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Review Essay

How to Be a Jew 
in France

Léon Blum and French Anti-Semitism

In This Review

Léon Blum: Prime Minister, Socialist, Zionist
Léon Blum: Prime Minister, Socialist, Zionist
By Pierre Birnbaum
Yale University Press, 2015, 232 pp. Purchase

Just two days after the terrorist attack at the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo last January, Amedy Coulibaly, a French-born militant who had pledged allegiance to the self-proclaimed Islamic State (also known as ISIS), murdered four Jewish shoppers in a kosher supermarket in eastern Paris. Coulibaly’s heinous act was not without precedent. In 2014, Mehdi Nemmouche, a French citizen who had spent a year training with the Islamic State in Syria, opened fire in the Jewish Museum of Belgium, killing four. In 2012, Mohamed Merah, a French follower of al Qaeda, killed three children and a rabbi at a Jewish school in Toulouse.

Such attacks are the most visible signs of a wider trend: for the past 15 years, anti-Semitism has seemed to be on the rise in France. Long-standing economic and social problems fan the flames of interethnic tension in the modest communities where, since the 1960s, Jewish

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