August 24, 2007
By Anshel Pfeffer
Haaretz's interview with Dr. Joel Mergui, president of the umbrella organization of Jewish groups in Paris, created a stir among French Jews upon its publication yesterday.
Mergui suggested that French Jews' growing ties to Israel and the increase in immigration from France might weaken and even decimate the community in France. Community web sites posted extensive quotes from the interview, and a series of Jewish leaders criticized Mergui.
One critic, Gil Taieb, is Mergui's deputy in Paris, as well as chair of the French chapter of the IDF Soldier's Welfare Association. Taieb told Haaretz he does not believe the community is in any danger.
"Three thousand immigrants a year does not pose a danger, and all of the community's leaders should give those people every support, not just to immigrate but also to remain in Israel," he said, adding that immigrating to Israel is a personal decision that has nothing to do with anti-Semitism.
"Our community is strong. A Jew is French like any other Frenchman," he continued.
"There are many Jews in politics and business, and I think there is no problem with being a Jew who has great love for the land of Israel and also a true citizen of France. There will always be Jews in France who wish to live there."
Ariel Goldman, a member of the leading French Jewish umbrella group CRIF, echoed those sentiments.
"There is no problem with immigration. The community is very strong, and it's not the community's numbers that ought to worry us, it's the base. And that is strong - thanks in part to the ties between France and Israel. With regard to Mergui's statements, I say there is nothing new under the sun. He is saying things we thought maybe 25 years ago, but not anymore," he said.