Shmuel Polin
ניט מיט שעלטן/לאַכן קען מען די וועלט איבערמאַכן

Are the attacks on Jews in France pogroms?

Recently I published several articles (see links below) on the wave of attacks against Jews in France.  I expected to “stir the pot” and expected some constructive feedback.

The first of the articles, pours onto paper the series of major attacks, race riots, or pogroms beginning with the school shooting that targeted members of the French-Jewish community in Toulouse, France in 2012.  It cites the “attack outside a Jewish school that killed a rabbi and three young children.”   The article ends with the most recent riots, citing for the third time this past week that “pro-Palestinian activists have clashed with the city’s Jewish residents.”  Residents reported in the most recent attacks, rioters chanting “Gas the Jews” and “Kill the Jews”, as they attacked businesses in the Sarcelles district, also known as “Little Jerusalem”.

The other article sheds light on relative inactivity of NGOs, which should be monitoring the spike in Anti-Semitism in Europe.

In both of these articles, the word “Pogrom” was used when identifying the riots targeting Jews. Unfortunately, many news venues strayed away from the word, or used it sparingly in reporting.  Which begs the question for the readers:  Are these widespread attacks on Jews “Pogroms”?

The case seems to be rather intuitive to myself.  France has unfortunately been a host for a new wave of Pogroms in Europe.  When we pull apart the terminology it seem even more painfully obvious.  According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary: “An organized massacre of helpless people; specifically:  such a massacre of Jews.” It is derived from Yiddish, and means in the mama loshon (mother tong)  “devastation or destruction.”

The riots in France fit the terminology consistently.  Where it gets fuzzy is with the word “massacre.”  How many deaths, injuries, sacked businesses, rapes, ect, constitute a “massacre”?  “Massacre” is less easily defined.

Some pogroms, like the Mlawa Pogrom, accounted for no casualties, however the material loss, beckoned the name.

The problem as I see it,  is not about proper terminology of the word “Pogrom”, but instead the following:  We (Jews and Non-Jews alike) have become increasingly more disconnected and desensitized to European Jewry.   The Holocaust killed 6 million Jews.  But it also killed widespread sympathy for European Jewry.  “Go home to Israel” is a slogan not only used today by the anti-Semites, but also many Jews.

It is time we again sensitize ourselves to the suffering of European Jewry.

We can begin with calling it what it is #Pogrom #JeSuisJuif every story about attacks on French Jews to Twitters for non-governmental organizations and French twitter accounts @hwr (human rights watch), @franceintheus (French embassy in the U.S)




About the Author
Shmuel Polin is a third year rabbinical student at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR). A Greater Philadelphia/New Jersey native of Israeli-American nationality, he completed his B.A. at American University in Washington D.C. where he studied Jewish Studies and International Studies. He also completed both a M.A. in Holocaust and Genocide Studies and a M.A. in Jewish Studies from Gratz College of Melrose Park, Pennsylvania. His thesis focused on the depiction of European anti-semitism in 1930's-1940's American and foreign cinema. Shmuel has years of experience from teaching Hebrew School at Kehillat HaNahar of New Hope, Pennsylvania, leading Shabbat and Holiday services at Greenwood House in Trenton, New Jersey, and also working for Israeli non-governmental organizations. Currently, in Cincinnati, he leads services for Beth Boruk, in Richmount, IN and teaches at Adath Israel in Cincinnati.
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