Thursday, March 20, 2008

What's happening in the Marais

I strolled in the Marais with my friend Sarah in January this year and sadly concur with
the article below from The Guardian. The narrow rue des Rosiers has been repaved and there
were hordes of shoppers during les soldes, the big sales. We ate at L'As de Felafel
one night, my favorite, but I remember when L'As was a hole in the wall known only to
the locals and we talked with everyone...zut!

Have you been to the Marais recently? What do you think?

For Paris's Jewish quarter, a fight to save its soul
Angelique Chrisafis in Paris
The Guardian, Thursday March 6, 2008

The Marais

It is the falafel capital of Paris, where hordes of tourists converge on Sundays for Middle Eastern takeaways or salt-beef sandwiches and Yiddish cheesecake. But Rue des Rosiers, the heart of Paris's historic Jewish quarter, has fallen victim to the tourist onslaught and rocketing property prices. A protest group is staging weekly demonstrations to save the street's "soul" from the gentrification that is turning the once thriving community of Jewish shops into an identikit line-up of middle-range international fashion chains.

For many the final straw came this week when Paris's most famous Jewish restaurant and delicatessen, Jo Goldenberg's, shut down. Until the late 1990s its homely red banquettes attracted government ministers, film stars and celebrities dining on caviar, herrings, goulash or its famous chopped liver. On the Pletzl - Yiddish for square - Goldenberg's was symbolic of a neighbourhood where thousands of eastern European Jews arrived from the late 19th century, and which was the focus of Nazi round-ups during the occupation of Paris in the second world war. More than half of the local Jewish community would die in concentration camps.

The restaurant founded by Jo Goldenberg, who lost his parents and all his sisters in Auschwitz, became a symbol of resistance and revival, a meeting place for Holocaust survivors and former resistance fighters. In 1982 it was targeted in a grenade and gun attack in which six people were killed and 22 injured.

After changes of management, rows and damning hygiene reports, the restaurant has been shuttered since 2006. This week property developers put it up for rent and expect a fashion chain to take it.

Protesters who saw off an attempt by McDonalds to move in in 2000 are campaigning against the fashion-chain onslaught that has already seen Lee jeans and others arrive. This spring H&M will open a branch and other stores are to follow. Some locals attempted to woo a New York bagel shop to open in Goldenberg's, but rents are soaring in the central Paris location, once one of the city's poorest neighbourhoods.

The street's future has become a political issue ahead of mayoral elections this weekend. Paris's mayor, Bertrand Delanoƫ, a Socialist, is said to be concerned. Dominique Bertinotti, the Socialist mayor of Paris's 4th arrondissement, said she favoured a business that would carry on the Jewish heritage, perhaps a Holocaust memorial library, but the local authority could not afford to buy the building.

Mikael Marciano, who works in his family's Jewish bakery across the road, said: "Goldenberg's is not an isolated case. It's a phenomenon where the old community are being offered huge sums of money by expensive fashion labels to move out. The area has started to lose its Jewish soul and the village atmosphere of 30 years ago."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is such a sad state of affairs and is a pet peeve of mine. The same thing happened in Carmel, CA and in countless other places where the unique local charm has been replaced by cookie cutter upscale shops. It's getting to the point that one no longer knows where one is because every city is filled with the same shops. Thank goodness I experienced the Marais in the 60's and 80's. When there last October, we just enjoyed relaxing in the Place des Vosges...and looking for sites in "Murder in the Marais."

11:26 PM  

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