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The integration of Jews into French society

The integration of Jews into French society
We will now move on to France. We learned earlier how the French Revolution established equal political rights for French Jews. In that sense, France was ahead of the rest of Europe, becoming a beacon for future emancipatory movements. During the course of the 19th century, Jews in France became an integral factor in all parts of French society. The Jews of France themselves felt a deep connection and appreciation to the French state. During the French Revolution, France became the first country in Europe to emancipate the Jews - a major phenomenon. Beyond that, France even defined the contours of its own notion of citizenship around the Jewish question.
I would also recall the oft-invoked statement made by an aristocrat, Clermont-Tonnerre, that “everything should be granted to the Jews individually to make them citizens, and nothing should be done to reinforce their status as a nation or community” - that they should be French citizens like any other. That was the first, very important, moment. It allowed Jews to become more visible, powerful, rich and assimilated during the whole course of the 19th century, and traditionally, during the entire 19th century, Jews as a group were considered to be Frenchmen who loved France more than all the other Frenchmen. “To be happy as God or as a Jew in France” was a classic idiom.
And during the 1914 war, for example, one can note that there were relatively more Jewish dead than French, - relatively speaking - which demonstrates intense dedication to the motherland, love for France, and willingness to sacrifice for it.

Prof. Pierre Nora

France was the first state to grant its Jews emancipation in 1791. During the 19th century, the Jews of France became an integral factor in all parts of French society .


  • Birnbaum, Pierre, Jewish Destinies: Citizenship, State, and Community in Modern France, trans. by Arthur Goldhammer (New York : Hill and Wang, 2000).

  • Hyman, Paula E., The Jews of Modern France (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998).

  • Nora, Pierre, Realms of Memory, 3 vols. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996-1998).

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