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Jewish Destinies: Citizenship, State, and Community in Modern France



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Can members of minority cultures be full and equal citizens of a democratic state? Or do community allegiances override loyalty to the state? And who defines a minority community-its members or the state? Pierre Birnbaum asks these crucial questions about France-a nation where 89 percent of the people feel that racism is widespread and 70 percent agree that there are "too many Arabs." Arabs are today's targets, but racism has also been directed at other groups, including Jews.

Jews became full citizens of France only at the Revolution, and historians have traditionally held that the state, in thus emancipating Jews and allowing them to join French society as individuals, severed the ties that had once bound the Jewish community together. But Birnbaum shows that the history of Jews in France-and of attitudes toward them-is not so linear. Rather, he finds that anti-Semitism has risen and fallen along with other forms of racism and xenophobia, and he argues that Jews in France today are once again viewed as members of an isolated community-no matter what their degree of assimilation. Birnbaum's conclusions about state and community have broad-reaching implications for all societies that struggle to incorporate minority groups-including the United States.



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Birnbaum, Pierre Jewish Destinies: Citizenship, State, and Community in Modern France. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2000:  https://archive.jpr.org.uk/object-1234