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January 30, 2009     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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January 30, 2009

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HERIT/GE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JANUARY 30, 2009 PAGE 11A Rise in attacks prompts renewed fears for French Jews Devorah Lauter Rabbi Mendel Belinow sits at his desk in the community center in the northern Paris suburb of Saint-Denis, the scene of anti-Semitic attacks. By Devorah Lauter of a new president, Nicolas Sarkozy, with warm ties to Israel and the Jewish com- munity allayed the fears of many and helped tamper anti-Semitic attacks. But the attacks returned this month with the latest conflagration in the Middle East, enraging French Mus- lims and resulting in near- daily assaults against Jews for the duration of the Gaza war. "They are more worried about their safety. They are more afraid than before," said Rabbi Mendel Belinow, leader of a Chabad-Lubavitch syna- gogue and outreach center in the northern Paris suburb of Saint-Denis that was fire- bombed Jan. 11. Two of the nine Molotov cocktails thrown at his syna- gogue ignited, burning part of the center's cafeteria. No in- juries were reported, though the rabbi was in the building at the time and was believed to have been a target. The synagogue, in a heavily immigrant suburb known for its high crime and poverty rates, also was attacked in 2005 when "Death to the Jews" was scrawled on its in- ner walls. Over the past few weeks, the Jewish community has seen attacks ranging from firebombings to stabbings. The government's inability to protect them from violence, despite the efforts of French authorities, has generated a PARIS (JTA)--The spike of anti-Semitic attacks across Europe during Israel's three- week war in Gaza has struck a raw nerve here, reviving fears among French Jews that the violence of the second intifada years has returned to their country. Duripg the intifada earlier in theldecade, a sustained surge ]in attacks against FrenchlJews and the govern- ment's i perceived lackluster responise prompted many Jews to fear for their future in France, with some leaving the country. The government's belated crackdown on the violence and thl election in May 2007 renewed sense of unease in the French Jewish commu- nity, which numbers roughly 600,000 in a country of 60 million. France has 5 million to 6 million Muslims. "It's harder to reassure them now," Belinow said of his approximately 160 con- gregants. While the current cease- fire between Israel and Hamas is expected to diminish anti- Jewishviolence, pro-Palestin- ian groups have promised to continue with their anti-Israel protests. Such demonstra- tions in France, which have drawn tens of thousands, commonly have ended in riots and are a mouthpiece for viru- lent anti-Zionism, including The few Jews who still live in government-subsidized housing projects are thinking about leaving the area, and the synagogue will be heav- ily secured with cameras and patrol units for the first time, Guez said. During the violence in France during the second inti- fada, some French Jews fearful of anti-Semitism pulled their children from public schools and enrolled them in private Jewish schools, beganwearing baseball caps on their heads to hide their yarmulkes, moved out of mixed Muslim-Jewish neighborhoods or immigrated to Israel. But as the attacks against Jews waned, so did French the burning of Israeli flags, aliyah, dropping to 1,910 in Jews and Synagogues have 2008 from 2,700 the year been attacked during and following protests by a fringe of violent youths. Jewish community leaders warn that fears of further attack will disrupt the daily routines of Jews and intimi- date them into hiding their religious identity--and if the volatile situation is not con- trolled, to flee the country. In Toulouse, where institu- tionswere mostly spared from violence during the second intifada, Rabbi Jonathan Guez said he and congregants were shocked and unpreparedwhen a car containing firebombs was rammed into the front gate of their synagogue and exploded on Jan. 5. Guez said Jews would now be "more discreet" about dis- playing their religion publicly and careful about avoiding troubled neighborhoods. before. Oren Toledano, the director of the Paris-based aliyah department for the Jew- ish Agency for Israel, called this the "Sarkozy Effect," at- tributing it to the popularity of the French president among French Jews and the sense of security Sarkozy's election gave them. In the past three weeks, Toledano said, his phone has begun ringing off the hook again, with many French Jews considering aliyah calling to accelerate the process. Many Jews fear Sarkozy alone isn't enough to reassure the community. When French politicians considered friends of Israel chose not to attend pro-Israel rallies in some French cities during the lat- est war, some Jews said they again felt abandoned by their lawmakers. "One president who sup- ports Israel doesn't mean Jews will feel represented," said Pat- rick Gaubert, president of the International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism. "One president is great, but it's not enough." Frederic Encel, a geopo- litical scholar and expert on French-Israel ties, says the situation is still far better than it was at the start of the second intifada. Some French authorities were seen then as explaining away anti-Jewish crime in France. Now the country has a president and foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, invested in broker,~ ing Middle East peace. On Jan. !6, Prime Minister Francois Fillon held a meet- ing of government ministers to prevent the import of the IsraeI-Hamas conflict to France. The meeting pledged swifter measures to punish perpetrators of xenophobic crimes, special judges trained in anti-Semitism and tighter security at pro-Palestinian protests, according to a report by the French news agency AFP. As the government fine- tunes its security measures, community dialogue activists say the Gaza war destroyed years of efforts to prevent a repetition of the violent reac- tion in France to the second intifada. On Jan. 19, the Grand Mosque of Paris confirmed to the JTA that its mem- bers had pulled out from r a major interreligious dia- Central Florida's Jewish preschool. Start your child off with a staff of educators who care. Half of our certified caregivers have spent an average of 13 years with us, exemplifying our dedication to early child development and to one another. At the JCC's Early Childhood Learning Center, lasting memories will be created as your child becomes fully prepared for their future. 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