Mr. President, Where Do Your Jews Go From Here?, An Open Letter to President Emmanuel Macron

Dear President Macron:

I write as an expatriate French Jew who celebrated the hope of your election to ask: Where will your Jews be when you step down from office, 5 or 10 years from now?

Two months ago, Mr. Hillel Neuer of the watchdog group U.N. Watch posed the question, “Where Are Your Jews?” to the assembled representatives of Algeria and other Arab lands where Jewish communities once thrived. And they could find none.

I fear that, unless you and France extend your hand anew to us, by the time your term ends you will find France’s Jewish community dwindling to new record lows. Your Jews today are a snapshot of our Exile and history. We come from Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, and other Arab lands that Mr. Neuer was challenging after yet another UN resolution calling Israel an apartheid state. In those very countries, our ancestors built a rich history that has now vanished, living only in the hearts and folklore of their children and grandchildren. Others of us survived WWII, despite deportation at the hands of the Vichy conspirators, and trace our roots to Poland, Russia and other European lands from where we have also been vanquished.

France was our terre d’accueil, our host land. And yet again today, even in that land of freedom, we feel fearful, isolated, and an endangered species.

Where are your Jews today and where will they be at the end of your term? Will they be building their communities in France, educating their children in France, and contributing to the French economy and humanities? Or will they be elsewhere to start anew, again?

Today, many of us cluster in more or less affluent ghettos, like the 17th or 19th arrondissements of Paris.

Most of us will no longer send our children to public schools because we are afraid for them.

Kosher restaurants have mushroomed because, whether or not we are observant, we need to cocoon in the warmth and support of our community to feel safe.

We hide our Judaism, not because the Republic forces us to be post-modern Marranos, but because a kippah in the street can land you in the emergency room.

We are traumatized. We have experienced the torture of Ilan Halimi. The murder of the Toulouse children. The mob attack of La Roquette synagogue. The slaughter at the Hyper Cacher. And the daily slurs on the metro and in the street.

And every day, we experience the demonization of the State of Israel in the media, among the intellectuals and masses alike, and from too many politicians.

What can you do? If I may be so audacious as to suggest a few meaningful gestures: Words and symbols matter. Spend a Saturday morning at La Roquette synagogue wearing a kippah. Stand next to the imam of Drancy, who so courageously fosters dialogue among Muslims and Israel. Send a U.N. Ambassador who will partner up with Nikki Haley against the U.N.’s pathological obsession with Israel. Exercise leadership in the U.N. by rejecting all politically motivated resolutions. Reject all boycotts or labeling of Jews.

That is the right side of History. If you choose it, you may re-create the hospitable environment that initially nurtured Jewish immigrants and can lure their great-grand-children back. Let’s not let France become a lost land of exile. That would be a loss to us as French Jews and to France.

About the Author
Ari Afilalo ( is a professor of law at Rutgers Law School in New Jersey. He grew up in France, the son of a Jewish Moroccan family, in an ethnically mixed working class neighborhood. He has published extensively in the field of international law. He is the current president of the West Side Sephardic Synagogue in Manhattan.
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