French President Emmanuel Macron has inaugurated a new European Center for Judaism in Paris, a religious and cultural complex, at a time of rising anti-Semitism in France and elsewhere in Europe.
The European Center of Judaism (CEJ) includes three entities covering an area of almost 5,000 m2. A 600-seat synagogue, 200 of which for women on the mezzanine, will be flanked by two five- and seven-storey buildings: offices and, above all, a 2.500 m2 cultural center with show and exhibition halls.
"Judaism has played a key role in the unity of the continent to build what thought and European civilization, to basically shape who we are. It is a Jewish part of the European soul, shaped in dark times as well as in happy days", said French President Emmanuel Macron at the inauguration ceremony.
It is located at Porte de Courcelles in the heavily-Jewish populated 17th arrondissement of Paris. The choice of the borough owes nothing to chance: the center of gravity of Judaism has moved significantly from the East to the West of Paris, more opulent and deemed safer. The 17th district is prized by the community, which finds a plethora of kosher stores.
According to Joel Mergui, the president of the Consistoire, the body responsible for Jewish religious life in France, said "the new center is an expression of resistance, a desire to reanimate our community, for it to shine and open to the neighborhood, Paris and Europe".
"At a time when anti-Semitism is resurging, resisting is not just about protecting or responding, but it's mostly about converting hearts and minds, that's what is done here in this center," said President Macron in his speech.
"Judaism has played a key role in the unity of the continent to build what thought and European civilization, to basically shape who we are. It is a Jewish part of the European soul, shaped in dark times as well as in happy days", he added.