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En Garde in France

Binyamin Rose, Toulouse, France

Is there a future for the Jews of Europe? While that question may not be new, a more pressing one is arising: How do Europe’s Jews manage their uncertain present?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The ride from the Jewish Community Center in Toulouse toward Rue Jules Dalou took less than ten minutes, but as the oversized tourist bus maneuvered along the narrow streets of cramped, stucco and brick houses, one large building in the middle of the street stood out. It was the Ozar Hatorah School in Toulouse, the only building in the area with a high exterior wall, security cameras, and topped by barbed wire. This was the same school attacked by a homegrown French terrorist on the morning of March 19, 2012, just as parents were dropping off their children for the day. Dismounting from a motorbike, the terrorist sprayed bullets from a Colt 45 pistol, killing Rabbi Yonoson Sandler, his two sons, six-year old Aryeh and three-year old Gavriel, and the principal’s seven-year old daughter Miriam Monsenego. On this day, a little more than three years later, the schoolyard was deserted, as schools were closed for a national holiday. But the synagogue inside the complex, renamed Ohr Hatorah following the terrorist attack, was packed for Shacharis and a memorial service for the victims, timed to coincide with a European-wide rabbinical gathering. Rabbi Yaacov Monsenego bowed his head perceptibly as the chazzan, Netanel Iluvitsky, spoke Miriam’s name, among the other victims, while intoning the Kel Malei Rachamim. The crowd hushed as Rabbi Monsenego, who has not granted any interviews since his daughter’s murder, stepped up to the podium. He quoted from the morning Shacharis service: “When the angels accept the Kingship of Hashem, they do so ‘zeh mi zeh.’ One from the other.” And that’s precisely how the Jews of Toulouse responded in the aftermath of their tragedy. “Everyone strengthened each other and drew strength from the other. We’re trying to move forward, to heal, but hopefully without further trials and tribulations,” he said. A Europe without trials and tribulations, where Jews can feel safe to walk freely as Jews in the streets and practice their religion openly, seems like an impossible dream on a continent beset with anti-Semitism from the extreme political left and right, and deluged with Muslim immigrants from the Middle East.

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