Hundreds of French Jews gathered on Tuesday outside a Parisian kosher supermarket to commemorate the third anniversary of a supermarket hostage incident in which four men were killed.
The assault was the last of four shootings that struck the city over three days in January 2015, including an assault on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in which eleven journalists died.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and François Hollande, the former president, joined victims’ families for the evening commemoration outside the Hypercacher store in eastern Paris.
Tuesday’s ceremony took place just hours after a kosher supermarket was burned down in Créteil, to the southeast of the city. Swastikas had been found daubed on the wall of the store last week.
Community leaders said they were not jumping to conclusions by assuming the arson was an antisemitic act, but added they were concerned such attitudes remained a major threat in France.
“The arson in the supermarkets is too fresh to be commented on but if you look at the global situation, antisemitism is still very present,” said Francis Kalifat, the head of CRIF, an umbrella group that represents Jewish groups across France.
“Three years after the attack on Hypercacher the terror threat is still there and Jews are still one of the primary targets.
“I constantly remind authorities that Jews are specifically under threat so they would take that into account as they redeploy their troops across the country.”
At the commemoration, candles were lit in memory of Philippe Braham, François-Michel Saada, Yohan Cohen and Yoav Hattab, who reportedly lost their lives while trying to overcome hostage-taker Amedy Coulibaly.
White balloons were then released into the night sky before France’s chief rabbi Haïm Korsia prayed for the victims and for peace and security in France, and recited the Kaddish.
The ceremony officially ended with the French national anthem Le Marseillaise, but dozens of people in the crowd followed it with Israel’s Hatikvah.
A total of 17 people were killed in the wave of violence – launched by Coulibaly and the two Kouachi brothers, Chérif and Saïd – that swept Paris in January 2015.
The kosher supermarket siege ended when police stormed the building, freeing 15 hostages and gunning down Coulibaly.
They were followed in November 2015 by a series of coordinated attacks on a Paris football stadium, cafes, restaurants, and the Bataclan theatre, killing 130 people in all.
French authorities responded by redeploying soldiers to provide visible protection in the streets, including to Jewish buildings and institutions.
But Gil Taieb, a Jewish community leader in Paris, said antisemites had become emboldened in the years since the attacks.
“Add the arson in those grocery stores on this very day to the recent decision to reprint antisemitic pamphlets written by Louis-Ferdinand Céline and you’ll realize that antisemites feel strong and free to express themselves,” he said.
“If we don’t condemn Islamists, they gain ground. We have to be tougher. We have to show that the power is not in the hands of those who want to frighten us.