The political tempest spawned in France by Standard & Poor’s downgrade of the country’s credit rating has transfixed outside observers. They have thus paid little attention to a different storm now roiling the waters of French society: the question of whether or not French Jews can take the day off on Yom Kippur.
In early January, the Green Party’s candidate for president, Eva Joly, a naturalized French citizen raised in Norway, proposed that French Jews and Muslims should be given the right to take off from work or school on their holiest religious holidays. Observing that official holidays were accorded with Christian celebrations like Easter, Joly affirmed, “Each religion must benefit from equal treatment in the public realm.”
Joly made this declaration at an evening event called the “Night of Equality.” For critics on both the political right and left, “night” suddenly took on a deeper and more disturbing meaning than the soirée’s organizers had intended.
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