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September 27, 2012 8:45 am

Amid Anti-Semitism, Remembering France’s Granting of Full Rights to Jews

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Dr. Richard Prasquier, president of the CRIF (Conseil Representatif des Institutions Juives de France), sits down with Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Prasquier discussed issues of concern to the French Jewish community with American media at the Consulate of France in New York on April 30. Photo: Maxine Dovere.

Sept. 27 marked the 221st anniversary of French Jews being granted equality under the law by the French National Assembly. This political decision in 1791 was the culmination of a long process granting Jews full rights that started before the French Revolution of 1789. In 1785, a poll tax on Jews was abolished and Jews were allowed to live all over France.

“I believe that freedom of worship no longer permits any distinction to be made between the political rights of citizens on the basis of their beliefs and I believe equally that the Jews cannot be the only exceptions to the enjoyment of these rights, when pagans, Turks, Muslims, Chinese even, men of all the sects, in short, are admitted to these rights,” French magistrate Adrien-Jean-Francois Duport, who introduced the resolution that normalized the status of Jews in France, had said, according to Haaretz.

Now, turn the calendar forward to August 2012: Simon Wiesenthal Center Dean Abraham Cooper told Reuters last month that French Jews have seen an uptick of 40 percent in anti-Semitic attacks since this March, when Islamist terrorist Mohammed Merah killed three children and a rabbi at a Jewish school in Toulouse. Cooper also said the increase in anti-Semitism is encouraging rising numbers of French Jews to leave the country.

Despite the fact that anti-Semitism continued to be heavily present in France after the 1791 assembly law, Napoleon extended equal rights to the Jews of the lands he conquered when he came to power in 1799.

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