Hollande meets with religious leaders after synagogue attack

‘The fight against anti-Semitism will be a national cause,’ French president tells Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Buddhist representatives

July 23, 2014 00:45
1 minute read.
French President Francois Hollande.

French President Francois Hollande 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer)

President François Hollande met Monday with Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Buddhist representatives at the Elysee Palace to calm tensions over recent anti-Jewish violence in France.

“The fight against anti-Semitism will be a national cause,” Hollande told those in attendance, according to Joël Mergui, the president of the Central Consistoire organization that administers Jewish worship and congregations in the country. Hollande said that he will not “allow the resurgence of anti-Semitism in France.”

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve promised to crack down on anti-Semitism.

“It is unacceptable to target synagogues or shops simply because they are managed by Jews,” he told reporters on Monday during a visit to the Ozar Hatorah synagogue in Sarcelles, a northern suburb of the French capital, that pro-Palestinian rioters had attacked a day earlier.

Mayor Francois Pupponi added: “We never saw such hatred and violence as we witnessed in Sarcelles.
This morning people are astonished and the Jewish community is frightened.”

On Monday evening, another interfaith meeting and prayer took place at the synagogue.

Jewish, Muslim and Catholic leaders gathered – under heavy security – and prayed for peace in the presence of many Jewish residents who broke down in tears at the evidence of vandalism, French media reported in their lead stories.

French Chief Rabbi Haïm Korsia and Imam Hassen Chalgoumi from the town of Drancy helped to conduct the service. Attendees included Algerian-born Jewish singer Enrico Macias and Polish-French Jewish writer Marek Halter.

Since Sunday, local media have unceasingly shown the damage in Sarcelles.

“We are very shocked,” said one Jewish resident, identified as Laetitia.  “We called our town Little Jerusalem because we felt at home here. We were safe... never had problems.”

The chief rabbi of Sarcelles, Laurent Berros, told The Jerusalem Post: “There is great trauma within the community.”

Asked about the future of Jews in France, Berros replied, “This is not a question for me, but a question we should ask the French government.

Do they consider French Jews as real French citizens? Or will they consider us a separate entity, in which case the Jewish community will have to reconsider.”

Eva Attal contributed to this report.

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