French Jewish leaders' 'shock' at shooting

By Jessica Elgot, March 19, 2012
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Four people have been murdered by a gunman on a motorbike

Four people have been murdered by a gunman on a motorbike

French Jewish leaders have expressed their shock and horror at the shooting at a Jewish school in Toulouse which killed at least two pupils and an adult.

The Chief Rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim, told Le Monde he was departing immediately for Toulouse, south west France. He said: "I am horrified by what happened this morning in Toulouse at the Jewish school", saying he was "bruised in my body and my soul. I am terribly upset and I go immediately to Toulouse."

Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks said: “I am deeply shocked and saddened by the atrocious acts of murder in Toulouse this morning. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the victims and the entire community of Toulouse for whom today’s tragedy will cast a long and dark shadow.

"We pray that the Almighty brings comfort to the children, parents and teachers at the Ozar HaTorah school and that the injured are speedily restored to full health.”

The Conference of European Rabbis has expressed its shock and sadness following the murders. CER President, Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt said: "This horrific act is indicative of a society where intolerance is allowed to fester. We call upon the French authorities to take all steps to ensure that the perpetrator of this act is found and brought to justice."

“There is today an urgent need to ensure that appropriate security measures are put in place at all Jewish institutions in Europe to ensure that the safety of Jews on this continent is not placed in jeopardy."

French election candidates also expressed their sorrow and President Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist candidate Francois Hollande. Mr Sarkozy said he was "departing in a few moments in Toulouse" calling it an "abominable and terrible tragedy".

Education Minister Luc Chatel and Richard Prasquier, president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF) will accompany the President.

Mr Hollande expressed his "solidarity with the families and the Jewish community of France", adding "the whole nation is in mourning."

Marine Le Pen, National Front candidate, condemned "the criminal gunfire that hit a Jewish private school in Toulouse" and asked "the authorities to do everything possible to prevent another tragedy."

Leaders across the world echoed the sentiments of the French Jewish leaders and expressed their horror and sympathy.

CST issued a security notice to all Jewish schools and communal organisations in the UK, urging vigilance. It said: "CST is not aware of any specific information indicating a threat to the UK Jewish community, but this is a reminder of the general threat of terrorism to Jewish schools and other communal buildings. CST will continue to liaise with police and our counterparts in the French Jewish community as the exact details of this incident continue to emerge."

A spokesman added: "CST is appalled by this senseless attack on innocent Jewish schoolchildren and teachers. We extend our deepest sympathy and solidarity to the French Jewish community at this tragic event."

In a statement the Board of Deputies of British Jews said: "We are shocked and appalled by the senseless murder of four people, including three children, outside the Ozar HaTorah Jewish school in Toulouse, France.

Jewish and world leaders expressed their shock and sorrow at the murders

Jewish and world leaders expressed their shock and sorrow at the murders

"This attack is a terrible reminder of the threat which minorities across Europe face from extremists of all political persuasions. All right-minded people must unite to reject their baseless hatred and bring whoever is responsible for this attack to justice."

A spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Israel is "horrified" and urged the French police "to shed light on this tragedy and bring the perpetrators of these murders to justice. We are emotionally following what is going on emotionally."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "Today we had a savage crime in France that gunned down French Jews, among them children. It’s too early to say what the precise background for this act of murder is, but I think that we can’t rule out that there was a strong murderous antisemitic motive here.

"I’m sure that Nicolas Sarkozy, the President of France, and his government will do their utmost to find the killer and we, in Israel, will do everything to help them in this task."

The Simon Wiesenthal Centre's Director for International Relations, Dr Shimon Samuels, called on French Interior Minister, Claude Guéant, to secure all Jewish institutions in the wake of the shooting.

Dr Samuels said: "While the number of casualties in this assault is still unknown, it is clear that antisemitic hate speech in France has crossed a new threshold.

"The reported inflammatory discourse of the Anti-Zionist Party of France can encourage this type of violence just as, in the pre-war period, antisemitic parties of East/Central Europe set the path for the Holocaust. The perpetrators of this outrage must be promptly arrested and prosecuted."

The American Jewish Committee's executive director David Harris called the shooting "tragic, awful news" and added: "Our prayers are with the grieving school community, as we hope for the full recovery of those injured. This is a brazen assault on France and French society, and another telling reminder of the dangers that exist for Jewish communities in today's world.

"We count on French authorities to pursue the investigation vigorously, arrest whoever is involved, and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law, as well as review security at Jewish institutions. We have confidence they will."

AJC Paris, headed by Simone Rodan, said it had been in close touch with officials and community representatives since the shooting occurred.

Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, said: “Today, Jews everywhere in the world are weeping in sorrow and disgust in the face of this despicable terrorist attack. Targeting children is a particularly sick and vile act, and nothing can justify it. This attack is an attack on all of us.

“We have full confidence that the French authorities will do everything in their power to quickly hunt down the perpetrator of this horrible crime and bring him to justice. Jews in all countries stand shoulder to shoulder with French Jewry. We weep for the victims, and our hearts go out to their families."

B’nai B’rith International president Allan Jacobs called the attack “a despicable act.” He continued: “Violence in any form is reprehensible, but for it to take place at a school is especially horrendous. Our hearts go out to the victims, and we pray for the recovery of those injured.”

A spokesman for the Movement for Reform Judaism said "Our hearts and prayers go out to the families of those affected by these terrible shootings.

"Nevertheless, it is important not to leap to conclusions about the motives of the attacker and we also share the grief of other non-Jewish victims of similar attacks over the past week."

Theresa Villiers, MP for Chipping Barnet, said: "Racist and antisemitic attacks are absolutely unacceptable in a civilised society. It is a huge concern that antisemitism is still a reality for the Jewish community, including in Britain."

She added that it was "deeply regrettable" that synagogues and Jewish schools in this country need extra security measures.

"This incident demonstrates how important those measures are," she added.

The chairs of the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester expressed their deepest sympathies "to all our friends in France" and to families and friends of the other innocent victims of these attacks.

"We must all unite together against all mindless crimes of hate, pray for strength and peace in the wake of this tragedy, and hope that the perpetrator of this vile act is apprehended very soon," they said.

Last updated: 11:09am, March 20 2012