Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

5 Kislev 5768 - November 15, 2007 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











French Rabbonim Ask Sarkozy for Support

By Arnon Yaffeh, Paris

Before the arrival of President Nicolai Sarkozy at tefillas Ne'iloh at one of Paris' main synagogues, and at the French Rabbinate on Rue de la Victoire, the President received the heads of the Consistoire at the Elysees Palace. Servants opened the door of the car that brought the president of the Consistoire, Jean Kahn, along with his deputies, Yoel Mergui, Tzvi Amar and Charles Shulman, and escorted them to the office of Sarkozy, who met with them for 40 minutes. Sword-bearing guards stood stiffly at the gates, but it remained unclear whether they were posted to honor the Consistoire heads or subsequent visitors.

Sarkozy is the first French President to receive the board of the organization itself, which provides religious services for the country's Jewish community. Following the meeting, a Le Monde editorial griped that Sarkozy is altering the policy in the secular country, which does not recognize communal sectarianism, but instead is nurturing ties with the Jews and Muslims.

They're not ready to forgive him for visiting a shul on Yom Kippur. The newspaper's religious affairs writer, who for years bashed Israel as Le Monde's Jerusalem correspondent, described the Yom Kippur visit accompanied by the Minister of Justice — an Arab woman who went up to the ezras noshim — as a grotesque spectacle unbecoming of his eminent post as head of the republic. Former presidents from Mitterrand to Chirac also paid visits to botei knesses, but only to mark tragic events like terrorist attacks or the antisemitic murder of Ilan Chalimi.

After the meeting, Tzvi Amar of Marseille said that among the six issues raised for discussion the most important were Jewish burial plots in non-Jewish cemeteries and maintenance of botei knesses. The Consistoire asked the President to allot the Jews independently operated cemeteries of their own, like in other European countries.

French law forbids Jewish burial underground, instead requiring burial in coffins placed in tiered cement compartments rented for a fixed period of 50 years (previously 90 years). At the end of this period the coffin is taken out and burned.

"We explained to Sarkozy how important halachic burial is to Jews and that a Jew cannot be disinterred, and certainly not burned, Rachmono litzlan," said Jean Kahn. The Rabbinate is requesting the state grant it the authority to run Jewish plots rather than leaving them in the hands of non- Jewish management.

The Consistoire also requested financial aid to maintain and renovate botei knesses in various parts of the country. They asked for monetary assistance from the state without transgressing the constitutional law of separation of state and religion. The Ministry of Culture has declared certain botei knesses preserved sites and recognized them as Jewish cultural sites that cannot be separated from religion.

"We left very satisfied and we're confident he will assist us," said Jean Kahn as he left the meeting.


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