French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron at campaign event
French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron at campaign eventReuters

French presidential hopeful and former Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron sparked an uproar in the French Jewish community, following the publication of an interview earlier this month of an interview touching upon religious schools in France.

A former member of the Socialist Party now running as an independent, centrist candidate, Macron served in the French cabinet under incumbent Francois Hollande from 2014 until the end of August of this year.

Speaking with Marianne earlier this month, Macron warned of the influence of religion in French schools generally and decrying Jewish schools for emphasizing the Torah.

“It is very important to maintain neutrality in the public sector,” Macron said. “Religion cannot be present in school. But I hear few people becoming concerned by the consequences of this phenomenon, [with] more and more children being sent to religious schools which teach them to hate the Republic and teach mainly in Arabic, or,” Macron added, “in other places [Jewish schools] teach the Torah more than general studies.”

Members of the French Jewish community pushed back against Macron’s comments.

“The Torah is the basis of Judaism,” one representative of the French Jewish community told Israeli haredi news site Kikar HaShabbat, “and to ban its instruction would mean the annihilation of the Jews.”

“Jews, a small community in France, again find themselves targeted for no good reason….the ex-minister’s anti-Semitism has come out on behalf of his [political] aspirations, at the expense of national unity.”

Surveys show Macron could be a viable candidate, with middling poll numbers for the 1st round of the election, and likely defeating two of the three most highest polling competitors in the 2nd round.