Jewish Students in France Showing Strong Identification with Judaism

Jewish university students in France are showing a strong, positive identification with Judaism and a growing desire to learn more about Jewish history and traditions, according to a survey made public here today by the American Jewish Committee.

The French survey is one of ten such studies being carried out in five countries as part of an extensive investigation of post-war Jewish life and attitudes in western Europe. The studies are being conducted by Community Service, an agency created in 1958 by the American Jewish Committee’s Foreign Affairs Department, the Alliance Israelite Universelle of France and the Anglo-Jewish Association of England.

Jewish youth in France today are “ready and willing to assume their Jewish identity,” the survey concluded. Of those queried, 94 per cent gave an affirmative answer to the question, “Do you consider yourself Jewish?” with more than two-thirds of this percentage asserting further that it was “essential” to them to be Jewish. About three-quarters of the students condemned attempts to hide Jewish origins, and 62 percent disapproved of conversions to other religions.

The report emphasized that such identification with Judaism “represents a sharp reversal of the attitudes of previous generations in France, when there was a strong tendency to drift away from Judaism.” The survey was made at the University of Paris, where Jews comprise more than six per cent of the student body in the four colleges studied–law, humanities, science and medicine.

The practice of religion is net considered essential to being Jewish, according to the responses of about 80 per cent of the youth, including many who regarded themselves as religious. A small proportion, about ten per cent, attend synagogue regularly, while some 40 per cent go to services about three times a year, although more than half fast on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

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