Today in France, the Shoah flashbacks keep on coming


A remarkable ceremony took place last Sunday at the Rabbinical School of France in Paris.

Samuel Sandler, the head of the Versailles Jewish community, donated a Torah scroll dedicated to the memory of the four victims of the Toulouse massacre in 2012: his son, Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, 30; his grandsons Aryeh and Gabriel, aged six and three, and his little cousin Myriam Monsenego, eight. All four of them had been shot at point blank range by a jihadi terrorist trained in the Middle East.

Haim Korsia and Michel Guggenheim, respectively the Chief Rabbis of France and Paris, were at the ceremony, as well as Joel Mergui, the chairman of the Consistoire (the national union of French synagogues), several government officials, and the head of the Muslim community in Versailles.

Mr Sandler also donated a Torah mantle which his father, Robert Sandler, had purchased 50 years ago in almost unbelievable circumstances.

The Torah mantle had been on display in the window of a shop specialising in Christian books and religious items. Mr Sandler's father entered the shop and asked where it came from. He was told that an unknown person had asked the mantle to be embroidered shortly before the war and had never come back for it. Realising that the owner had probably perished in the Holocaust, he saw it as a duty to make sure it would be used for the purposes it had been intended for.

"I would never have imagined that this mantle, rescued from the wreckage of Jewish life and religion, would one day be associated with another Jewish tragedy," Mr Sandler said.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls is to meet the Consistoire Council at the Paris Great Synagogue shortly before the High Holy Days.

No doubt he will reiterate the government's commitment to French Jews' safety. It is a fact, however, that a growing number feel deeply unsure about their future.

No less than 4,655 French Jews have finalised their aliyah to Israel in just eight months, from January 1 to August 31. According to Ariel Kandel, the Jewish Agency director for France, there will be 6,000 French olim by the end of the year.

Many Jews are leaving for other countries, especially the US. According to the New York Observer, French Jews have invested $1.44bn in property in New York over the past 12 months.

Another sign of Jewish fears is that some of them may be swinging to the far right. According to Ifop, a leading pollster, 13.5 per cent of French Jewish voters cast a ballot for Marine Le Pen, the National Front candidate, in the 2012 presidential election.

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