Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and about half of his cabinet attended the main rally in Paris on Tuesday at the central Place de la Republique, one of about 70 staged around the country at the urging of 18 political parties.
Two former presidents, François Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy, were in attendance at the Paris rally, which was called last week after the interior ministry reported a 74 percent rise in anti-Semitic incidents in 2018.
The issue was amplified after philosopher Alain Finkielkraut faced protesters yelling “dirty Zionist” and “France is for us” at a Yellow Vest demonstration on Saturday.
And earlier in the day, President Emmanuel Macron promised to punish those responsible for the desecration of 96 Jewish graves at a cemetery in eastern France.
“We will take action, we will make use of the law and we will punish,” Macron said as he toured the desecrated cemetery at Quatzenheim in eastern France alongside Interior Minister Christophe Castaner and Chief Rabbi of France Haim Korsia.
Macron did not take part in the rallies, but he was to lay out plans for combatting anti-Semitism at an event with the CRIF umbrella group of Jewish organisations on Wednesday evening.
Differing views on how exactly to tackle the issue were expressed before and during the rallies.
Finkielkraut expressing reservations about the rally, and another set of Jewish groups organised a separate Paris rally opposed to recent calls within the ruling majority to criminalise anti-Zionism.
Finkielkraut suspect arrested
Paris investigators said Wednesday morning they had arrested a man suspected of being responsible for the insults targeting Finkielkraut in the eastern city of Mulhouse.
A preliminary inquiry was opened into “public insult based on origin, ethnicity, nation, race or religion”.
Police sources told AFP agency the man was the most visible in the widely-circulated video of the encounter in Paris.
Finkielkraut previously said he would not seek to press charges.