Chief Rabbi of France Says Anti-semitism Seems to Have Backfired
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Chief Rabbi of France Says Anti-semitism Seems to Have Backfired

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Anti-Semitism in France appears to have backfired as a result of the solidarity French Christians have demonstrated with the Jewish population of France, Chief Rabbi Rene Sirat said here. That solidarity, he stated, has resulted in the increasing isolation of the anti-Semites, instead of the isolation of French Jews, which was the aim of the anti-Semites.

The Chief Rabbi made those observations at Yeshiva University where he was guest of honor Tuesday at a reception hosted by university president Dr. Norman Lamm. During the reception, Sirat was presented with a two-volume study of Sephardic law and customs written by Dr. Herbert Dobrinsky, vice president for university affairs. The Chief Rabbi was here during a 10-day visit of the U.S. and Canada, sponsored by the Maybaum Brothers Memorial Fund at Yeshiva University.


Sirat, the first Sephardi in nearly 200 years to hold the post of Chief Rabbi of France, told a press conference before the reception that there are a number of manifestations in France of the growing Christion-Jewish solidarity. He cited as an example the 300,000 people who marched to protest the terrorist attacks on the Rue Copemic Synagogue and Jo Golden berg’s restaurant in Paris.

“Before World War II such a demonstration would never have taken place,” he said. “Although there still are tensions and Jews must take precautions, the government protection of synagogues during the recent High Holy Days was successful in averting acts of violence.”

Sirat said there is a renewed commitment to Judaism in France. He noted that attendance in Jewish day schools has doubled in the past few years and now totals some 9,000 students. One of his goals is to double that figure, he said. He also spoke of the growing Bal T’shuva movement, particularly among Jewish intellectuals.

Sirat, who is the head of the department at the Sorbonne which includes Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino, and Judaic-Arabic studies in language and literature, called for the initiation of a Jewish-Moslem dialogue on a theological basis, similar to that which now exists between Jews and Christians. He lauded the recent pronouncement by Roger Cardinal Etchegarary, Archbishop of Marseilles, who declared that Christians must beg forgiveness for their persecution of the Jews, a pronouncement the Chief Rabbi called “unique in Jewish-Christian relations.”

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