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Jan 20, 2010
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Paris symbol of Jewish life reopens as jeans shop

Jan 20, 2010

By Philomene Bouillon (AFP)

PARIS — A celebrated kosher restaurant in the heart of Paris' Jewish quarter has reopened as a jeans shop, the latest loss for a historic district that now caters mostly to trendy Parisians and tourists.

Photo: AFP

For decades, the Goldenberg Pletzl restaurant -- better known as "Jo Goldenberg's" -- served up potato latkes, matzo ball soup or corned beef sandwiches to Parisian Jews and tourists in Le Marais district, until it shut down four years ago.

The establishment, targeted in a grenade and machine-gun attack in 1982 that left six people dead, reopened this month as the "Temps des Cerises" (Cherry Time) jeans shop, offering designer labels.

All that is left to remind passers-by of the famed restaurant is a red "Goldenberg Pletzl" sign with white lettering on Rosiers street, which has been a centre of Paris Jewish life for centuries.

"The reactions have been mixed," said a saleswoman at the new shop. "Some people are happy that there is a business here, while others, who think back at what was here, are not so pleased."

Paris officials had fought to turn Goldenberg into a heritage site, possibly opening up a small library there, said Dominique Bertinotti, the mayor of the district.

"Goldenberg's new owners were asking prices that were beyond reason," said Bertinotti. "It was impossible for the city to get a long-term lease and impossible for the local Jewish community to rent it."

Long-time Marais resident Samuel Adoner Milo lamented the loss and said some days, he had a hard time recognising his old neighborhood.

"Look, that's where the old library used to be," said Milo, on a recent walk down rue des Rosiers. "Now it's a Nike store."

At age 84, the neighbourhood activist has persuaded local officials to put up plaques detailing some of the district's history such as July 1942 roundup of Jews that devastated the community.

"There used to be a hammam, kosher butchers, a barber shop, all of that has changed," said Milo.

"Families used to live in these apartment buildings, now it's become very, very expensive to live here."

Once one of Paris' poorer districts, Le Marais has fallen victim to gentrification with an influx of so-called "Bobos" - bourgeois-bohemians who want to live in Paris, but can't afford real estate in upscale neighborhoods.

Many Jewish families meanwhile have moved to the Paris suburbs, buying up large houses after scoring a mammoth profit off their small apartment.

The city stepped in once already, in 1962, to save the district from demolition, said Elisabeth Kurztag, from the Paris museum of Judaic art and history.

This allowed a new wave of Jewish immigrants from north Africa to move in and open up shops. Bakeries such as Moskovitch and Korcarz along with Chez Marianne restaurant remain popular spots.

"Big chain stores have the means to set up shop and this has led to a commercial makeover," said Bertinotti, who talks about the changes as part of a broader, Paris-wide trend.

Many traditional shops have shut down throughout Paris, according to a recent study for the city.

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