Elaine Rosenberg Miller

Le Terrorisme

It was Shabbat and I was in Paris so I decided to go to the Grand Synagogue of Paris (also known Synagogue de la Victoire) with a family member.  
The streets approaching the synagogue were narrow and I had to repeatedly stop and let the person going in the opposite direction pass.
Finally, we reached the building.
It was a tall Byzantine-inspired edifice.
A uniformed and armed man motioned for us to go around to the front.
We passed through a security post and entered the synagogue.
I opened the door and faced a huge sanctuary with high ceilings, stained glass windows and a wide, wrap around balcony..
The bimah was located about 2/3 into the room. Behind it was a long ascending stairway leading to the Aron Kodesh 
The women were seated along the perimeter of the first floor.
I thought I’d try out my college French.
“Pardon madame, “I said to a friendly-looking woman, “Ou se trouve les siddurs?”
“Over there,” she said gesturing.  “I’m an American,” she added.
I sat on a wooden pew and watched the service.
The Askenazi tunes were familiar.
A handsome young boy expertly read the morning prayers, then went on to read the torah and I soon realized that this was the day of his bar mitzvah.
A well trained male choir added much to the service.
The rabbi was energetic and friendly.
I watched the women in my section come and go.
They would kiss each other on both cheeks. 
I wondered if the elderly ones had been child survivors of the Holocaust.
The First and Second Wars, I thought,, continue to hang heavily over the Parisian people, especially the Jews.
The boy stepped forward to deliver a speech.
His soft voice was lost in the cavernous interior of the Grand Synagogue.
Suddenly, he broke down, unable to go on.
I didn’t understand. He had done everything so expertly and confidently.
The Rabbi came up behind him, embraced him, smiled and whispered in his ear.
The boy struggled.
After a while, he began again.
The service concluded.
“Do you know what happened?”, I asked the American woman. 
“His grandmother was killed in the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh,” she said.
I stared at her.
“My husband and I were friends with his grandmother.”
We walked outside for kiddish.
Standing among the milling congregants, I looked up and noticed a series of floor to ceiling stone panels with hundreds of engraved names on the back wall. At the top of each plaque were the words “Morts Pour La France 1914-1918”.
“I know someone who lost an uncle in World War I,” I told my relative.
After a short search we found his name.
He had been 19.
His niece, now in her 90s, had told me that her grandfather had received a medal.
Just before the Germans occupied Paris, he removed it, lay down and died.
About the Author
Elaine Rosenberg Miller writes fiction and non-fiction. Her work has appeared in numerous print publications and online sites, domestically and abroad, including JUDISCHE RUNDSCHAU, THE BANGALORE REVIEW, THE FORWARD, THE HUFFINGTON POST and THE JEWISH PRESS. Her books,, FISHING IN THE INTERCOASTAL AND OTHER SHORT STORIES, THE CHINESE JEW. THE TRUST and PALMBEACHTOWN are available on Amazon and Kindle.