Last week’s siege of a kosher grocery in France, which ended with the deaths of four Jewish innocents, was a bloody climax to a week of unspeakable events in the French capital.
But for the Jews of France, the horrors at Hyper Cacher were the latest in a string of frightening anti-Semitic attacks, including the March 2012 murders of a teacher and three children at a Jewish school in Toulouse; the May 15, 2014, attack on a Jewish woman at a bus stop in Paris’s Montmartre district; and the Nov. 12 firebombing of a kosher restaurant in the 17th district. Combined with angry anti-Israel demonstrations this summer, the atmosphere in France led twice as many French Jews to leave the country in 2014 than the year before. An estimated 15,000 may leave this year alone.
This exodus has posed a dilemma for Israel. On the one hand, the Jewish state exists as a haven for Jews in distress the world over. Zionist ideology all but dictates that the place for the world’s Jews is in Israel.
However, as Jewish Agency chair Natan Sharansky warned this week, Israeli leaders must walk a fine line between welcoming French Jews and disparaging their heritage, between offering a helping hand and exploiting anti-Semitism. “We don’t have to say, ‘It is your obligation to leave immediately,’” Sharansky said. “We have to say we will do our best so that they feel comfortable, and that Israel is a great place to live as Jews.”
Sharansky’s warning holds true for American Jews as well. In urging aliya, some Jewish activists blithely ignore the bonds that tie Jews to their countries of origin. In our impulse to help, we sometimes insult.
But there are more constructive ways to help. For example, the France Emergency Fund, launched by the Jewish Federations of North America and run locally by the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, is offering assistance to French Jews where needed: supporting the families of last week’s terror victims, meeting the community’s increased security needs, and, yes, helping to fund the aliya and absorption of French Jews who choose to go to Israel (see related story).
For more on this respectful, multifaceted approach to helping fellow Jews, click here.