Jewish ex-education minister in France announces his candidacy for president


(JTA) — Vincent Peillon, a former education minister of France who is Jewish, announced his candidacy to lead the Socialist Party and run for the presidency.

Peillon, a lawmaker in the European Parliament, announced his candidacy on Sunday to succeed President Francois Hollande as party leader and run as its candidate in April. He is already receiving key endorsements from the party’s left wing: On Monday, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo pledged her support for Peillon, according to the French daily Le Figaro.

In the Socialist primaries in January, Peillon will face Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who has strong support in the Jewish community.

Peillon’s mother, Françoise Blum, is Jewish. She was a chief researcher for the French national institute for health and medical research. His father, Gilles, was a communist and a banker, according to Le Journal de Dimanche. Peillon was appointed education minister in 2012 and served for two years.

Peillon, who rarely talks about his Jewish roots publicly, signed a petition by the left-wing Jcall group, the European counterpart to J Street, supporting Palestinian statehood.

In 2009, he celebrated the bar mitzvah of his son Elie at a Paris synagogue. He has another son, Isaac. Peillon is married to Nathalie Bensahel, a journalist who has written about about France’s anti-Semitism problem.

Peillon opposed the ban last summer on women wearing the burkini, the full-body swimsuit favored by some Muslims, on public beaches. Valls supported the ban, citing what he said was its use by radical Muslims to oppress women.

In an interview with Le Monde, Peillon defended Hollande and vowed to continue his course if he is elected president despite Hollande’s dismal approval ratings in polls in the last year. Hollande, who is considered France’s least-popular president in decades, earlier this month said he would not seek a second term, adding others were “better suited” to lead the Socialist Party to win another term.

Many voters blame Hollande for failing to prevent a series of attacks by jihadists, including on Jewish targets, who have killed hundreds of people since 2012, the year Hollande was elected.

Polls project that the far-right National Front will win about 25 percent of the vote in April – a record-breaking figure for that party. Polls early this month showed Francois Fillon, the center-right candidate, as the favorite to win the election.

Recommended from JTA