France Under the Wave of anti-Semitism, of a Magnitude Not Seen Since the Second World War

Dominique de La Maisonneuve nds

Sr. Dominique DE LA MAISONNEUVE, a religious of the Congregation of Notre-Dame de Sion, lives in Paris. At the request of the NDSion Jewish Christian Development Team, she comments on the anti-Semitic wave that has been shaking France for several weeks. In 2018 there were 541 antisemitic acts in France, 74% more than in 2017. For Sr. Dominique, these sad events in France (although they are not specific to France) must awaken the vigilance of the entire Congregation, everywhere in the world.


This publication was done as the result of a cooperation with the  NDSion Jewish Christian Development Team, to whom we are thankful. 

Since 2000, the country has been facing an increase of social protests, which, from October 2018 onwards, took shape in the “Gillet Jaunes” movement.


This nonpolitical movement was triggered by the anger of the modest strata of French workers who, though employed, face difficulties in paying off their monthly bills; as a result, they can no longer tolerate the insolent difference there is between their standard of living and that of the “rich”. And this claim is quite respectable: there is a need for more social justice, a sense of sharing when individualism is on high.


The history of France tells us that social demands have long been expressed in the streets… Thus, since October 17, 2018, every Saturday, almost everywhere in the country, and in Paris in particular, the “Yellow Vests” obstruct the traffic, damaging the country’s economy.


However, as it often happens, these demonstrations were joined by thugs and breakers who, week after week, gave free entrance to violence against private goods and people, especially Jews, the eternal scapegoats in times of crisis. This explains the 2018 increase in the number of anti-Semitic acts in France: 541! This is 74% more than in 2017.


What are the reasons for such hatred against Jews?


First of all, they are suspected of being all rich… (an elderly woman was killed in her apartment in order to have her money stolen, but none was found…) Bankers or not, they are part of the elites, whom the middle-class strata hate unreasonably and under the guidance of that hatred against the financial empires.


Jews have been under attack even to the point of death and simply because they are Jews. Neither the dead are spared! The desecration of cemeteries is a proof of this, but also the case of Simone Veil, a survivor of Auschwitz at the age of 17, whose photo was covered with swastikas.


It must be noticed, and this is not something pertaining only to France, but to the whole of these times of ours, the detestation of the State of Israel, which in France is fueled by far-left Muslims, the Salafists, who interpret literally the Koran, longing to return to those practices in vogue in the time of the Prophet Mohammed. There are many of them in France, where they consider themselves as conquerors of the country, from where they would like to drive out all “foreigners”, beginning of course with the Jews…


However, there are a few rays of light:


⇒ The French Bishops Conference has given “unfailing support to the Jewish community in France”.


⇒ Shadowing the words of the Prime Minister, “We must ensure that prejudice, ignorance, and rejection are fought against at school level”, the Minister of National Education also stated, “since anti-Semitism is a thermometer of our society, the more we succeed in empowering students to read, write, count, and have a logical sense and a solid general culture, the more we will fight against stupidity and therefore against anti-Semitism”.


⇒ In order to say “no” to anti-Semitism and express support for the Jewish community, rallies were held throughout France. 20,000 people gathered in Paris for this purpose.


To introduce the reflection that is required of us in Sion, and not only in France, I cannot do better than to quote a text of the Pastoral Director for Political Studies, the Catholic representative for the National Assembly, Father Stalla-Bourdillon:


Anti-Semitism is a denial of a transcendent dimension of humanity, of which the Jewish people is, because of its history, the carnal symbol.


To be Jewish is, in Hebrew, “to be to the praise of God”. Jewish identity refers directly to the invincible and discreet presence of God in creation, in history and in each person.


Two temptations arise: to erase the Jews in order to stripe off the remembrance of the Creator and Savior God in memories and consciences. The second temptation is to want to take the place of the “chosen one”. The Catholic Church finally expressed happy clairvoyance at the Second Vatican Council after centuries of rejection of its own root…


Thus, the outbreak of religious anti-Semitism manifests a rejection of God’s transcendent truth and goodness, of his action in history, but also the will to supplant his people.


Anti-Semitism can only be overcome by a spiritual surge reaching hearts and structures. By digging into the mystery of one’s own life, each person will discover the presence and the expectation of God. Everyone will see how the presence of the Jewish people among the nations speaks more than any other of the divine promise to lead humanity towards its unity and of the fragile human response. The presence of the Jewish people means that humanity’s vocation is not to fear God but to love Him. One can only truly obey Him by welcoming others, peoples, and persons, as a source of profound blessing for all. An invitation to a true conversion.


Wherever we are in the world, anti-Semitism is more or less sleeping in everyone’s hearts. Our vocation requires of us to be unfailingly vigilant in detecting what could be contempt, and even worse, a lack of love for Jews. However, love, through all Revelation, from the Old to the New Testament, consists of “being with”, whatever be the circumstances.


Moreover, our vocation requires of us to get to know the people who are in our roots, their history, their culture, their tradition and therefore to work tirelessly for this knowledge which is ultimately a search for God.


Undoubtedly all the sisters of Sion in France were keen to express their sympathy towards the Jews they have met.


Certainly, our institutions will encourage the awareness of a question that, first and foremost, concerns us, and which cannot be ignored in our schools.


It seems that these sad events in France must awaken the vigilance of the entire Congregation.

Translated into English by Br Cristóvão Oliveira Silva nds

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