A French Jewish organisation met with Louis Aliot, a vice-president of the Front National, the right-wing political party led by Marine Le Pen.

What was not made clear was La Confederation des Juifs Francais et Amis d’Israel (the Confederation of French Jews and Friends of Israel), is a fringe organisation. It is not representative of and does not speak for the French-Jewish community.

That role firmly belongs to the CRIF, Conseil Representatif des Institutions Juives de France, the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions, which firmly condemned the meeting as “morally shocking, politically irresponsible” and “an attempt by the National Front to exploit French Jews”.

In my mind, the Front National has always stood for racism, anti-Semitism, intolerance, bigotry, and fear of the other.

Growing up in a French-speaking environment, I remember outrageous statements by then-leader Jean-Marie Le Pen (father of Marine), including: “Gas chambers were a point of detail of the history of the Second World War.”

In a country where Jews spend so much time and energy making Yom HaShoah solemn and meaningful, how can Jews meet with a movement that has generated such language?

I was privileged to serve as a rabbi in France for five years, during which I witnessed the dedication of volunteers who work so hard to make Yom HaShoah the day that it is, including public readings over 25 hours (and over three years) of the names of the 76,000 Jews deported from France.

It is a transformative, poignant and empowering experience and it is a relief to know this part of the French-Jewish heritage, the lessons taught and not forgotten, is still sustaining the community and that its rightful representatives are prepared to stand up against hatred and discrimination.

 

υ Celia Surget is rabbi of Radlett Reform Synagogue