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As French Jews Arrive In Israel, Chabad Reaches Out

French students and residents in the port area now have a Chabad center of their own

By , Tel Aviv, Israel

With the political unrest and anti-Semitic atmosphere in France, many French Jews have been leaving the country in growing numbers in the past few years.

According to the Jewish Agency for Israel, 7,835 individuals immigrated to Israel from France in 2015, and 2016 saw a lesser, though still significant, 5,000 new immigrants. Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics reports that 24 percent of all immigrants in 2015 were from France, with 20.8 percent of them settled in the Tel Aviv district.

There, they struggle to integrate into a new country, new culture, and new lifestyle. Many can’t make it; an estimated 10-35 percent return to their home country.

“Some of these French immigrants have a difficult time finding their place in the community,” says Chabad emissary Estie Arnauve, who moved to Tel Aviv in May with her husband Yisrolik to provide Jewish and communal services for the French Jews living there. “They have a hard time integrating into the society due to the differences in the culture and language.”

The Arnauves will be offering programs geared specifically toward French immigrants and students studying in Israel. 

“Our goal is to create a base for the French community here,” Estie Arnauve explains. “We will be offering classes and activities in their native tongue, as well as events like Shabbat dinners where they can socialize with other French Jews.” 

Both flluent Hebrew speakers, the couple spent some time in Tel Aviv pre-move, and has already started conducting classes with the French students each of which is attended by about 30 people. 

“Many of us students are here studying alone, away from our families and our communities,” says Jeremy, a Parisian transplant who is currently doing an internship in Tel Aviv. “To have a place where I can meet other French students and listen to a class in French is really special. I am looking forward to having the Arnauves live here and to help them with the great work that they do.”

Sometimes, observes Esti,  French Jews who were traditionally observant back in France feel that they are lacking the insightful and joyous experiences of Judaism because they don’t know where to go for Jewish services, or aren’t affiliated with a Jewish community.

“Living in Tel Aviv, which is one of Israel’s more secular communities, just makes it more difficult.”

There are currently about 40,000 French Jews in Tel Aviv, with many of them moving to the north to take advantage of housing developments there. The Arnauves are targeting north Tel Aviv and the community in the area around the port, as there are other Chabad representatives serving French Jews in other parts of Tel Aviv. 

The Arnauves, who will be operating under the direction of Tel Aviv’s head emissary Rabbi Yosef Gerlitzky, will become the 50th branch of Chabad of Tel Aviv.

To learn more about Chabad of North Tel Aviv, visit their Facebook page, Beth Loubavitch Tel Aviv. To donate, click here.


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