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Where and How European Jews Are Winning

July 22nd, 2014 - 3:29 pm

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Jews are dramatically under attack in France, but Judaism is booming in Italy.

The mounting campaign against French Jews was notably on display with attacks against Parisian synagogues last week, and with big anti-Israel demonstrations over the weekend despite an official ban.  Some Jews are increasingly considering emigration — the French emigration rate to Israel is up 60% — and many others are attempting to conceal their religious identity.

As I have written in some detail, things are quite different in Italy, where big pro-Israel demonstrations are common, kosher restaurants, especially in Rome (the biggest Italian Jewish community at around 15,000), are very popular, the old Jewish quarter around the synagogue has become trendy and pricy, and Jewish festivals abound.  There is even a trend, especially and unexpectedly in the south, towards conversion to Judaism.  The chief rabbi of Naples recently wrote to the governors of the six southern provinces, proposing an annual day of  commemoration of the forced conversion of the southern Italian Jews during the Inquisition, and some of the governors are likely to embrace the proposal.

Why the striking contrast between France and Italy?   Why are the French Jews so frightened, while the Italians are doing so well?  There are many differences, some historic, others linked to the contemporary behavior of the Jewish communities.  I think the lessons from the Italian Jewish revival should be taken to heart by Jewish communities elsewhere, including the United States.

First, the very different national traditions.  Keep in mind that France has the largest Jewish community in Europe, while Italy’s is one of the tiniest.

Most people think “Germany” when they think about European antisemitism, but modern mass antisemitism was a late 19th century French invention that subsequently spread to other Western countries.  Its infamous early appearance was the Dreyfus Affair, when a Jewish military officer was falsely accused  and then convicted of treason.  Theodor Herzl attended the trial, concluding that Jews would never be welcome in Europe, and needed their own state.  Thus was Zionism born.

The current campaign against the French Jews is in part a continuation of that old-fashioned right-wing antisemitism, intimately tied to nationalist and longstanding Catholic Jew-hatred, in part a result of radical Islamism, with deep roots among the expanding Arab community, and in part encouraged by radical leftist hatred of Israel and Jews who support it.

In contrast, there is no tradition of mass antisemitism in Italy.  While the fascist regime did many terrible things, Jew-hatred never gained mass appeal.  Unlike France, there was no popular antisemitic movement in Italy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  As in France, many Muslims have come to Italy, but they are much more assimilationist and much less Islamist (roughly 5% of Muslims in Italy are regular mosque attendees).  As for the Catholic majority, Pope Francis is the third consecutive pro-Jewish pope.  When his Jewish friends from Buenos Aires come for a visit, he orders kosher takeout from those popular restaurants around the synagogue.  The Vatican reacts critically to antisemites, which counts for a lot in Italy.

In addition, while both countries have center-left governments, French President Hollande has no pro-Jewish background comparable to that of Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who assisted the Florentine Jews when he was mayor, and even arranged for the illumination of the city’s synagogue.

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Top Rated Comments   
95% of the demonstrators (rioters) in France are Muslims.The French don't hate just Jews , the hate everyone equally.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, it probably doesn't help that French Jews are French either. Whether Jew or gentile, a surrender monkey is a surrender monkey.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
To be fair to Ledeen though, I would much rather be in Italy than France, as a Jew that is. True enough. Italian Jews were mass murdered in the Holocaust by the Germans, despite brave resistance by many Italian gentiles. Actually even if not a Jew I would prefer Italy to almost any place in Europe. And the women are stunning.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (26)
All Comments   (26)
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You will recall that it was the French who came up with the idea of importing workers from Muslim countries when the French low fertility rate started to create a lack of workers problem.

The land will endure. But how much longer will it be occupied by the French?
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
French is such a dominant and compelling language/culture that in Canada: the French need a law to force government to use French. Now the Italians in Canada continue with their thriving culture, but without any laws to force people to use Italian!
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Simply put, Italians are far more tolerant than the French. As an American, travel in both countries and see where you are treated better.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Greetings:

I watch France24's news programming pretty regularly, especially its "The Debate" segment hosted most often by M. François Picard. Besides the obviously European perspective, he does a good job regulating his guests whom often comprise a pretty wide political spectrum.

A couple of days back, "The Debate" focused on the demonstrations in France and particularly what was once Gay Paree and is now more gay Paris. What struck me was how five seemingly intelligent people could discuss those circumstances and do nothing as to delve into the mysterious mysteries that are Islam. The guests included a Zionist Jew, a Peacenik Jew, an aggressive North African "Palestine" supporter, and a kind of center-of the road academic yet none overtly made the connection be anti-semiticism Muslims, Islam, and Koranic teachings. The proverbial "Don't go there." moment.

Islam is the millstone. It is nothing more than the globalization of the predatory 7th Century A.D. (if I may) Arab tribal culture under a thin veneer of religion. If you plan doesn't include constraining, undermining, or eradicating Islam, you don't have a plan. What you have is a hope.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Define "mass antisemitism, Michael. More than 51% of the population polled are Jew-haters? 75%? Riots and pogroms are sparked by government or religious leaders. Pogroms in Europe traditionally took place on Christmas Eve and began with a fiery speech from the pulpit after which the drunken mob followed its drunken priest into the Ghetto to avenge the murder of Christ by the Jews. The masses are merely a herd of sheep. Turning them into a pack of wolves requires a wolfganger usually disguised as a religious shepherd.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Once again, history shows that the only defence for Jews, is Jews. The state will not defend Jews (especially a European state), so we must defend ourselves.

Krav Maga was founded in this need. So was the Palmach, teaching Jews to defend themselves when governments, including the enlightened British Mandate in Palestine, not only wouldnt, they gave support to those trying to harm Jews.

Never Again!
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
"We should learn"? Oh, come on... what should we learn? That people who rely on the government for protection will eventually get shafted, while those who learn to defend themselves are much more likely to persevere? That's just crazy talk.

Next you'll claim that politicians are not to be trusted, or something like that. Oh, wait...
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
"...The biggest difference lies in the behavior of the Jewish communities...We should learn..."

Nonsense. I agree that we Jews should be self reliant and proactive in our defense. But Jewish behavior has little influence on whether or not Jew-haters prevail. Jew haters dominate where they have the support of government. French Jews are leaving France because the French government is not protecting its Jewish citizens. Jews are leaving because the French government and the French elites are happy to see the back of them.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
You are right about the French government and elites they have been anti Semitic for hundreds of years. During WWII French police were only too happy to do the dirty work of the SS and round up Jews for deportation "to the east" although to be fair they first concentrated on "foreign Jews" (immigrants from Poland, Germany, Austria, etc). Native born French Jews were less likely to be deported. Jews everywhere not just France must be much more pro-active defending themselves; do whatever it takes to defend yourself and your family. I myself have obtained a concealed carry license. However the continent of Europe is soaked with the blood of Jews and there really is no place in Europe for Jews. I hope all French Jews migrate to Israel.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Muslim scum terrorists (but I repeat myself) are comfortable attacking Jews, because there is little risk to themselves.

When Jews are free to defend themselves, terrorists are slinking away, finding lunatics to strap on a bomb vest.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes, i know that antisemitism is an old evil. But mass antisemitism is important, and different. It's not pogroms. It's a huge step toward the Holocaust.

Sometimes we historians actually know things. Even grammar. "a millenium," not "millenia."
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
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