French President Emmanuel Macron attended an event at the Great Synagogue of Paris on Tuesday to mark Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, which is due to start on Sunday evening.
Upon his arrival at the synagogue, Macron was greeted by France’s Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia, Joel Mergui, who serves as president of the Consistoire organization that provides religious services to French Jews, and the chief rabbi of Paris, Michel Gugenheim.
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, French Senate President Gerard Larcher and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo also attended the ceremony.
The Elysee said it was the first time the president had attended such an event — France has a strict separation between state and religion, referred to as “laicite.” For the same reason, Macron did not give a speech at the event.
Jewish community leaders took the opportunity to share their concerns with the president about rising anti-Semitism in the country.
“Our rabbis… note the upsurge in anti-Semitic acts,” said Mergui, also lamenting “the dangers and ravages of anti-Jewish speech” on social networks.
Mergui said the Jewish community should not be “collateral damage” in the secular fight against Islamism.
He claimed: “After having been for a long time the European country with the greatest Jewish immigration, France has today become the country with the largest Jewish emigration in the world.”
The Jewish leadership also expressed concerns about the rise of populism and racism in Europe.
Mergui said that ritual slaughter, circumcision and vacation on religious holidays should “no longer be seen as concessions at the margins of the law… but obvious freedoms.”
Macron was given several jars of honey — a traditional Jewish gift for Rosh Hashanah to symbolize a sweet new year.
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