Paris synagogue holds memorial for terror victims
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Paris synagogue holds memorial for terror victims

Father of Toulouse victim says France is ‘beginning to understand how us Jews have been living in recent years, and the reality in Israel’

Gilles Bernheim, former chief rabbi of France, speaks at the Grande Synagogue de la Victoire in Paris. The synagogue, and the Consistoire next door, are heavily barricaded against anti-Semitic violence. (AFP/Loic Venance)
Gilles Bernheim, former chief rabbi of France, speaks at the Grande Synagogue de la Victoire in Paris. The synagogue, and the Consistoire next door, are heavily barricaded against anti-Semitic violence. (AFP/Loic Venance)

Some 200 people gathered under heavy guard at a Paris synagogue to remember the victims of the terrorist attacks in the French capital on Friday night.

Led by the chief rabbi of France, Haim Korsia, leaders of French Jewry and Israel’s ambassador to France were among those who assembled at the Synagogue de la Victoire on Sunday evening.

“Our people, which has been tested more than others, knows the healing power of solidarity and unity in the face of the pain of torn families, broken couples and orphaned children,” said Michel Gugenheim, the chief rabbi of Paris, of the 132 fatalities and more than 350 wounded in multiple attacks.

The event included a prayer for the souls of the dead and a separate prayer, led by Rabbi Moche Lewin, director of the Conference of European Rabbis, for the speedy recovery of the wounded.

Korsia said that French Jews “feel with all intensity the pain of the families touched by the tragedy and the pain of the nation in general.” He added that “the act of gathering here is perhaps more significant than the speeches.” French society, he said, “will rise up from its grief like American society rose up from the tragedy of 9/11 and like Israeli society, which never lay down for attacks.”

Streets around the synagogue were cordoned off by police and army for the duration of the ceremony, where congregants underwent pat-downs and bag inspections.

The ceremony was held as many other activities of Jewish institutions in France were suspended for security reasons and out of respect for the victims of the attacks that rocked Paris in what French President Francois Hollande said was an “act of war” by the Islamic State terror group.

“Now ordinary French people are beginning to understand how us Jews have been living in recent years, and the reality in Israel,” Samuel Sandler, the father of Jonathan Sandler, who was killed in 2012 with two of his sons and another child during an Islamist attack at a Jewish school in Toulouse, told JTA at the gathering.

On hand for the ceremony were the president of the CRIF umbrella group, Roger Cukierman, and Sacha Reingewirtz, head of the Union of Jewish Students of France, as well as the ambassador, Aliza Bin-Nun.

At least eight terrorists are thought to have been involved. Seven died on Friday night, six by blowing themselves up and one who was shot by police. An eighth man, believed to be the brother of one of the other terrorists, was being sought on Sunday night by the police, who considered him armed and dangerous.

Thousands of people also turned out in Tel Aviv on Saturday evening in an expression of solidarity after the attacks. Former president Shimon Peres and French Ambassador to Israel Patrick Maisonnave were in attendance, as well as Interior Minister Silvan Shalom and opposition leader Isaac Herzog. In a further show of support, the Knesset was illuminated with the red, white and blue stripes of the French flag. The Tel Aviv municipality building followed suit, and from midnight on Saturday, a section of Jerusalem’s Old City wall was being illuminated with the colors of the tricolor.

Imam of the Drancy Mosque, Hassene Chalghoumi, attends a ceremony at the Grande Synagogue de la Victoire in Paris on November 15, 2015 for the victims of a series of deadly attacks in the French capital two days earlier. (AFP PHOTO/LOIC VENANCE)
Imam of the Drancy Mosque, Hassene Chalghoumi, attends a ceremony at the Grande Synagogue de la Victoire in Paris on November 15, 2015 for the victims of a series of deadly attacks in the French capital two days earlier. (AFP PHOTO/LOIC VENANCE)
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