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A Plea to French Jews

It’s true that your bread is better than ours, that Paris is beyond amazing and that you, likely, earn two or three times more than the average Israeli, but this is the time to seriously consider selling all, and disconnecting from a country which seems to be heading in a very different direction for its Jewish population.

As a recent headline in the Jerusalem Post said, “Next month in Jerusalem – if LePen becomes French President,” (4/12/22) it may be worth taking seriously that the French dream is winding down for those who have been straddling the Israeli fence – shuffling back and forth, trying to enjoy the best of both worlds.

Marine LePen has been inching her way to the top, slowly but steadily, and, possibly thanks to the way things were handled by Macron, during the Covid pandemic of the last two years, French citizens are giving her a fresh, new look – wondering if they’d be better off with someone who is making every effort to distance herself as being part of the global elite and more in tune with the everyday “paysant.”

But, as a prospective leader of her country, LePen has made no secret of the fact that she is, first and foremost, a nationalist – one who is laser focused on what is best for her citizens, for her economy and for her land.  In that regard, it is probably somewhat accurate to say that she views France’s Jewish citizens as having dual loyalties which, in her mind, does not square with the type of staunchly faithful countrymen that she hopes to govern.

Viewed as a far-right politician, it was in 2017 that she displayed that tendency, without apology, when she made it clear that she supports a policy whereby dual nationals in France may have to give up their citizenship to another country.  She stated, “I am against dual nationality outside Europe, so I ask them to choose their nationality.”  (Euronews, 10/2/17) Although she went on to say that by doing so, it would not necessarily mean having to leave France should they decide on their other citizenship, so then why present a forced choice?

But why would anyone need to choose between two lands if, indeed, they are entitled to live, work and enjoy both?  No one stands to lose more than Jews when it comes to such an ultimatum.  Many French Jews, for a variety of reasons, have, over the course of the last 10-15 years, decided to get their Israeli citizenship – not necessarily to live here on a permanent basis, but more as an insurance policy should events become too threatening for their spread-out community of close to half a million Jews.

While some have definitely made the switch, living in Israel full-time or most of the time, a large majority of French Jews still remain there, knowing that their earning capacity is so much more limited here – likely due to the language or professions which are more suited for Europe and may not work for them in the Middle East.  But whatever the reason, it’s time to reassess and rethink about their survival within a country which houses so much anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiment.

It’s something that every French Jew knows and accepts as the way things are.  Consequently, in recent years, obvious outward signs of being Jewish have had to carefully be modified in order to avoid being verbally or physically attacked by those who have no problem with justifying their anger for Israel against their fellow countrymen who have little or no connection with the politics or policies of the Jewish homeland.

Yet, a LePen victory, which could happen in just another week, Sunday, April 24, 2022, could easily tilt the scales for France’s Jewish community in a way that it hasn’t been seen since the Vichy Regime of the 1940s.

A win for LePen would likely result in her threat against dual citizenship becoming a reality.  Would French Jews, many of whom already have Israeli citizenship, be willing to give up that coveted safe place in order to maintain their status quo in a country which, for now, may provide them a very good standard of living, but which, in the not-too-distant future, could end up being a real danger for them? Would they risk the ability to get on a plane and escape to their ancestral home where, despite possibly having to live with less, at least feel that they can freely walk around in whatever clothes and jewelry they want?  By the way, it’s not necessarily a given that they will have to live with less!

History has taught us that there is a window of time for these things, and that window is, sometimes, only open for a brief moment.  I am reminded of the dreadful scene in the film,” Woman of Gold,” when Maria Altmann, played by Helen Mirren, attempts to flee her childhood home of Vienna as the Nazis seize full control and begin to round up Jews.  She manages to get to the immigration office in order to secure travel documents, but just as she arrives, it shuts down, declaring that no more exit visas will be given.  At that point, she has no choice but to run for her life and escape on foot to Holland, not knowing if she would be killed on the way.

I realize that, at this moment in time, the true story portrayed in this film seems like a million miles away, but just think about how quickly events have changed right before our eyes due to a virus.  Airports were closed, countries were no longer accessible, including Israel, and travel, in many cases, was no longer possible.

Many political leaders became more like dictators who expected total compliance and obedience to whatever they demanded, and while some may think that Israel’s political leaders were not much different, at least those of us, living here, did not have to worry about being attacked without a strong army to protect us.

Sure, we weathered rockets from Gaza in 2021, and many of our neighbors remain a threat to our existence, but we know that our soldiers are committed to our welfare and will fight tooth and nail if we are attacked.  We also know that “He that Keepeth Israel Neither Slumbers Nor Sleeps,” (Psalm 121:4) and that’s surely the greatest confidence of all – that we are not alone even if every nation would rise up against us.

If you are a French Jew, living in France, there is a window open for you right now.  Please think about climbing through it, because it could be shut sooner than you expect!  We are here waiting for you and hoping that, if history does repeat itself, this time you have a real option – a Jewish homeland, the Promised Land!

 

 

 

About the Author
A former Jerusalem elementary and middle-school principal and the granddaughter of European Jews who arrived in the US before the Holocaust. Making Aliyah in 1993, she is retired and now lives in the center of the country with her husband.
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