Miami welcomes exodus of French Jews
As the threats in Europe increase and instability spreads through the Middle East, Miami will continue to grow economically, culturally and demographically. For a hundred years, Miami has provided an opportunity to thrive for those looking to build a new life. Now is the time for European Jews, and more specifically French Jews, to plan an exit strategy, considering Miami for its next chapter. Here, they will be embraced and live comfortably as Jews. The time is now before you have to escape, bear in mind every surviving Jew at one time left what was then his/her other home.
The systematic killing and torturing of French Jews is far too normal. In January 2006, Ilan Halimi, a 23-year old French Jewish cell phone salesman was kidnapped and tortured in Paris for three weeks by a group that called themselves The Barbarians. He was found naked and mutilated as he struggled to walk down a railway line. He was handcuffed, repeatedly stabbed with almost 80% of his body covered in third degree burns. He died within hours of being transported to the hospital. In March 2012, over the course of a week, three soldiers were murdered in Toulouse and Montauban. The killing spree culminated with the murders of a Rabbi, his two children ages 3 and 6, and another child age 8. They were shot at point blank range as they walked to the Jewish school in Toulouse. In May 2014, an ISIS trained French born terrorist walked into the Jewish museum in Brussels and opened fire with an automatic rifle, killing four people in cold blood. In January 2015, the Charlie Hebdo and Porte de Vincennes, kosher market shootings created a shock wave of fear across the world, deeply impacting the French Jewish community. In June 2015, a gas factory, Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, near Lyon, was attacked and a local Jewish businessman’s head was pinned to the gates as an ISIS flag was raised. Five months later, in November 2015, the Paris attacks occurred, leaving 130 dead, hundreds wounded, with more than 130 in critical condition. ISIS showed an unthought of level of sophistication in their organization and execution. Four months later, in March 2016, three coordinated suicide bombings were carried out in Belgium; two at Brussels Airport and one at Maalbeek Metro Station killing 35 and wounding over 300. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) claimed responsibility. The Brussels and Paris attacks were linked, leaving the distinct impression the western European cities are not safe. The name has evolved as the organization has. ISIS is Islamic State in the Sham, roughly the same area represented in biblical times as Canaan, IS, ISIS and ISIL are the same terrorist organization.
Our sense of safety affords us the ability to live, work and play. Once lost, we are reduced to hollow shells getting through the day, with no appreciation for life, living only in fear. Charlie Hebdo, the Kosher Markets, Paris bombings, and Brussels, the “Paris Crisis,” captured large numbers of victims, but indirectly collectively robbed the Jewish community of its sense of safety, and any hope of a Jewish way of life. French Jews are made to feel angoisse, which translates uncomfortable, filled with anxiety or angst. Angoisse is heard frequently in Paris, losing the luxury of feeling invisible or being forced into a ghetto of cultural identification. France’s proud tradition of liberty, equality, fraternity and not to mention Laïcité – the stubborn commitment to strict Secularism are being lost.
The world’s loss of confidence for safely visiting Paris, deprives Paris of its most precious commodity – visitors, placing its tourism in decline for the first time in decades, causing economic strife not seen in years, resulting in a potential backlash against Jews by Parisians caught in the economics of terrorism. Jewish businesses are likely to be at the top of any anti-Semitic or terror attack, those same businesses may be less patronized by those fearing to be caught in the middle of an attack. The New York Times reports: “Empty tables after Paris and Brussels Terror Attacks,” and documents Luxury Hotels and restaurants are suffering. The tranquility of France’s pristine Seaside, Nice erupted on July 14, 2006 when Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, a Tunisian resident of France, drove a rented 19 Ton Cargo Truck directly into the crowd assembled to celebrate Bastille Day, France’s fourth of July, killing 84, injuring 303; of the dead, 10 children, of the injured, 54 children. This is France’s third major attack in France since the beginning of 2015. Bouhlel executed the attack in response to ISIS’ call to target citizens of a Coalition of Nations fighting the Islamic state. Bouhlel planned the attack for months, with at least 5 accomplices, part of his ritual to exact such hatred was watching ISIS decapitation videos. Bouhlel demonstrates the difficulties of stopping an oversupply of “instant jihadists”.
Terrorism can neither claim nor directly affect enough lives to win a battle, but it can create an economic decline both from the revenue and cost side that can collapse an economy. In France, growth in nightly hotel room bookings fell to single digits from 20 percent. After Brussels bombings, booking went negative, and after Nice, booking fell by double digits, said Mark Okerstrom, the Chief Financial officer of Expedia a global travel website. The ripple effect has been substantial, rental apartments in Paris and Nice sat empty after people canceled plans to visit France. Clients who were thinking of moving to France have suspended their property searches, as reported by the New York Times, 7/29/16, “Terrorism Scares away Tourists Europe was counting on.” More than 10% of the European Union’s economy is based upon tourism. This new sustained waive of terrorism is costing France its tourism revenues, it also is costing the state annually more than 1 billion in protective services, much of that protection was focused on the Jewish Community, a cost that may no longer be bearable or may be viewed as unfair. Make no mistake about it French Jews will and already have borne the disproportionate burden of antisemitic terrorism. France has pledged to spend €816 Million this year to reinforce security.
In much of Europe, it is no longer safe to participate in a Jewish way of life. Zvi Ammar the head of the Jewish Community in Marseilles urged Jews not to wear a kippah in the street “until better days” creating a backsplash from their Jewish leaders who called the attitude defeatist. The goal of terrorism is to create fear in those who are not directly affected, creating a backlash, disrupting economies and ruining lives. The collective French Jewish community is coming to an end. Terrorism does not need to directly touch your being; it only needs to deprive you of a sense of being.
Two years ago on Bastille Day Weekend, a mob of hundreds of anti-Jewish protesters rushed into Marois, Paris’ historic Jewish quarter to Don Isaac Abravenel Synagogue, where the crowd shouted: “Hitler was right! Jews out of France.” Terrified the congregation called the police, however the police officers were assigned to demonstration duty only – and stood back to wait for the assault police to arrive. The synagogue fought the protesters off for more than an hour.
“There is a sense of downplay among the upper middle class”, said author Clemence Boulouque, a former literary critic for La Figaro who now lives in New York. France is fighting its third wave of terrorism. The first wave, coming from the far right, morphed into a neo-Nazi crusade of the 1990’s, which targeted not only France’s Jews but also its growing Muslim population. The second wave came from the far-left found in pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel attitudes and erupted during the first and second intifadas, with flare-ups in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. The third wave has been propelled by the recent rise of Isis, metastasized via thousands of web sites and social media, and in France, has become home grown and home schooled among a vulnerable population of young Muslims. France’s Muslim population is estimated to be around 5 million, a potential voting bloc in country of 66 million. The Jewish population of France is approximately 450,000. Violence against Jews appears to come mainly from Muslims, who outnumber Jews 10 to 1. Even though Jews make up less than 1 percent of the French population, however they are victims for 51% of all racist acts in France. In Garges, last July a billboard advertising lollipops was modified with a large SCROWL: PALESTINE WILL LIVE, PALESTINE WILL OVERCOME. COME WITH MORTAR, FIRE EXTINGUISHER, BATON, DEMONSTRATION AT GARAGES – SARCEILLES TRAIN STATION. COME OUT IN NUMBERS! FOLLOW TO THE JEWISH QUARTER. French authorities took action forbidding the pro-Palestinian demonstrations planned for the weekend.
Unfortunately one week later the French authorities took no such action, and subsequently thousands appeared burning cars, attacking buses. Almost 14 hours later a mob of hundreds surrounded the Garges synagogue, the Star of David in the window was the first casualty, luckily the synagogue was spared, the chain locked gate could not be overcome by the mob. The police did not move in. The crowd chanted “Mort Aux Juifs”, death to Jews. The crowd moved to the Shopping Center in Sarcelles and its large synagogue. The crowd torched a pharmacy and the Jewish market, then moved to the synagogue. French police stood by for nearly two hours until reinforcements arrived with tear gas. The police were able to push the mob back, but later stated they were waiting for authorization. The police in France are under strict instruction not to interfere unless witnessing actual acts of violence. The synagogue today is now used as a base of operations for more than 40 French soldiers who have been assigned to the towns Jewish institutions.
Muslim leaders attempting moderation are met with retribution from their own community. Hassen Chalghouni, the Imam of Drancy has been a voice of moderation for the Muslim community. In 2006 he spoke at the Shoah Memorial, his house was subsequently vandalized, its contents damaged or destroyed. In a prayer service in 2009 he spoke of respect for the Jews and culture. The next day he was confronted with 200 protesters outside his mosque with signs: PUPPETS OF THE JEWS. Some years later he toured Israel with other Imams upon his return at the airport he was met with a mass of demonstrators. Three years ago he and his family were assaulted near a mosque, spending days in the hospital. Chalghouni believes the foreign funding of mosques from Saudi Arabia and Qatar has fed the radicalization of Muslims in France.
Ironically there is an old Arab proverb: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Marine La Pen, who inherited the National Front from her father, Jean-Marie, has taken her party from the fringes of French support closer to the French mainstream. She has couched her message the rise of Islamism in France poses an existential threat to the republic’s ideas of Laïcité or Secularism. Unlike her father, Marine courts French Jews support. La Pen is the leading candidate for the Presidency in 2017. By courting their acceptance she has done an about turn from her father’s views which fueled the first wave of anti-Semitism in France. Le Pen’s plan is far right of any of France’s parties: Jihadists lose citizenship, immigration is ended and Laïcité is reinforced by limiting public expression of religion. In an added feminist modern twist La Pen is courting women by arguing the covering of the women’s face and head in Muslim dress is a political statement intended to hold women down. At the same time, La Pen is quick to point out the French Revolution recognized Jews as full citizens, the Jews played a central role in the Republic achieving their emancipation.
If La Pen were to win will she carry forward her policies that could cause an uproar of 5 million Muslim residents? Will she protect the Jews? Only time will tell. The word “Semite” is correctly used when describing those who live in the Middle East, Jews and Arabs alike. However, its modern use is relegated to that of the Jew exclusively so that when anti-Semitism is used today its meaning is anti-Jew. Once elected, will La Pen use the original meaning of the expression or its modern view? In the passage, the enemy of my enemy is my friend – as the story has been retold, the enemy is ultimately decapitated by his friend.
France is the battleground for Europe’s third wave of anti-Semitism, the outcome is yet to be determined, but the evidence against a future for Jews in Europe is accumulating at a rapid fire pace. There is an old Algerian expression used during the Algerian civil war, a choice between le cercueil ou la valise – “the coffin or the suitcase.” Almost all Jews today exist because an ancestor escaped before it was too late. Sammy Gholan epitomizes the exodus, the proud French crime fighter and Dean of Paris’s anti-Semitic surge, has now joined the thousands of French Jews moving to Israel. Gholan stated “How can anyone be allowed to paint a swastika on the Statute of Marianne, the goddess of French liberty, in the very center of the Place de la Republique?” For Gholan, July 2014 was the tipping point, after years of escalating anti-Semitic violence: “There was no debate in our family. We all knew – it is time to go. Leaving is better than running away.” In July 2016 Natan Sharansky, the executive of the Jewish Agency, author of “Fear No Evil, The Case for Democracy and Defending Identity,” published that French Jews face two dilemmas, the first is the changing French demographic, with its large influx of large population areas that do not share the French republic’s democratic value, and are susceptible to anti-semitism; the second is the acceptance of propaganda that Israel is acting as an oppressor. Sharansky praises the French government for its protection of the Jewish people, arguing it has done more than any other European government, but they simply lack the resources necessary to send soldiers to every Jewish kindergarten.
The United Kingdom is seeing record Jewish Immigration from France. Jewish community leaders in London say an increase in newcomers from France has driven the demand for services in London’s synagogues and Jewish schools. French children now make up 40 to 50 percent of the incoming students in London’s Jewish schools, according to Marc Meyers, the French Chairman of the Hendon United Synagogue and director of the conference of European Rabbis. London is not, however, an entirely safe haven for Jews. The city’s metropolitan police reported a 61 percent increase in anti-Semitic crime in 2015 with over 1,500 separate acts.
Israel is the very place created to allow unrestricted Jewish immigration by right. At an Israeli welcoming ceremony for French Jews in the summer of 2004, then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon caused controversy when he advised all French Jews to move immediately to Israel and escape what he coined “the wildest anti-Semitism in France.” In November 2012, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in joint press conference with Francois Hollande said “In my role as Prime Minister of Israel, I always say to Jews, wherever they may be, I say to them: come to Israel and make Israel your home,” alluding to Prime Minister Sharon’s remarks. Since the Paris crisis, the number of French Jews moving to Israel has quadrupled, but is still a tiny fraction of that community. Israel can be a difficult place to call home for many French Jews. Rapidly raising real estate costs, political uncertainty, and the constant threat of terror are significant challenges to new immigrants to Israel. There are also difficulties adjusting to a new culture and language as well as bureaucratic obstacles to recognizing skills and licenses that originate from outside the Jewish State. In 2002, Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, said in a speech that if the Jews “all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.” The argument for Israel is that the country is at least master of its own fate. Jews do not need to rely on the largess of politicians, or those who only patronizingly court their interests. Israel’s success or failure is by and large, in Jewish hands. Israel has been accommodating to the children, whereas special classes for immigrants have been established, the children are required to join the Israeli army. “The silver lining is the children fit in,” Catherine Berdah, who ran a successful drug store on the eastern edge of Paris, said. It makes me wonder whether Israel really wants us or only our children.” Israel’s Jewish agency and the Ministry of Aliyah and immigrant absorption recently arranged a flight of 200 French Jews right after the terror attacks in Nice. In 2015, nearly 7,800 immigrated to Israel from France. In total, nearly 10% of the French Jewish community has made the pilgrimage to Israel, more than half in the past five years.
New York for its large Jewish population and stable real estate market is attracting French Jews. Prior to the Paris Crisis, the New York Observer documented the emigration of French Jews to Israel and the United States, more particularly New York. “Israel is a small place, business opportunities are less, there is much more red tape. The US is easier, it’s a great place to do business, less red tape.” Before the Paris Crisis, an estimated $1.44 billion in wealth has moved from France to New York as a result of growing antisemitism in France. Marlen Kruzhkov, an attorney at New York’s Gusrae Kaplan, specializes in helping Jews make the move from France to the United States. A client of Kruzhkov explained, “It was not an easy decision to move to Israel but I felt that France was not a long-term option for me and my family. There was never any question that a significant portion of our wealth was going to be invested in the U.S. As for Israel, while we plan to reside there, the economic opportunities are limited. The U.S. is stable and transparent with an economy that is broad-based and only getting better. We particularly like the safety of New York real estate.”
Kruzhkov’s clients often look into real estate in London and Hong Kong, which are much more expensive than New York. By comparison, they view New York’s diverse real estate as reasonably priced. RPMiller Realty Group, which has a number of French national clients, also picked up on the buying trend within the French Jewish population and said to the observer, “Political unrest in France has seen a spur of activity from French investors in the past few months. I would not be surprised to see many deals done in real estate over the next few months by French Jews who seek a safe haven for their money.”
South Florida is what New York City was 75 years ago, a place of opportunity and a welcome environment to immigrants. South Florida has long provided a home for those escaping danger, repression and those searching for economic opportunities that other parts of the world cannot match. Miami is the modern day New York, the land of opportunity for immigrants seeking freedom from all forms of oppression. South Florida’s population hit 6 million, making it the eighth most populated region in the nation. “People are drawn here because it’s International. We speak their language. We speak lots of languages,” said Mayor Carlos Gimenez to the Miami Herald. Over the past five years, the vast majority of new residents to the tri-county region – about 65% or more than 335,000 people – have come from other countries.Foreign-born residents have founded 37 percent of all new businesses in Florida. Florida has the third highest rate of immigrant business ownership in the country behind California and New York.
South Florida presently is the 6th largest Jewish population in the world. Paris is 9th and rapidly declining. The South Florida Jewish community is flourishing with a wide range of synagogues, day schools, community organizations and kosher establishments. Florida politics and policy are largely pro-Israel, recently passing the Anti-BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanction) law makes it illegal to discriminate against Israel. The community promotes creativity, philanthropy, and very poignant Jewish causes. Prominent Jewish philanthropists and leaders are changing Miami’s cultural scene. Norman Braman and Craig Robins are building a three-story, 37,500 sq. ft. contemporary art museum with a 15,000 sq. ft. sculpture garden. The name of the museum will be ICA-Miami. This entirely privately funded museum will see more than $100 million invested by the end of 2017. No one has done more for Art Basel than Norman Braman. Adrienne Arsht, an American philanthropist and business leader, is widely recognized for the $30 million contribution to the City of Miami’s Performing Arts Center, bearing her name Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. The Arsht Performing Arts Center is the largest Center for Performing Arts, south of New York City. Aaron Podhurst has chaired the Miami Art Museum now the Perez Art Museum of Miami (PAM), for over 16 years; the museum has seen more than $250 million invested in the past 4 years. Since its opening two years ago, Pam’s attendance is more than twice than what was anticipated. Phillip Frost, an American philanthropist and business leader, is widely recognized for his $40 million contribution to the Miami Science Museum, bearing his name the Frost Science Museum. This museum’s total investment is in excess of $300 million. Miami Beach completed the New World Symphony, the Wolfsonian and many other venues, all brought about by vibrant, visionary, Jewish entrepreneurs. The Jewish Museum of Florida – Florida International University (JMOF-FIU), created by Marcia Jo Zerivitz, collects, preserves and interprets more than 250 years of the Jewish experience in Florida in the context of global Jewish history, art and culture that also reflects the immigration experience of all Americans. Perhaps the first museum in the U.S. to document the story of one ethnic group in a state, JMOF-FIU is housed in two historically significant former restored synagogues. South Florida, from an educational, cultural and political point of view, is a well-disposed home for Jewish family lifestyles. French Jewish students would become assimilated easily.
The Miami-Dade County School District boasts diversity, the student population is 90% minority, coming from 155 nations. One city, Miami Beach, with a population of 90,000, has a high school with students from 64 nations speaking 31 languages. The County promotes public/student programs that diminish bigotry and increase tolerance, awareness, understanding and sensitivity to the cultural differences/similarities among our diverse national/ethnic groups in Florida.
A New York Times’ recent headline story: “Miami Emerges from Gloom into Residential and Commercial Sunlight, May 10, 2016,” explains a wave of commercial and residential activity is altering the City’s skyline, challenging the long held perception that Miami is not a place where middle-class persons can live well and raise a family. “We’re watching another Manhattan being built,” shared Alan R. Kleher, Managing Director of the local office of JLL Investment Management Company that specializes in commercial real estate. With 13,000 units proposed or under construction, rents have risen 5 percent annually on average for the last 3 years. The building rush seeks to capitalize on a growing number of jobs in the City’s business and financial sector, which serves hundreds of banks, private equity firms and hedge funds. Over the next five years, businesses in the City are expected to add 20,000 office jobs, estimating 385,000 square feet of new office space are under development. The Economist recently called Miami “Wall Street South” for attracting so many Hedge funds creating financial platforms only previously seen in New York. Miami is becoming a gateway City like San Francisco, New York or Washington, attracting human capital.
Adding to its history of providing a safe harbor for those in want or in need, South Florida/Miami should be considered for its emerging cultural diversity, and its emerging Art Scene, in the words of the N.Y. Times: “it is a paradise for its weather, blue water and clean beaches and affordability the Northeast could never match.” From an investment standpoint, Miami is an emerging and exciting city, its history has yet to be written, it is still completing its second chapter in its 10-chapter book. The opportunity to be a part of Miami’s emergence as the third most important City in the United States, providing over 26 French restaurants, entertainment and economic opportunities unparalleled in many other U.S. cities and certainly not found in New York or San Francisco. Art Basel continues to grow as does Art Miami, providing year round opportunities in Miami’s emerging Art Scene.
It is painfully obvious that antisemitism has roared back to life in Europe. But unlike the systematic, state sponsored antisemitism that claimed millions of lives two generations ago, the threat today is from an enemy who does not wear a uniform, who appears to be your neighbor, and in fact may be your next door neighbor. As the terrorism and racists attacks continue to mount across the continent, more Jews are coming to the stark realization that they may no longer be welcomed in what was their home. Europe, especially France, has seen this before. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” George Santayana, December 12, 1863. Judenhass, the hatred of Jews did not end when Berlin fell 70 years ago, the events of the past decade demonstrate otherwise.
The time is now for Jews to escape bearing in mind every surviving Jew at one time left what was then his/her other home…the progenitor of the wandering Jew. The Jewish history and culture is replete with exodus.
© 8/29/2016 Marc David Sarnoff