Celebration of the Jewish festival of Hanukkah at the Elysée: Crif considers that it was “an error”, the opposition denounces a departure from secularism

Barely published online, the images sparked a political outcry

Celebration of the Jewish festival of Hanukkah at the Elysée: Crif considers that it was “an error”, the opposition denounces a departure from secularism

Barely published online, the images sparked a political outcry. At the end of a ceremony of the European Conference of Rabbis (CER) organized on Thursday evening, December 7 at the Elysée, the Chief Rabbi of France Haïm Korsia, lit, from the palace's reception hall and under the eyes of the President of the Republic, the first candle of Hanukkah, on the first day of this religious festival of lights celebrated by the Jewish community.

The sequence, filmed and shared on X by Rabbi Mendel Samama, quickly aroused indignant reactions, in the name of defending the principle of secularism.

“This is not the place, within the Elysée, to light a Hanukkah candle, because the Republican DNA is to stay away from anything religious,” reacted the president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France (Crif) Yonathan Arfi, Friday morning at the microphone of Sud Radio, describing the sequence as an “error”. " I was surprised. I wonder why Macron did it, it's not his role as President of the Republic, added Mr. Arfi, present during the ceremony. “I think it’s indeed something that I don’t think is likely to happen again,” he continued.

“The Elysée is not a place of worship”

The latter was organized at the Elysée due to the presentation of the Lord Jocobovits prize of the CER to Emmanuel Macron, which rewards each year a European head of state or government for his fight against anti-Semitism and safeguarding religious freedoms. It was once the awards ceremony had ended that the Hanukkah candle was lit in the reception hall of the Elysée by the Chief Rabbi of France.

Socialist MP Jérôme Guedj declared on X that “as nice as it is, Hanoucah is a religious holiday. In which no elected official of the Republic should participate, like any religious manifestation.” “The Elysée is not a place of worship (…) We do not compromise with secularism,” declared Thursday evening the socialist president of the Occitanie region Carole Delga, on X, denouncing “a bad signal sent by the State to the Republic”.

“On Saturday, we will celebrate the anniversary of the 1905 law on the separation of Church and State. This evening, Macron tramples her by organizing a religious ceremony at the Elysée,” the national coordinator of France Insoumise Manuel Bompard also expressed indignation on X, criticizing an “unforgivable political mistake.”

For his part, socialist senator Laurence Rossignol described Emmanuel Macron on

“This is an unprecedented departure from secularism,” National Rally MP Laure Lavalette also declared on LCI on Friday. “I think he’s trying to make up for not having been at the march against anti-Semitism where he was expected,” she argued.

The President of the Republic had already been criticized in the name of secularism earlier in the year for having attended Pope Francis' mass in Marseille.

No “violation of secularism” according to Gérald Darmanin

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, however, defended the president on Friday morning on Franceinfo, arguing that "secularism is not the negation of religions" and that Mr. Macron has committed "no violation of secularism", in leaving the chief rabbi of France to light a Hanukkah candle.

“During this important Jewish holiday, at a time when our Jewish compatriots are experiencing anti-Semitic acts, when rabbis are attacked, when synagogues are attacked, when people who have external signs of religion are attacked in the street, I find that “completely normal for the President of the Republic to stand next to our Jewish compatriots,” he declared, assuring that “there was no religious ceremony” at the Elysée.

“The President of the Republic is a defender of religions (…) He respects them all. As head of state, there is no violation of secularism,” continued Mr. Darmanin, arguing! “I have accompanied the president many times to mosques, synagogues, churches, temples (…) that the President of the Republic receives religious people, it is normal.”

According to him, “there is no problem with the fact that mayors can go and receive religious people in town halls.” The Minister of the Interior also finds “a little absurd” the court decisions banning crèches in town halls “because it is part of our cultural life”.