January 12, 2015

France, a Sinking Feeling

The events of the last few days in Paris have touched every decent and fair-minded human being. But as much as I mourn for the four Jews who tragically lost their lives as they made last minute purchases for Shabbat at a kosher supermarket, I also mourn for the France I used to visit frequently and actually admired. I enjoyed visiting a dynamic Jewish community that was visibly Jewish. I cherished the excellent cuisine at a network of restaurants that lined many French neighborhoods. I long for the croissants on Rue Richer without which I could not say good morning. What a special treat it was to walk in the Marais, once known as the “pletzel.” I particularly was on a high during Shabbat watching Jews rush to the synagogue and people greet each other with “Shabbat Shalom.”

Now many of these Jews hide their identity. They wear caps instead of yarmulkes. Signs on some of the shuls have been removed and an atmosphere of fear is ever present. Instead of growing the community, the Jews of France are seriously thinking of leaving. Many of the restaurants I enjoyed have closed. I have no doubt that French Jews will be resilient and that there somehow will be a continued Jewish presence as it has been for over a millennium. I have no doubt that those Jews who will leave will do well in Israel or wherever they settle. But I also have no doubt that France will miss some of their finest citizens who have contributed far more than they received. If anything, the terrorists have managed to throw a spotlight on an incredible community. Long before kosher had developed here and in in Israel, the French already put kosher on a pedestal that was to spread to other communities. The Hypercacher supermarket is an upscale kosher supermarket that again showed the leadership of the French when it comes to kosher food. Yes, as I think of the events of the last few days in Paris, I have to admit that I have a sinking feeling about the Paris I used to visit and love.