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July 12, 2019 1:06 pm

Paris Suburb Where 2014 Antisemitic Riot Occurred Launches New Tolerance Initiative Cautiously Welcomed by Local Jews

avatar by Algemeiner Staff

A fire burns in the Paris suburb of Sarcelles during an antisemitic riot in July 2014. Photo: Reuters / Benoit Tessier.

The mayor of a deprived suburb near Paris that was the location of an antisemitic riot in 2014 launched a new campaign to combat racism and antisemitism on Friday, while at the same time shining a more positive light on the area’s reputation.

According to Patrick Haddad, the mayor of Sarcelles — home to a mainly Muslim population of 60,000 — the aim of the campaign is to promote tolerance, while underlining that “racist and antisemitic acts are not the rule [in Sarcelles], but the exception.”

In July 2014, a demonstration against Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza degenerated into an antisemitic riot in the neighborhood, during which a crowd of approximately 500 people attacked Jewish-owned stores and ransacked a kosher grocery.

Once home to a large Jewish community of mainly North African origin, the Jewish population of Sarcelles has declined significantly in recent years in tandem with the rise of violent antisemitism in France.

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Under Haddad’s plan, a group of partner organizations that include the French Jewish student organization UEJF will participate in an education program for both private and public schools.

“On [online] social networks, there is misinformation,” Haddad told the news outlet Le Parisien on Friday. “With national education, we want to work on civic values, secularism, tolerance, knowledge of the other. ”

Among the initiatives already undertaken was a cultural festival which featured “schoolchildren who wrote beautiful poems against racism and antisemitism,” Haddad said.

Jewish residents of Sarcelles interviewed by Le Parisien on the streets of their neighborhood gave a cautious welcome to Haddad’s initiative.

“It depends on what will be proposed, will it really be concrete or just promises on paper,” one man named Georges said.

A mother and daughter named as Sarah and Valerie noted the “rise in antisemitic acts in recent years. People are wary of each other, so we have to change these relationships.”

A Muslim resident named Djamila warmly welcomed the plan meanwhile, voicing the view that “it’s always good to hold events where people can learn from each other.”

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