Laïcité, Fraternité, and Nationalité: Discontinuities in French Jewish Discourse

By Kimberly Arkin

Association for Jewish Studies (AJS), Spring 2011

In general, French Jews have always supported laïcité, a term that is usually translated as secularism. At the beginning of the century, Jews supported the Republican government's attempts to contain the power of the Catholic Church in the name of laïcité. After World War II, many surviving French Jews welcomed a return to laïcité after Vichy's deadly foregrounding and essentialization of religious identities. Today, many French Jews, and almost all institutional elites, approve of legislation designed to "reinforce" laïcité, including the 2004 decision to outlaw "ostentatious" religious symbols in public schools and the 2010 ban of the burqa in public spaces. Articulating a widely held position, Richard Prasquier, the president of one of the largest Jewish organizations in France, noted that the burqa "humiliates women" and undermines the face-to-face relations that form the foundation of social life in France. But this continuous support for laïcité hides a fundamental shift in many French Jews' attitudes toward religious pluralism and minority rights. This shift, in turn, highlights a potentially dangerous new trend in French Jewish negotiations of national identity, one that depends on distinguishing between and among religious minorities in order to claim Jewish Frenchness.

Topic: Political Behavior, French Jewry, Islam, Immigration, Jewish Identity, Community Relations, Law, Politics, Secularism, Nationalism, Identity

Name of Publication: AJS Perspectives: The Magazine of the Association for Jewish Studies

Editor: Bunzl, Matti , Havrelock, Rachel

Volume/Issue: Spring 2011

Page Number(s): 22-23

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Genre: Article

Coverage: France

Language: English

Copyright Holder: Publisher

Copyright Information: Download for personal use, freely distribute link

Bibliographic Information:
Arkin, Kimberly. Laïcité, Fraternité, and Nationalité: Discontinuities in French Jewish Discourse. AJS Perspectives: The Magazine of the Association for Jewish Studies. Association for Jewish Studies (AJS). Spring 2011: 22-23.


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