On a Saturday morning on the way to a synagogue I got lost. I asked a random lady on the street for directions to a particular street and she asked “where are you going?”. I felt a bit hesitant to share I was Jewish by disclosing the type of location. I did anyways and because I felt pretty desperate at the moment, having walked quite a lot. She smiled and calmly gave me directions and even more information. I understood she was not Jewish and experienced the feeling that people in Paris are generally knowledgeable, maybe tolerant and that it is safe.
Recently we had an attack at a kosher market and I did not feel scared. I thought of asking a few of my young adult Jewish friends in Paris how they felt. For each one I asked: “As a Jew in Paris, how do you feel in terms of safety and why?”
My Jewish friend Sarah who has grown up here said “I live in the 13th quarter of Paris and it’s ok over there I don’t have to complain: As a girl I don’t wear any religious sign and it’s a quite rich area but I would not feel safe reading a Jewish newspaper in the north of Paris, talking about Israel or wearing a kippah over there for example so I think my feeling of safety depends where I am located, in rich area it’s ok but in eastern and northern quarters and suburbs I would not feel safe as a woman and as a Jew.”
My Jewish friend David from Australia who moved here a few years ago said: “Ahh – I feel totally safe here. The stuff that makes the international news like the kosher market being burnt down is in poor dodgy crime-ridden suburbs that tourists are never going to go anywhere near”
My Jewish friend Sharon who moved here a few years ago and from Israel said: “Well for me it’s different as I am also Israeli and people seem to really hate Israel around here. In general, I just don’t tell people I’m Jewish or Israeli until I know them better. Generally speaking, like many other countries unfortunately, French people are pretty racist and biased towards Israel and Jews.”
My general impression is that what people perceive as intolerance towards Jews is more intolerance to particularly religious rituals and needs. Even so, I have felt safe in France. Not because there are police patrolling on the streets but because the French in general are not very aggressive or violent people. They will discuss with you and are generally tolerant.