France’s central Jewish agency marked its 200th anniversary.
Tuesday’s celebration for Le Consistoire at the Great Synagogue of Victory Square, the central synagogue of Paris, featured a speech by Prime Minister Francois Fillon – the first time a standing prime minister spoke officially in a synagogue.
“There is nothing in the future of France that should worry the Jews of this country,” Fillon told a crowd of several hundred that included community notables, leaders of the Catholic and Protestant churches, the Muslim rector and members of the Jewish community. “We are constructing our future together.”
Le Consistoire, created by Napoleon to administer France’s Jewish community, is the oldest and largest Jewish institution in Europe. Its chief rabbis and member synagogues organize and conduct all religious aspects of the community.
“We transmit our values to our children and community as citizens of France,” Le Consistoire President Joel Mergui said.
“The Consistoire is the original model of a link between the state and its Jewish citizens,” said David de Rothschild, sitting in the front row of the synagogue alongside his cousin Eric de Rothschild.
The Rothschild family was present at the founding in 1808.
Grand Rabbi David Messas said the structure was a symbol of integration of French Jews.
“And integration does not mean assimilation,” he said.