JERUSALEM (Jul. 2)
The disenchantment of French Jewry with the Mideast policy of their government has had a positive effect on the campaign of the United Israel Appeal of France, for the first time since the Yom Kippur War. Michel Topiol, co-chairman of the UIA in France old the Jewish Telegraphic Agency yesterday. He is attending the Jewish Agency General Assembly here.
Topiol said the funds collected this year will be up by 25 percent from last year and are expected to reach $10 million.
In the last seven years, the total of UIA funds was about $7.5 million, he said. He explained that French Jewry was especially critical of statements made by President Valery Giscard d’Estaing during his recent Mideast tour, as well as the talk of inviting Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat to visit Paris. However, Topiol said the renaissance of French Jewry also has positive effects. Despite the lack of aliya, there is a growing understanding among French Jews of the centrality of Israel for world Jewry.
Topiol said that the national renaissance of French Jewry is not revolutionary, as some Israelis here said. In an indirect reference to recent conflicts between the leaders of French Jewry and representatives of the Jewish Agency, Topiol said that this has been a gradual development over several year. “It takes time to develop the character of the community, “he said. The material expressions of this development is best expressed in educational facilities. The close to 700,000 Jews of France now devote considerable efforts to building Jewish day schools and recently demand has surpassed supply.
The Jewish Agency and the Fonds Social (the local communities) agreed to double the number of children in Jewish schools within a five-year period which is to expire next year. By then some 7000 children will study in Jewish day schools.
Another expression of French Jewry’s renaissance is the growing involvement in current affairs in Israel. But, said Topiol, although there is criticism among French Jewry on Israeli politics, this hardly affects the fund-raising campaigns. “We do not mix in with Israeli politics.” He added, “Of course one should have the right to express one’s opinion on what is going on in Israel.”