French President Emmanuel Macron and leaders of the country’s Jewish community inaugurated a Jewish community centre in Paris that has been in the works for 20 years.
The European Centre for Judaism was opened, “amid painful times of terrorism and antisemitism,” said Joel Mergui, the president of the Consistoire organisation, which is responsible for Jewish religious life in France.
“It’s an expression of resistance, a desire to reanimate our community, for it to shine and open to the neighbourhood, Paris and Europe,” Mergui added.
Situated on Jerusalem Square in the 17th Arrondissement of the French capital, the new centre has about 54,000 square feet of floor space, including a synagogue with 600 seats and an auditorium with a black marble interior and the same number of seats, among other amenities. The centre also includes a gym, offices and a large terrace to accommodate a sukkah.
At least 37,000 of approximately 173,000 people living in the Arrondissement, or district, are Jewish, according to the district’s mayor, Geoffroy Boulard.
About a third of the new centre’s cost came from private donations. The rest came from municipal and government subsidies and sponsorships by firms and non-profit groups.
The city of Paris agreed to give the expensive piece of land to the Jewish community for the project more than 20 years ago. Construction began in 2015 and had initially been scheduled to end by 2018.