Only five months after the horror, shul security is waning

Letter from Paris


In the wake of the siege and killings at the Hyper Cacher supermarket in Paris in January, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve announced that all Jewish schools and synagogues in France would be protected around the clock by armed guards. Delightful scenes emerged of soldiers dancing with congregants during festivities, and stories abounded of women providing vast amounts of food for them to enjoy during services, bringing an almost joyful sheen to the feeling of deep insecurity among French Jews.

Almost five months later, the truth is that this military protection is, unofficially, waning.

Congregants at some synagogues, particularly those outside urban centres, have recently noted that at some non-religious evening events, soldiers are present at the beginning as participants arrive, but leave soon afterwards, leaving the buildings and the people inside unprotected.

Some small shuls have been told that they will not be guarded for an event that has fewer than ten participants - this particularly has an impact on Orthodox communities, where a few congregrants come regularly to pray every morning.

It a sensitive issue, underlined by the fact that a representative of the Crif, the representative body for French Jewish organisations, declined to respond to a request for a comment.

Meanwhile, antisemitic incidents, albeit mostly relatively slight, continue to take place on a daily basis.

The rabbi of a small Orthodox community on the outskirts of Paris, who asked not to be named, says his synagogue is now under fairly minimal protection. "Realistically, we knew that level of protection wouldn't last. It couldn't. At some point we won't have any state protection any more, so I'm planning to put in bulletproof windows and stronger locks on the front door. In fact I think that it's more reassuring than otherwise - it means that the immediate threat level has gone down."

It is true that the heightened tension that ensued after the January attacks has waned. For weeks after the attacks, the Rue des Rosiers, a bustling street in the heart of the Marais that is usually thronged with tourists and locals, was noticeably subdued. Today, the atmosphere is as lively as ever.

The soldiers guarding the yeshivot and shuls are relaxed and chatty in the sunshine. The sense of dread that pervaded Paris at the beginning of the year has dissipated, though the floral tributes outside the recently reopened Hyper Cacher are still there, their petals long since fallen.

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