Hundreds of French Jews are calling for the election of a chief rabbi of France within three months, JTA reports. Their request was officially announced in a letter sent to Joel Mergui, the president of the Consistoire, the French Jewish institution responsible for electing a chief rabbi. Since former Chief Rabbi Gilles Bernheim stepped down in April 2013 over admissions of plagiarism and falsifying academic titles, the post has been filled by two rabbis, Michel Gugenheim and Olivier Kaufmann. But French Jews are fed up with the temporary arrangements, and they want a permanent appointment.
France has become an increasingly tense place for Jews in recent months, with the popularity of the anti-Semitic quenelle gesture—an inverted Nazi salute—and chilling chants of “Jew, France is not yours” at an anti-government demonstration in January. This intensifying climate is a major factor in the Jewish community’s demand that a new chief rabbi be elected immediately, and the campaign is gaining support—an online petition has gained more than 800 signatures.
The letter sent by Jewish community leaders to Mergui states, “The election must take place during the first semester of 2014 so that a legitimate chief rabbi of France is chosen to express the voice of Judaism during the difficult period we are experiencing.” According to the letter, the Consistoire regulations state that an election must take place within six months of the post becoming vacant. With the six month mark long past, and no new leader elected, French Jews are speaking out in force.