Magazine article The Christian Century

A Paris Butcher Shop Offers Wider Lessons in Interfaith Relations

Magazine article The Christian Century

A Paris Butcher Shop Offers Wider Lessons in Interfaith Relations

Article excerpt

On Fridays, the Boucherie de l'Argonne closes early. Its Muslim workers head to afternoon prayers and the Jewish ones prepare for shabbat--a practical accommodation for staff sharing similar roots and cultural references.

"We work well together," said Philippe Zribi, a Tunisian-born Jewish man whose family runs the butcher shop, which employs eight people: three Jews, three Muslims, and two Christians.

In a city still recovering from last year's extremist attacks, where national news is dotted with reports of anti-Semitism, the store tucked next to an abandoned railroad track offers a more positive face of interfaith relations.

With an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 Jews living in the 19th arrondissement, the district is home to one of the largest Jewish neighborhoods in Europe, according to Mahor Chiche, local deputy mayor. It also includes a sizable Muslim population that mostly hails from Africa.

"There's a real mix, both socially and religiously," Chiche said. "The older generation who lived together in Algeria, Tunisia, or Morocco, they know each other. They speak Arabic, Hebrew, and French. But the younger generation has a harder time getting to know each other. More work needs to be done there."

Across France, anti-Muslim acts tripled last year to nearly 400, while anti-Jewish acts were double that number, according to Interior Ministry statistics.

When a Kurdish teenager attacked a Jewish teacher in Marseille in January, some Jewish people opted to remove their yarmulkes and keep a low profile.

"I remain pretty pessimistic," said Sammy Ghozlan, who heads the National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, a French watchdog group near Paris.

Like many others, he blames the attacks on young Muslims and, to a lesser degree, the far right.

Those incidents add to a broader, troubling picture of race and religion in France. A new survey by Ipsos, a Paris-based research company, finds more than two-thirds of French Jews believe anti-Semitism has greatly increased over the past five years. More than one-quarter of all French surveyed said they had person ally encountered insults and other problems with Muslims over the past year, according to the report commissioned by the French Judaism Foundation.

The 19th arrondissement has its own share of problems. The radicalized Muslim brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi, who gunned down a dozen people at the Charlie Hebdo magazine before dying in police gunfire, grew up in the district. …

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