NEW YORK (Dec. 6)
The French Jewish community, the largest in Europe outside the Soviet Union, is still a community attempting to integrate thousands of newcomers, Baron Guy de Rothschild, a leader of French Jewry stressed here today. “We have to think of the Jewish community of France as a community still engaged in the process of rehabilitation and reconstruction having to integrate and carry the weight of thousands of newcomers who, even though they are French citizens, have to be given a roof, a job and education, “he said.
Rothschild, who has been president of the Fonds Social Juif Unifie (FSJU), the French Jewish communal and social welfare agency, for 25 years, outlined the development of the French Jewish community since World War II to the 64th annual meeting of the Joint Distribution Committee. He was presented the JDC’s Ma’asim Tovim (Good Deeds) Award for his leadership in helping revive the French Jewish community after the devastation of the war.
Praising the JDC for its assistance in that revival, Rothschild said that by shunning long-range planning, the French Jewish community has “been ‘managing’ from one year to the next the ‘unpredictable,’ an ‘unpredictable’ which brought our community from the 100,000 we were left with in 1945 to some 700,000 we count now.”
He noted that the community had already reached a population of 300,000 before the “tremendous influx of the North African population” caused the community to more than double in size in 15 years, with more arriving weekly. He stressed that French Jewry is now the “youngest” Jewish community with one-third between the ages of 15 and 25 and half the population between 25 and 50. He noted that 50 percent of France’s Jews live in the Paris area and the other half in more than 150 communities throughout France.
Rothschild said French Jews want to be associated with other Jews throughout the world in “Project Renewal,” the program to rehabilitate poor Jewish neighborhoods in Israel. He urged American Jews, who will officially launch their contribution to the “Renewal” program at the United Jewish Appeal’s 40th anniversary national conference which starts tomorrow, not “to repeat former mistakes which have been made here and there in our countries.”
CONCERNED WITH ‘SECOND ISRAEL’
But, Rothschild added, “I have to stress that although we are deeply concerned with the problems of the so-called ‘second Israel,’ we watch, sitting at our own doorway thousands of young people of exceptional vitality, but whose future as Jews is greatly in danger presently.
“These children, adolescents, young men and women, workers — how many of them are unemployed — students, apprentices, many who came to France with their parents during the past 15 years (3 out of 5 families settled in our communities as recently as that) may, after all quite easily, in our open type of society, get caught in the general whirl of the French urban and suburban environment with its problems; nothing prevents them from doing so. They may not be French citizens, but French is their language, schools and universities are free and accessible to them.
“I cannot help thinking that with your help we had saved during the war the lives of thousands of orphans who were brought up later an as Jews, and that for those youngsters of today who have come themselves with their parents from Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco or Lebanon, we should do all which lies in our power to prevent losing them for Judaism, either in France, or for a number of them later on, for Israel.”
Rothschild said the effort to prevent French youth from being lost to Judaism is of prime importance and takes precedence over “our important relief programs, although they are still needed and dangerously inadequate” as well as the medical, aid to the aged and other programs. “Time is getting short and we are losing precious forces,” Rothschild stressed. “The richness today, the capital, the promises of tomorrow of the French Jewish community is its youth, a population which still voices its needs and hopes.”