Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Alliance school still popular among French Jews

Some 60 percent of Jewish students attend Jewish schools in France. The Alliance school in Paris, continuing an educational tradition well established in North Africa, has 440 students. Orli Katz reports in Haaretz:

"Between the first round and the second round of the French presidential elections, the students at the Alliance school in Paris hung up a large poster that presented the two main candidates, Nicolas Sarkozy and Segolene Royal. "You won't find posters like that at Otzar Hatorah (an orthodox Jewish school)," says the principal, Michele Sarrabia.

"The founders of Alliance believed in a single basis for Judaism and the republic, that it is possible to be both Jewish and French. The parents who send their children here want exactly the same thing. There has to be congruence between the parents' outlook and the spirit of the school. I do not think this happens at the Otzar Hatorah schools: They prefer separation from and not integration with the general society."

Until the 1960s, the Alliance network hardly operated in France, but mainly in North African countries. This was, to a large extent, an ideological decision - to bring modernization and French progressiveness to the region. "When the Jew becomes a Western person and a cultured individual, he will become a fair and honest citizen of the country in which he lives. The model is the liberated and modern Jews of Western Europe," says the motto of the Alliance Israelite Universelle movement, which was founded in 1860. At the height of its strength, there were 46 Alliance schools operating in Morocco."

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