman/Ginsburg Fellow at Middle East Forum and the Founder and President of the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Institute, a conservative think-thank in France.
Cet article très pessimiste sur l'avenir des Juifs en France a inspiré à Fresno Zionism cette réflexion: The center of Jewish culture is already in Israel.