Testimony From A Jewish Mother In Toulouse, France

Rabbi Jonathan Sandler with his sons Arieh and Gabriel, and Miriam Monsonego were killed by a gunman at Ozar Hatorah in Toulouse.

Mayor of Toulouse Pierre Cohen (R), surrounded by the municipal council, observe a minute of silence at Capitole’s place in Toulouse March 20, 2012.

— by Patricia Salama

This afternoon at 2:30, my tears started to flow as I left my son’s high school, Ozar Hatorah in Toulouse. Everyone around me was weeping as we followed the two black hearses in the funeral procession out of Ozar Hatorah’s courtyard. Inside the hearses were four wooden caskets. I had never seen such small coffins. You cannot imagine what it feels like to see the casket of a three-year old child adorned with the Star of David. They will be buried tomorrow in Jerusalem.

Over the last five years my son David attended this school. I was used to taking him there each morning at 8 o’clock and seeing the smaller children lined up in front of the high school/middle school to await the shuttle bus for Gan Rachi elementary and preschool. The only security measure: No parking in front of the high school. After all, the city of Toulouse is calm; we were confident; and we had no sense of danger. Of course, over the last few years, anti-Semitic incidents became more frequent than I remember from my youth, but we did not think much of it. My children would simply pocket their kippah when they left school and blend in.

Yesterday morning at 9 o’clock, my world changed.  David calls me on his cell phone in a state of panic. His friends have alerted him. A madman has opened fire at Ozar Hatorah, Rabbi Sandler and his children are dead and two people are injured: the granddaughter of the principal Rabbi Monsonego, and my son David’s good friend Brian.

Later in the morning, we learn about the death of the innocent little seven-year old Myriam Monsonego. Brian should make it through G-d willing.

Our Community gathered yesterday afternoon at the Great Synagogue of Toulouse. The large crowd recited kaddish and recited Psalms. I was happy to see the French Minister of the Interior (Claude Guéant), along with the Mayor of Toulouse (Pierre Cohen) and leaders of other religious communities in France. In our sorrow, we were not alone. A minute of silence was observed this morning in all of the schools across France.

I hope they find this madman. He had already killed three soldiers in Toulouse and Montauban before attacking Ozar Hatorah. The police are everyone. May G-d protect us.

Although Brian is no longer in critical condition, remember to say a mishaberach for “Aaron Bryan Bijaoui ben Esther Touil”! Brian is still in a Toulouse hospital seriously wounded. He is the 17-year old teen who stood in front of a 3-year old kid to protect him as the madman was shooting everyone.