The statements by President Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime Minister Francois Fillon that halal and kosher meat should be labelled provoked a storm at French Limmud (Limoud), taking place this week just outside Paris.
Speaking at the event, Dr Joel Mergui, the Head of the Consistoire Israelite, the umbrella group for the synagogues of the 250 communities of France, asked: "Is European Jewry in danger? Are we condemned to end up as an endangered minority, like monkeys on a reservation?"
The meeting at which Mr Mergui spoke was jam-packed and there was a pervasive sense of shock that the President had apparently made such a sudden shift in direction.
Dr Mergui said: "I am stunned by the President of the Republic. I am waiting to hear directly from him over this." He said he was so worried by Mr Sarkozy's comments that he had immediately contacted the Minister of the Interior, adding that the minister had also been surprised by the President's words.
Dr Mergui said that every assault on shechitah is an attack on Jewish identity and on the Torah, emphasising that "shechitah, Jewish ritual slaughter, does not cause animal suffering".
I’m stunned by the President of the Republic
He declared that just as we used to eat Jaffa oranges in solidarity with Israel, so should we now insist on eating kosher food whatever our level of religious observance, even if we are not observant at all. As well as the Torah requirements, we should eat kosher as a protest against attempts to chip away at our fundamental rights, he said.
Dr Mergui also saw a threat to Jewry from claims in French society that cemeteries confined to a particular religion are discriminatory. "If we cannot die and be buried as Jews in France, can we at least live in France as Jews?" he asked.