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Misogyny and homophobia on the rise among French Jews

Misogyny and homophobia on the rise among French Jews

Last month we reported on the launch of a liberal mosque in Germany that drew fire from Islamists because it allowed men and women to interact and was welcoming to gays.

Well, today we learn some Jews in Marseille have taken to aping Muslim zealots by targeting the Edmond Fleg Centre, run by Martine Yana, above because it hosted an event at which women were allowed to read from the Torah alongside men.

According to this report, the June event triggered furious criticism by religious authorities – including a rabbinical judge who warned of an impending divine reckoning. It also prompted two small demonstrations by young Orthodox men and a slew of insults and threats by other French Jews, in Marseille and beyond.

The vitriolic reaction to the event – a graduation ceremony for a seminar about women in Judaism – surprised and shocked  Yana, the center’s Director. She said the protests demonstrated the need for conversations about women’s roles within Orthodox Judaism in France.

Yana said of Marseille, where only three out of some 50 synagogue are not Orthodox:

I know this is a very conservative community, but even I never imagined it would generate such reactions. I would have canceled the event to keep the peace, but we found ourselves under attack. It’s a very painful position for an institution like ours.

The scandal, which Yana said is indicative of growing radicalisation and insularity in France’s traumatised Jewish communities, erupted a few days before the event. Shmouel Melloul, a dayan, or rabbinical judge, wrote an impassioned plea for its cancellation and for prayers to God so He may “spare the city His wrath” over the affair. He said:

We are all furious, terribly disturbed and outraged over this precedent. It is urgent and imperative to forcefully and rapidly protest for its cancellation.

Answering this call to arms, a small group of young men twice gathered around the center, asking visitors to boycott the institution in what Yana said was acts of intimidation. Dozens of men and women left offensive remarks on the center’s Facebook page or called the center’s switchboard.

One of them, a Facebook user by the name of David Bendennoune, wished the center “the same fate as Korah”, a biblical rebel whom the earth swallowed whole without a trace.

Yana, for her part, published a statement on the center’s Facebook page condemning the violent rhetoric. She said:

The growing radicalism exposed in this affair makes me afraid for my safety, not only from Muslim radicals, but now also from Jewish ones.

As the affair intensified, there was an attempt to temper the flames by the Marseille branch of the Consistoire – a 210-year-old state-recognized Orthodox body that employs rabbis and caters to the religious needs of Jewish communities.

Events featuring women reading aloud from the Torah are “not forbidden but not recommended either,” Consistoire spokesman Michel Cohen-Tenoudji said. But, he added, his organisation was opposed to the event because it mixes women and men.

Several prominent Orthodox rabbis have ruled that the reading aloud of the Torah by women at synagogue is permissible according to halachah, the Jewish code of law, as long as the sexes remain separated at synagogue. And in the United States and Israel, some Orthodox synagogues allow women to chant from the Torah, and some employ women as clergy.

But the French Jewish community is “30 years arrears, and continuing to regress”,  according to Liliane Vana, a philologist and expert on Jewish law and the Talmud.

Vana, a co-organizer of the controversial event in Marseille, sees this radicalisation also in the treatment of gay people. Deviating from a don’t-ask-don’t-tell modus vivendi of previous years, some Orthodox rabbis in France have begun to refuse to allow gays to take part in religious ceremonies.

The increase in violent anti-Semitism in France – hundreds of cases are now recorded annually, compared with dozens prior to the year 2000 – is further contributing to isolationism, according to Delphine Horvilleur, a Liberal, or Reform, rabbi from Paris.

Rabbi Delphine Horvilleur.Photo: Jean-Francois Paga.

It’s shutting down the debate and adding to an atmosphere of siege that does not encourage self-reflection.

The perceived radicalisation is alienating some French Jews from Orthodoxy and sending into the open arms of the country’s small but growing Liberal stream of Judaism. Horvilleur’s synagogue, MJLF Beaugrenelle, is one of the best attended in Paris, with hundreds of families filling the synagogue to capacity on holidays.

Horvilleur was recently invited to officiate alongside the Orthodox chief rabbi, Haim Korsia, at the funeral of Simone Weil, a Holocaust survivor who became health minister and one of France’s most influential politicians before her death on June 30 at 89. Though it was not Korsia’s choice – his office attempted to downplay Horvilleur’s role at the funeral – the ceremony was nonetheless an interdenominational first in France.

The Edmond Fleg Center, a five-storey building, is the cultural heart of France’s second largest Jewish community. It has security cameras and blast-proof doors – a response to anti-Semitic attacks in recent years on members of Marseille’s Jewish community of 80,000.

Jews of all denominations come here for activities and workshops. There’s a state-of-the-art cinema, a breezy terrace roof and regional offices of the major Jewish groups in France. What it doesn’t have is a synagogue. That’s by design. The lack of a dedicated space for worship at the center, which was established 53 years ago, is meant to emphasise the shared culture that connects all French Jews, regardless of their level of observance, the center’s president, Raymond Arouch, said.

He added:

We are here to unite.

15 responses to “Misogyny and homophobia on the rise among French Jews”

  1. L.Long says:

    The only difference between any of the abrahamic religions is their name only…their beliefs are nearly identical except for a few odd ball crap!

  2. Broga says:

    ” including a rabbinical judge who warned of an impending divine reckoning. ”

    No need to worry then. What a furore over nonsense conjured up by “experts” claiming to know what their fictional God wants.

  3. remigius says:

    ‘…and for prayers to God so He may “spare the city His wrath” over the affair.’

    Good news. I’ve just checked and the city of Marseille is still standing. I think that shows just how effective prayers can be. Hallelujah!

  4. David Anderson says:

    “The only difference between any of the abrahamic religions is their name only…” And hats, don’t forget hats.

  5. remigius says:

    Yeah, and days off – Friday, Shabbaturday, or Sunday.

  6. Angela_K says:

    “allowed men and women to read from the same book”
    Shock, horror! It is a good job there is nothing else going on in the World for these brainless idiots to worry about.

  7. gedediah says:

    Equal opportunity bollocks. That’s what we want to see.

  8. Broga says:

    Angela_K: Accept it. They have their priorities. The Mad Axeman of North Korea and the Presidential Clown may be about to explode nuclear weapons but that is of little concern compared to the horror of women reading the same book as men.

  9. remigius says:

    Angela_K and Broga. The Jews do have a point about others reading from the same book as them. I, too, get a little peeved when someone tries to read from the book I’m reading – especially when I’ve finished the page and they insist I wait whilst they grapple with the complexities of the written word.

    I have gotten around this by overtly raising a buttock and letting rip. It works. If the Jews tried this approach, rather than whining on about divine wrath (although mine have been described as satanic!), and destroying cities, it would solve a lot of the world’s problems.

    Certainly the one under discussion – as most women fail to appreciate the subtle fragrant aroma of a bit of manstink.

  10. Broga says:

    remigius: A somewhat earthy solution and undoubtedly original.

  11. Cali Ron says:

    remigius : I believe that falls under the category of chemical warfare and women have tried unsuccessfully to get it banned in the battle of the sexes. Women are more likely to resort to emotional pressure through the judicious use of tears and more traditionally, fainting. Of course, all’ s fair in love and war, so toot on.

  12. Robster says:

    Is anyone able to explain how these “persons” breed? They must just excrete offspring magically, or somethin’.

  13. 1859 says:

    But you can see what they really think is going on beneath the pages and covers of the book with the woman and man standing so, so close – they clearly could be grappling with each other genitals. And, as everyone who is anyone knows, mixing sex and religion will bring on the end of the world far sooner than we expect – just look at what is happening between Trump and the Korean Bad Haircut Man. The affairs of humans are beginning to make so much sense these days. I think I will convert to worshiping the tits on a donkey.

  14. Gui says:

    These religious manner of think is certainly curious. You have an all- powerfull, omniscient and omnipresent entity that get enraged and punishes: peoples who offend it or desobey it rules; or even countries that praises others divinities, legalizes civil union and adoption by gay couples or that make something opposing Israel.

    But you don’t see any intervention like those supercool ones from the OT in places like Syria, North Korea or any other places where not only the entity’s followers but other peoples are heavily persecuted. Yeah, it makes sense.