France is guarding against new violence after the terrorist attack last month near the city of Lyon. The attack came only six months after deadly shootings in Paris. One community is very worried – French Jews. The attack has added tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims.
The ties were already tense over conflict in the Middle East and anti-Semitism, hatred of and discrimination against Jews. Yet France’s Jewish and Muslim communities share a common tradition. And as far as one religious leader is concerned, the two groups are meant to be friends.
Drivers slow down to look at Michel Serfaty, who is both a big man physically and a Jewish leader or rabbi. He wears a black hat on a visit to La Courneuve, a town near Paris. A snow-white beard covers his face.
Rabbi Serfaty is telling a man in a white T-shirt about being called a dirty Jew as he walked down the street. The man agrees it was a shameful act. But he says it does not represent the opinions of many Muslims like himself.
The two men talk in front of the offices of the Union of Islamic Organizations of France, a group with ties to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. It seems a strange place to find a rabbi, but Michel Serfaty is not your usual clergyman.
For years, he has traveled around France in an old mini-bus covered with signs saying “Solidarity between Jews and Muslims,” and “We are more alike than you think.” The rabbi walks through neighborhoods with high crime rates and large immigrant communities. He talks with Muslim leaders, students and even drug dealers... Read more