French Chief Rabbi Chaim Korsia at a meeting with French and French speaking Jews in New York this week issued an unusual invitation:
Come and see us in Paris, and tell your friends to come, things are better than most people think.”
Now, with the greatest respect to the good Rabbi, the term “Orwellian” springs to mind. Clearly, he has a job to do, but his idea of “better than most people think” is certainly interesting.
If most people think that that there are armed troops openly patrolling the streets and that Jewish institutions are guarded by a phalanx of armed soldiers, and that Jews are afraid to walk in public displaying obvious signs of Judaism, such as kippot or Jewish themed Jewelry, and that synagogues, Jewish schools and Jewish institutions are no–go zones surrounded by armed guards, soldiers and concrete blocks, and that everywhere Jewish children go; to their Jewish schools, to their youth movement meetings, to synagogue services they have to be escorted in groups with guards, and that Jews do not even put Mezuzot on their doors for fear of reprisal, they would be correct.
So what does he mean when he says that it is better than that? I’m trying to figure it out.
Recently I was in Paris on the way to Israel and managed to get a sense of the mood of the French Jews. One could sum up the atmosphere with one word; there was a palpable sense of “FEAR.” I was the only person walking around the famed Marais Jewish district with a kippah.
This past summer in the midst of “Operation Protective Edge” I vividly recall listening to a new Olah (immigrant) from France being interviewed upon her arrival to Israel and asked if she was scared. She answered that everywhere Jews are threatened. The difference is that in our own country, we can fight back and defend Jewish honour and dignity and do not have to rely on the pity of our host nations.
Now if this was the 1930’s, when there was “no where to run and nowhere to hide” I could understand, but today there is a place to raise ones Jewish children with dignity and without fear. There is a place where one can stand proud and tall and declare “Je suis Juif!” That place is,
The hope of two thousand years, the land of Zion.”