The French Jewish Community’s Future

French-American Jew Helen Loeb was invited to speak at Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El in Wynnewood, Penn. on the terrorist attacks last week in Paris and the state of the France’s Jewish community.

Last year almost 1% of French Jews immigrated to Israel. How many will make aliyah next year?

Last year almost 1% of French Jews immigrated to Israel. How many will make aliyah next year?

Many have come to me in the past few days to express their sympathy and ask about the well-being of my family. Many have also come to me to inquire and reflect about the future of the French Jewish community. So where do I start?

I am appalled by the current developments in France, of course, but also in Brussels and other places in Europe.

I grew up in Toulouse, infamous for the murder of one rabbi and 3 children just about two years ago. The Ozar Hatorah school is just 2 miles from where I grew up, where my mother and sister still live. Used to be known for its aeronautical industry and opera singing, Toulouse has become a symbol of antisemitism and homegrown terrorism.

[Read more…]

Philadelphia Remembers: Commemorating Toulouse and the Shoah

Rabbi Eric Yanoff led a procession from Temple Adath Israel to Merion Park to mark the shloshim (30-day mourning period) for the victims of last month’s massacre in Toulouse, France, and to commemorate the eve of Yom Ha’Shoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day).

About 200 Hebrew school students and members of the community marched solemnly holding signs with photographs of the victims declaring:

  • We remember Rabbi Jonathan Sandler.
  • We remember Gabriel Sandler.
  • We remember Arieh Sandler.
  • We remember Miriam Monsonego.


They were gunned down outside of the Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse simply because they were Jews. Rabbi Yanoff led the march to the stream in Merion Park where every year at Rosh Hashanah the community comes to say the tashlich prayer and expunge their sins in living water. After his remarks, he led the crowd in a recitation of kaddish in memory not only of the Toulouse attack victims, but of all who perished l’kiddushat hashem — in sanctification of the Holy Name. As we were approaching the eve of Yom Hashoah, we were especially mindful of the six million Jews who were martyred during the Holocaust.

May their memories be a blessing to us all. Zichronam l’Vracha.

More after the jump.
Helen Loeb who grew up in Toulouse shared her feelings.

I remember when my husband called me to tell me about the shootings on that tragic Monday. I just could not believe it. We always had some kind of security around Jewish buildings in Toulouse but we never took it seriously. Somehow, we felt nothing would happen in suburban Toulouse. I now feel that anything can happen anywhere and it is very hard to build security. I am thankful to Rabbi Yanoff of Adath Israel for organizing this event. It feels good to see how people came to march for the victims on this shloshim. As it happens it is also Yom Hashoah. Let us all pause today and recite Kaddish to remember the victims of antisemitism, then and now.

Cartoon reprinted courtesy of Yaakov (Dry Bones) Kirschen www.DryBonesBlog. blogspot.com

Three Moments of Horror: Kaddish, Kaddish, Kaddish

— by Rabbi Arthur Waskow

  • For Trayvon Martin, murdered February 26 in Sanford, Florida;
  • For Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, his sons, Gabriel and Arieh, and Miriam Monsonego, murdered March 19 at Ozar Hatorah in Toulouse, France;
    Master Sergeant Imad Ibn-Ziaten, murdered March 11 in Toulouse, France; and
    Corporal Abel Chennouf and Private Mohamed Legouad, murdered March  15 in Montauban, France; and
  • For the families murdered in March 11 in Balandi and Alkozai, Afghanistan:
    • Mohamed Dawood son of Abdullah,
    • Khudaydad son of Mohamed Juma,
    • Nazar Mohamed,
    • Payendo,
    • Robeena,
    • Shatarina daughter of Sultan Mohamed,
    • Zahra daughter of Abdul Hamid,
    • Nazia daughter of Dost Mohamed,
    • Masooma, Farida, Palwasha, Nabia, Esmatullah daughters of Mohamed Wazir,
    • Faizullah son of Mohamed Wazir,
    • Essa Mohamed son of Mohamed Hussain, and
    • Akhtar Mohamed son of Murrad Ali

— we grieve and we try to learn how to prevent such killings in the future.

After the jump, an English version of the Mourners’ Kaddish in Time of War and Violence; then, my thoughts on the causes and the meanings of these deaths.  I urge that in synagogues, churches, and mosques, memorial prayers be said this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for all those killed in these three moments of horror.
Mourner’s Kaddish in Time for War & Violence

Yit’gadal v’yit’kadash shmei rabbah: May Your Great Name, through our own expanding awareness and our fuller action, lift You and us to become still higher and more holy.

For Your Great Name weaves together all the names of all the beings in the universe, among them our own names, and among them those who have touched our lives deeply though we can no longer touch them —(Cong: Amein)

Throughout the world that You have offered us, a world of majestic peaceful order that gives life through time and through eternity — And let’s say, Amein

So may the Great Name be blessed, through every Mystery and Mastery of every universe.

May Your Name be blessed and celebrated, Its beauty honored and raised high, may It be lifted and carried, may Its radiance be praised in all Its Holiness —  Blessed be!

Even though we cannot give You enough blessing, enough song, enough praise, enough consolation to match what we wish to lay before you —

And though we know that today there is no way to console You when among us some who bear Your Image in our being are killing others who bear Your Image in our being —

Still we beseech that from the unity of Your Great Name flow a great and joyful harmony and life for all of us.   (Cong: Amein)

You who make harmony in the ultimate reaches of the universe, teach us to make harmony within ourselves, among ourselves —  and shalom, salaam, solh, peace for all the children of Abraham — those from the family of Abraham & Sarah through Isaac and those from the family of Abraham & Hagar through Ishmael — and for all who dwell upon this planet. (Cong: Amein)

Killing Jews, Killing Muslims, Killing Blacks

Three recent incidents:

  • A Frenchman kills a Jewish family and several French soldiers (some of them Muslims) who had served the French government’s interests by using violence against Muslim societies.
  • An American soldier kills several Muslim families in  Afghanistan, the second Muslim country in which he has been ordered into four tours of violence.
  • An armed Euro-American kills an unarmed African-American for looking suspicious inside a gated community in Florida.

Three utterly different news items? Merely, as a Secretary of Defense once euphemistically said, “Stuff happens”? Just dots, no connections?

I don’t think so. For one thing, I think all three killers were operating within a framework of what seemed like legitimate violence. Even though there was widespread condemnation of their acts, afterwards. Afterwards.

Beforehand?

The Florida killer was operating under a basic American cultural “rule” (once felt by almost all white Americans, then by a majority, and still by a large proportion of them): The lives of black folk are far less valuable than the lives of white folk.

The Florida killer said he felt fearful. And Fear in a white person is far more urgent to end than Life in a black person is important to save.

Why did he feel afraid? Because the domination of other human beings, the willingness to enslave one class of them, lynch them, segregate them, impoverish them, imprison them, can only be undergirded by coming to believe that this class of them are dangerous. The oppression — which benefits the oppressor – precedes and gives rise to the Fear.

You can overcome fear by connecting, communing, with the people you fear. (But then how can you keep the benefits you get by oppressing them?) Or you can overcome fear by being willing to suffer and die for a principle. Or you can overcome fear by being willing to kill.  

In France, a marginalized  Frenchman put meaning in his life by enlisting in a one-man army. An army to avenge all the killings of Muslims by the French and Israeli armies. Anyone wearing a French uniform, and anyone wearing not only an Israeli uniform but the “uniform” of Orthodox Judaism, was dangerous. Even their tiny children.

He might have overcome his fear of these “dangerous” people by connecting, communing with them, trying to affirm his own humanity so that they would be more likely to affirm his. Or he might have overcome his fear by risking suffering and even death,  directly and nonviolently challenging the governments he saw as dangerous and frightening.  Or he could overcome his fear by killing.

And the third killer, an American soldier. He had been taught, not only in the brain but with every muscle and blood vessel in his body, that his job, and more than that his moral task, his sworn duty, is to kill Iraqis and Afghans. And certainly he fears them. They have damaged his brain, distorted his life.

He could have transcended his fear by trying to connect, to commune, with the Afghans he feared, whom he had been ordered to kill. If his officers had prevented his doing that, he could have transcended his fear by putting his freedom, maybe even his life, on the line by nonviolently challenging them. Saying the fourth tour of duty was too much. Laying down his machine-gun. Demanding to be discharged, to be able to make love with his wife and parent his children.  

Or he could transcend his fear by killing.

No wonder the Army that had taught him to kill brought him home after he killed, lest he be tried by the Afghans whose community he had shattered. After all, that same Army has time after time killed civilians, murdered wedding parties, broken the brains and bones of children — claiming all the while these dead were merely “collateral damage.” That same Army has taught such fear and hatred of Islam that its soldiers could piss on the bodies of dead human beings because they were Muslim, they could casually burn the book that to Muslims is the very Word of God.

So one soldier went beyond the Army’s expectations. If they were honest, they might give him a medal. Not the Medal of Honor, not the Medal of Courage, but the Medal of Fear Transcended.

In every one of our traditions, religious and secular, there are streaks of blood. In the Torah, proclaiming genocide against the Midianites.  In the Gospels, pouring contempt upon the Jews. In the Quran, calling not only for the inner jihad, the struggle against arrogance and idolatry, but on occasion for jihads of blood against some communities. In the Declaration of Independence, with its denunciation of “the merciless lndian savages'” who were the indigenous peoples of this land.

Let us not turn our rage, our fear, and then our violence against those “others” who have such bloody streaks amidst their wisdom, while pretending there are no such streaks amidst our own.

Let us instead remember that these streaks are only streaks in the many fabrics woven of connection and community, woven of a “decent respect to the opinions of Humankind.”   A fabric woven by all human cultures and by all the life-forms of our planet. A fabric of fringes, where every thing we call our “own” as if we own it came into being only through the Interbreathing of all life.

Shalom, salaam, solh &nmdash; Peace!  Healing! Wholeness!

Attack At Ozar Hatorah School In Toulouse, France

— by Rabbi Avi Shafran

The murderous attack on the Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse, France this morning is a tragedy that rightly tears the hearts of Jews and people of good will everywhere. More than a tragedy, though, it is an expression of evil, of the Jew-hatred that masquerades as many things but in its essence remains wickedness alone.

Agudath Israel of America joins in the mourning for our four brothers murdered in cold blood today, a teacher and his two children, and an 8-year old child. And we pray for the wounded 17-year-old’s full and quick recovery.

We also call upon the French authorities to leave no stone unturned in the search for the perpetrators of this repulsive act. Evil left to fester will only spread.