Elsewhere in the world, unveiling plans for a new Jewish cultural center might merit little more than a cocktail reception. But in Paris, France, where Jews have been the target of rising anti-Semitic violence, the event was significantly more elaborate, with French Jewish leaders touting the blueprints as proof of the community’s viability and the government’s support for its survival.
The $11 million center, which is slated to open in 2017, will house a large synagogue, two exhibition halls, a gymnasium, offices and a large terrace to accommodate a sukkah. The complex, whose ground-up construction is scheduled to begin this week, will be situated on about 45,000 square feet in the posh and heavily Jewish 17th arrondissement, or district, of Paris.
First, however, several million dollars must be raised for its construction.
To that end, hundreds of guests including French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, the film director Claude Lanzmann and Maurice Levy, CEO of the advertising giant the Publicis Groupe, came out for a gala dinner. The singer-songwriter Enrico Macias, an Algeria-born Jew, performed at the gathering held at the ornate City Hall here, the Hotel de Ville.
On Monday, during a speech at the Elysee Palace, French President Francois Hollande said the new cultural center is “the best answer to those who think that the future of the Jews of France is elsewhere.”
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said that for her, “the center is a way to express our determination, after the bloodbath at the Hyper Cacher” and to “make not only France but all of Europe a place where Jews continue to feel comfortable to live.”
Still, news of the new center is already inspiring French Jews far from Paris, including Toulouse, where the president of the local Jewish community recommended young Jews immigrate to Israel or other countries “where they can thrive in open Judaism” without fear.
“The new center won’t change our lives or allay our fears, but it’s a symbol that we’re here to stay and we don’t have too many of those,” Avraham Weill, the Chief Rabbi of Toulouse.
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