C all it the sigh of relief heard ‘round France.

From Paris to Toulouse and Nantes to Strasbourg, Jewish voters celebrated the victory of centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron, the former economy minister who is France’s next president.

Relief because the alternative was foreboding. National Front leader Marine Le Pen had called for bans on religious head coverings and kosher slaughter, and had threatened to prohibit dual citizenship, presenting French Jews with potential obstacles to emigration should the national mood turn sour. Though there was talk early on of Jewish support for Le Pen, officials in Israel said more than 90 percent of French-Israeli voters supported Macron.

Indeed, in the two weeks leading up to the election, the French Jewish establishment, including the Orthodox chief rabbinate, issued strongly worded statements warning constituents away from Le Pen. The umbrella organization of French Jewry, CRIF, as well as Joel Mergui, chairman of the Consistoire (the lay leadership of the mainstream Orthodox community), and Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia all stressed there was no possible compromise with the National Front. The Jewish community’s most widely circulated magazine, Actualité Juive, which usually aligns with the mainstream French conservative right and the religious Zionist parties in Israel, went so far as to print a warning on its front page: “Let’s stop the National Front.”

Macron, who took 65% of the national vote to Le Pen’s 33%, is the first president in postwar France to come from a non-mainstream political party (En Marche!). During the election campaign, he was painted as a wealthy former investment banker who represented global interests (all with anti-Semitic undertones), but in fact he is a centrist who wants to reform the French economy while keeping the country close to the European Union.

How Macron will relate to Israel and the Jewish population is an open question, but early indications are promising. He has already said that he will not unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state, and the cadre of officials likely to fill his cabinet, including the current French ambassador to the US, Gérard Araud, have a reputation for being friendly to Israel and standing firmly with the United States and NATO. Still, Jewish voters are closely watching Macron’s relationship with former conservative prime minister Dominique de Villepin, who is known to be close to Arab and Palestinian interests.

The next test for France comes in June, when members of the lower house of Parliament stand for election. In her concession speech, Le Pen said she was looking forward to that contest, confident that her national movement was growing. She received ten million votes this time around. Will she fare better in June? (Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 659)