By D. Bender
After a month of assaults in France against Jewish targets, including a brutal assault during a home invasion, and shooting attacks against shuls and other businesses, the Chief Rabbi of Paris, Rabbi Michel Guggenheim, has told the Israeli religious journal Shvi’i that the crisis is having “a powerful effect on the community.”
The attacks, which have taken place against a wave of stabbing and vehicular terror attacks by radical Muslims in several cities in France, have shocked many in the nearly 500,000-strong community.
Guggenheim, who is currently visiting Israel for a rabbinical conference, acknowledged that “Paris police are taking very severe measures against the phenomena, and, of course, we have no complaints against the security forces.”
He added, however, that “to my great regret, the judges aren’t handing down sentences sufficient to cause the individuals to think twice or deter them from their deeds.”
“There is a law that was passed that exacts a severe price for racist or antisemitic attacks. What good does it do us if there’s no deterrence?” he asked.
When asked if it was safe to walk around Paris as an identifiable Jews, Guggenheim replied, “It’s totally possible – but only in certain neighborhoods, and at certain times. Jewish schoolchildren walk around these areas without a problem.”
But, he added, “the present antisemitism we’re dealing with in France, we haven’t encountered before, and I really hope it calms down; there are neighborhoods it’s really not worth your while approaching wearing a kipa [skullcap].
“It’s more like Ramallah than Paris,” Guggenheim concluded.
The situation has become so dangerous that French President Francois Hollande used his New Year’s Eve television speech to say that the fight against racism and antisemitism will be his national cause for 2015.
Some 6,000 French Jews emigrated to Israel in 2014 – double the number a year earlier, and the greatest annual number of the 300,000 who have made their home in Israel since its creation in 1948. Jewish Agency officials responsible for their aliyah say they are expecting upwards of 10,000 immigrants in 2015.