France President Chirac: Close Ties To Chabad-Lubavitch

by Baila Olidort - PARIS, FRANCE

January 15, 2004

“I maintain a warm, personal and outstanding relationship with the people of Chabad-Lubavitch,” said France’s President Jacques Chirac on Tuesday while addressing a group of Israeli journalists at the Presidential Elysee Palace. Chirac embraced Chabad’s representative in Paris, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Pewzner, as he recalled that his relationship with Chabad dates back to his days as Mayor of Paris, when he learned first hand of Chabad’s outstanding work on behalf of France’s Jews.

The journalists, on a tour of France’s Jewish communities arranged by Rabbi Pewzner, who is director of the Chabad Sinai Schools in Paris, were surprised at the close ties between France's Jewish community, particularly that of Chabad-Lubavitch and Chirac's government.

In his remarks, Mr. Chirac spoke of the French government’s concern for the well being of its Jewish population, and said that France is working hard to combat anti-Semitism. Also addressing the journalists was Nicole Guedj, a senior member of the Paris Consistoire — the largest Jewish religious organization in Europe--and an appointee of the Union for a Presidential Majority’s national secretary for human rights. Guedj is said to be one of the closest Jews to President Chirac, and took an interest in showing the journalists a different side to the life of Jews in France: “It’s clear that Jews live here in France in a peaceful country,” she said. “It should be made known that exaggerated descriptions” in Israeli media “are negative and damaging to the Jews of France.”

President Chirac talked of his unwavering support for Chabad-Lubavitch, and spoke with gratitude for the support he always enjoyed likewise. In his years as Mayor of Paris, Chirac often attended Chabad's menorah lighting ceremonies, and supported their educational institutions. President Chirac expressed personal regret that he did not meet the Lubavitcher Rebbe during his lifetime, and said that he intends to visit his resting place when he comes to New York.

Prior to Mr. Chirac’s arrival at the Palace, Rabbi Pewzner utilized the opportunity to fulfill a mitzvah while in the Palace, and recited the Shema with the journalists.

On Wednesday, the journalists met with France’s Prime Minister Jean Pierre Raffarin as he presented an official gold medal to Rabbi Pewzner in recognition of his work on behalf of French Jewry. Rabbi Pewzner and other Chabad-Lubavitch representatives then met with various government officials who gave interviews to the Israeli media.

The journalists were treated to kosher cocktails at the Palace and given a motorcycle escort on their visits around Paris. This, explained Rabbi Pewzner who enjoys a close friendship with high-level government officials, and facilitated various meetings between them and the journalists, is a reflection of “Chirac’s great efforts on behalf of the community over more than 20 years.”

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