Jews in France Feel Sting as Anti-Semitism Surges Among Children of Immigrants
In working-class Parisian suburbs like this one, heavily populated by North African immigrants, the word "Jew" is now a standard epithet. It appears in graffiti on middle school walls and neighborhood playgrounds and on the tongues of the young.
"It's blacks and Arabs on one side and Jews on the other," said Sebastian Daranal, a young black man standing in the parking lot of a government-subsidized housing project with two friends.
Ianis Roder, 34, a history teacher in a middle school northeast of Paris, said he was stunned by what he witnessed after Sept. 11, 2001. The next day, someone spray-painted in a stairwell of the school the image of an airplane crashing into the World Trade Center beside the words "Death to the U.S., Death to Jews."
When he told his class months later that Hitler had killed millions of million Jews, one boy blurted out, "He would have made a good Muslim!" Mr. Roder told of a Muslim teacher who dismissed her class after a shouting match over Nazi propaganda. The students said the offensive images accurately depicted Jews.
Barbara Lefèbvre, a history teacher who has taught in several of the working-class suburbs, said many people minimize the anti-Semitism among France's youth.
"They say, 'That's the way the kids talk — they don't mean it in the same way that you or I would,' " she said. Ms. Lefèbvre, who is Jewish, said she had to argue with the principal of her school several years ago to get an investigation when a student wrote "dirty Jew" on a notebook used by her class. The student, a French-Arab boy, was ultimately given just two hours of detention.
Some teachers simply gloss over subjects likely to elicit anti-Semitic responses. Ms. Lefèbvre said she knows teachers who even show fictional films, like Roberto Benigni's "Life Is Beautiful," instead of treating the Holocaust directly.
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