2006-12-15 Nick Champeaux
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Visiting Jewish neigbourhoods in Paris

In Paris, one lively Jewish neighbourhood is located around Rue de RossiersIn Paris, one lively Jewish neighbourhood is located around Rue de Rossiers
With between half a million and six hundred thousand Jews, France is home to Europe’s largest Jewish community. A majority live in Marseille in the South East of the country, in Strasbourg in the North East, and in Paris. For Network Europe, Radio France International’s Nick Champeaux went to several Jewish neighborhoods in the French capital, and filed this report.

Paris has an important Jewish community, and it shows in the Belleville neighborhood in the North East of Paris, near the Place d’Italie in the South, and in the Marais district in the heart of the capital. Serge Cwajgenbaum is Secretary General of the European Jewish Congress.

"Jewish life is booming in spite of what you can read about anti-semitism, there is a normality of Jewish life in Paris and you can see it, you can feel it, there are lots of interesting spots in Paris, being restaurants or cultural activities, and they attract not only Jews but non- Jews as well."

There are Jewish book stores, restaurants, and pastry shops all along the rue des Rosiers here in Le Marais, and it smells good in the Sacha Kinkelstajn pastry shop. It was opened by a Polish family three generations ago.

Another lively Jewish community can be found in the district of BellevilleAnother lively Jewish community can be found in the district of Belleville
"We are known for our cheese cakes with raisins, we also have strudels, and right now we are celebrating Hanucha, so we light a menora, and eat cream fritters, Ponsky is the Polish name, or Favorky."

Serge Cwajgenbaum: "Historically Jews emigrated to France at the end od the nineteenth century, Jews who were running away from the pogroms in Russia and in Poland. At the time there were around three hundred thousand Jews in France. Unfortunately this community was dismantled during the war, about seventy five thousand Jews were taken from France to the death camps. After the war, Jews from eastern Europe who survived returned to France, and simultaneously there was a wave of immigration from North Africa, Jews from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia as well, so today we say that there is more than half a million Jews living in France".

Inhabitant of Belleville: "I was born in Tunisia, I arrived in Paris in 1967. Here in the Belleville district, we have all kept our Tunisian roots. Jews and non Jews, we’re all brothers here, when someone dies we are all sad whether the person was Jewish or not, we’re family!"

Serge CwajgenbaumSerge Cwajgenbaum
Serge Cwajgenbaum: "Jews and non Jews in Belleville live together in Belleville and if you go there you’ll see that they get along well".

Serge Cwajgenbaum from the Paris based European Jewish Congress is right. In fact Paris music venues often showcase Israeli and Palestinian or Lebanese bands the same night. For instance last week, a Lebanese band performed just before Isabo, a Tel Aviv disco rock band. Neal, the drummer, says the event was both moving and symbolic.

"The band that played before us was from Lebanon, and after their concert we took pictures and kissed and hug. Three months after the war, I think it’s a very nice concept that can contribute to restoring peace".

Speaking of artists, Modigliani was Jewish and has lived in Paris, his paintings are on display in several of the capital’s contemporary art Museums. If you prefer the Opera, the ceiling of the Opéra Garnier in Paris is a masterpiece, and it was designed by Jewish painter Marc Chagall.

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