MOSCOW — Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar is slated to lead a delegation of 500 young Jews to the Hyper Cacher supermarket near Paris where four Jewish shoppers were murdered.
The delegation’s member are between 18 and 28 years old and hail from cities across Russia. They are scheduled to leave from Moscow on May 1 for Poland, Berlin and France, Lazar told JTA.
In France, the delegation’s members will buy food at Hyper Cacher, the kosher supermarket where on January 9 an Islamic terrorist gunned down four Jews. “The idea is to support it with our presence and, symbolically, by shopping there, too,” Lazar said in an interview Sunday.
The delegation is part of the Russian Jewish community’s Eurostars program, in which participants learn about Europe’s Jewish communities and then travel to visit some of them. The trip next month will be the program’s third, but it will be the first time that France is included in the program, Lazar said.
“I remember a time when the Chabad emissary to France would go around kosher shops, to collect nearly-expired products to send them back here,” said Lazar, a Chabad rabbi from Italy who arrived to Russia in 1990. He is widely credited with overseeing the opening of dozens of synagogues and schools across Russia, where Jewish community life had gone underground under communism.
“Paradoxically, now we are returning to France to extend our support to that community,” he said.
Anti-Semitic incidents are rare in Russia, Lazar said during a meeting with members of the Limmud FSU Jewish learning group, adding that he feels “safer on the streets of Moscow than on the streets of other European countries.”
The Eurostars delegation will also visit the former death camp of Auschwitz in southern Poland and Berlin.
Approximately 80 of the participants in this year’s trip are from Moscow.