Dispatch from France: Terror in Toulouse

This is a guest post by Stephen Silberfarb, CEO of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation. He is currently in Paris, France.
Each morning and each afternoon, the streets of Paris are full of kids going to and from school. I can’t say that I normally notice schoolchildren when I’m traveling. But then these past couple of days in France have been anything but normal. And now I’m noticing them.
The murder of three children and a teacher at the Jewish school in Toulouse, France on Monday has shocked this country. While the Jewish community of France, numbering some 600,000, has faced anti-Semitic attacks, there has not been an attack like this one for decades.
On Sunday, I strolled through the Jewish quarter in Paris, stopping by some kosher eateries and Judaica stores. People were open, friendly and unhurried. I was actually surprised that there was hardly any visible security around Jewish restaurants, stores and even synagogues. Then, literally overnight the security situation changed, and the sense of casual normalcy inside the Jewish quarter disappeared.
The newspapers and the television news provided extensive coverage, which seemed to express a national revulsion at and repudiation of these murders and the hate that motivated them. Still, the city of Paris felt like it didn’t skip a beat. When the public schools let out just a couple of hours ago, kids mingled, hung out and did what kids do. But we know that kids leaving Jewish schools today did so under heavy guard. And that leaves me with a heavy heart, both because no child should have to live in fear and because something like this will probably happen again.
Along with remembrance, resilience is part of the DNA of the Jewish people. What choice have we had? In Paris, near the Deportation Memorial where 200,000 Jews were once sent to concentration camps, Jewish programs and lectures are now taking place. From Israeli dance to Hebrew lessons to the local version of the Jewish Federation, there is and will always be proud and vibrant Jewish life in France.
I’m grateful that in my own small way I have had the modest opportunity to convey sympathy and solidarity with the French Jews I have met. To see their eyes light up is to recognize the eternal connection that is the essence of the Jewish people around the globe.
(Photo: Patrick Peccatte)