December 1, 2015

Europe as a Kosher Destination; Has it Changed Forever?

It has been more than 33 years since the horrific terrorist attack on the Chez Jo Goldenberg restaurant attack in the Marais district of Paris. Six patrons were killed and 22 injured in the grenade and machine gun attack. Last year, three Jewish patrons of Cach Cacher were killed during the infamous day of attacks that included the magazine Charlie Hebdo. After the attack on Goldenberg, many prophesized that French Jews, the largest Jewish community in Western Europe would leave but in reality the community grew much stronger, including the many new kosher restaurants and kosher supermarket chains that have been launched since. Last year’s attack did far more damage as many French Jews at least took steps to prepare for what many saw as their ultimate need to emigrate to Israel. Many Jewish restaurants throughout Europe are now routinely patrolled by police. In Milan, there was a knifing outside a restaurant. In Brussels and Vienna, almost every Jewish institution is guarded. But as all this was going on, there were several new restaurant openings in Paris and even one in Berlin.

For kosher tourists visits to cities like Paris included the ultimate experience of eating authentic French kosher cuisine. With the increasing threat by ISIS, there is certain to be a drop-off in tourism. I long for the days when a city like Paris was a kosher experience. Jews openly sat in  outdoor kosher cafes and enjoyed the Turkish coffee and exotic pastries (including the heavenly tasting croissants in the morning). There were many kosher options in the Marais section (known as the “pletzel” by Ashkenazic Jews), which is where the Goldenberg attack took place. You could walk into a kosher store without a van of gendarmes sitting outside. Many smaller shuls openly identified themselves; today the signs have been removed on many. Is this a sign that unlike Goldenberg’s, Jewish Paris has changed forever or even more that its demise was only a matter of time? Sadly, only time will tell!