Terror in Paris

Dear Congregants and Friends,
It has been a difficult week for France, for the world, and for the Jewish people. We have been riveted to our televisions once again by a vicious terrorist attack, this time in Paris.  We have seen a radical Islamic attack against the exercise of free speech, against the institutions of the French Republic and against her Jewish citizens. It is reminiscent of the al-Queda inspired attack in Toulouse in 2012. Then, one Mohammed Mera first targeted French soldiers before turning his sites on a Jewish school, where he murdered a rabbi who taught at the school, his two sons, and a third student. Those acts of terror too led to a dramatic manhunt that ended in a shootout that killed the perpetrator.  Afterwards there was widespread condemnation of the act by world leaders, including prominent Muslims. There were marches that attracted thousands of people who were horrified by the deadly act and investigations into whether the French intelligence services could have done more to prevent the killings. In many ways, it seems the terrorist attacks in Paris this past week followed the pattern set in Toulouse just two and one half years ago.
There have been at least six serious anti-Semitic attacks directed against individuals and Jewish institutions in France in the six months prior to this one. Nothing seems to have changed in France since 2012, despite the marches, despite the condemnations, despite the declarations of everyone’s good intentions.  In fact, things have gotten worse.  “Being a Jew in Paris in 2014 is a little bit risky,” said one recent new immigrant to Israel from France, “you can feel it every day.” Jews in France have been feeling insecure for a number of years. The increasingly hostile environment for Jews has led to the emigration of 5000 French Jews to Israel in 2014. This represents 1% of the entire Jewish population of France. One recent poll reports that 74% of Jews living in France have considered Aliyah to Israel.
This past week we began reading the Book of Exodus in our synagogues. It begins with the story or two courageous women who defy Pharaoh by refusing to carry out his decree to kill all the Hebrew male infants at birth. It continues when Pharaoh’s own daughter defies her father by bringing baby Moses into the palace to raise him.  These brave acts of civil disobedience are followed with the rise to leadership of Moses and Aaron, leaders who guided the Jewish people with courage and with wisdom. We pray for leaders in our own time who can inspire us to stand bravely against tyranny and to fight for human dignity. We too pray for the courage to do what is right and just. Our hearts and prayers are with all the victims of the attack in Paris and their families. Let us work toward a world where we can all live securely and without fear, and with respect for one another.
Rabbi Marc D. Rudolph