Jewish News One met with France's head rabbi to find out what Rosh Hashana means for French Jews.
Video courtesy of jn1.tv
“It’s a year during which men are judged, all creatures are judged by God and the destiny of each man is decided," says Paris Chief Rabbi Michel Gugenheim. "It’s not just a day of celebration, in fact, it’s a solemn day, it’s a day which seals the fate of each one for the year ahead.”
As we mark the end of the year 5773, what assessment would you make of this past year?
"The number of French Jews who have decided to make the leap and leave France to immigrate to Israel has risen dramatically, and that clearly shows that the Jewish community is unhappy in France.
"First of all, there’s the problem of the economy which is at an all-time low, as in much of the rest of Europe, and there are also the problems of security and anti-Semitism."
Last year was overshadowed by the Toulouse killings. One year on, has the situation in France improved for the Jewish Diaspora?
“There have been many harmful effects from the events of Toulouse. It’s almost as if a taboo was broken. Although no new event as serious as Toulouse has taken place since, the number of anti-Semitic and anti-Jewish acts has increased nonetheless.”
What are your hopes for the New Year?
“I would wish that people take time to review and examine their lives and ask themselves important questions. What questions? Well, they need to step back and evaluate the overall picture: Is the direction they’ve chosen the right one? Is their relationship with God strong enough or can it be improved? Do they have a good relationship with their neighbor? Are they happy within themselves or are there things they would like to change?
"If we improve ourselves, we can expect that the big political problems will improve as well because the Almighty Father is watching over us.”
What would you like to wish the people of Israel as we mark the Jewish New Year?
“We are in line with all of the difficulties they’re going through and which are not easy. There are essentially two major problems for which I would like to extend my sympathy to the people of Israel.
"The first one concerns the image of Israel, which has greatly deteriorated on the world stage. We constantly present Israel as an aggressor whereas we forget that this small country has done nothing but fight for its survival since its creation and even before its creation.
"The second point is that the people of Israel are a nation which loves peace, and which asks for nothing more than peace. It would be a dream come true if we reached it.”
And finally, what greetings would you like to send out to viewers of Jewish News One?
“Rosh Hashana is not simply the Jewish New Year. It represents a new year for all humanity.
So to all the viewers of JN1 and to all the inhabitants of this planet, I would like to wish you the best year possible. A year full of serenity, success and happiness. Shana Tova U'Metuka from France.”
A better Image of Israel, peace between Israelis and Palestinians and an end to anti-Semitism – these are just some of the hopes of the chief rabbi of Paris as the Jewish community celebrates Rosh Hashana, a time of repentance and judgment while awaiting the day of atonement of Yom Kippur.