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On the day of a deadly attacking targeting Jews, shuttering the main synagogue in Paris was just plain wrong

Like most around the world this past week, I was horrified to see the events in France unfold. A friend and fellow comic, Dan Naturman, was actually in Paris performing, not only in English, but in French as well. Since according to Dan, “Liberman, your Hebrew stinks and is a soft four out of ten at best…” I’ll stick to English (even though Dan knows it’s more like a seven or eight).

I’ve taken Dan to Israel with me on the Comedy For Koby tour three times and he was on the very first tour more than ten years ago. I give him, Wayne Federman, and Gary Gulman a lot of credit to this day, since they had enough guts to step on a plane to Israel, which, if you didn’t know any better, you’d think was a very dangerous place. Not to compare the two, since terrorist acts, as we’ve unfortunately learned, can happen anywhere, but I’d still take the safety I feel in Israel over most other places any time.

I’d also go to Paris any time as well, and after an attack like this past week, that should be shoved down the throats of the murderous terrorists, and anyone who supported what they did. What’s sad to me though, is that the French, and French Jewry don’t seem to be reacting that way, at least from the one glaring event that sticks out to me.

I’m not going to presume I knew what the security situation was, or is, and I’m not going to pretend that I know anything more than anyone else who was watching the news, but the closure Friday night of the main synagogue in Paris for the first time since WWII, was a mistake. I know, easy for me to say, I wasn’t there. I’m not one of the four families who had to go through the Sabbath thinking about funeral arrangements instead of enjoying a nice dinner surrounded by family and friends.

But still, the synagogue shouldn’t close, ever.

I’m not sure who gave the direction to close it, and even if it was French security and police, the answer should have been no. “We’ll arrest whoever shows up!” Good. That means there will at least be police around. “It’s too dangerous!” I know, but sometimes there are things that are dangerous worth taking risks over. If Jews never took risks, there’d be no Israel.

What’s sad to me is not the closure itself, but that there was, or seems to be no outrage over it. There should have been a thousand Jews at Friday night services that night, showing terrorists, that you don’t win. You don’t change us, or take away our freedoms. I know I may be applying my duel American “USA! We’re number one!” obnoxious attitude here, or maybe some of the brash “Israeliness” that I fortunately (or unfortunately) display a little too much, but in this case, I think France, and all of Europe could use some.

I was lucky enough this past month to perform at Limmud UK, and it was a great experience. Thanks to my friend Judy Trotter, I even got to fulfill one my life’s dreams and play Natan Sharansky in a game of chess. I felt badly since he was tired from the flight so I let him win (I’ll be here all week). Right in the beginning of the conference I realized I needed a different plug for my laptop and went to the help desk. I proudly announced, “Your plugs in this country are wrong so I need an adaptor.” The people at the desk smiled, rolled their eyes at another obnoxious American, and helped me.

I can’t help thinking though that a European, Jewish or otherwise, would probably rarely or ever act that way. I’m thinking they should. There should be a little more, “we are right and you are wrong” when it comes to Europe.

My British friends tell me that displaying a Union Jack flag in your yard, is viewed as rude, or a sign that you are a member or a right wing party in favor of expelling immigrants. To me that is sad. Proud of being British, should be on full display, and doesn’t mean that you are offending anyone else by being so. Being French should be the same, and I think this past Friday night, France got it wrong.

Can you imagine a synagogue in Israel ever closing because of a terrorist attack? How quickly was the synagogue in Gush Etzion open after the terrorist attack there recently? I don’t think it ever actually closed. What do you think the reaction in America would have been after an event like that? I remember after 9/11, people flocked to synagogues to find comfort and search for leadership and answers.

Again, I’m no security expert and I may be wrong here, but if I was in Paris when this event took place, was lucky enough to be protected by the brave men and women in the French security forces, and I went looking for answers, I probably would head right for a synagogue. Unfortunately, one big one I know of would have been closed.

About the Author
Avi Liberman is a stand-up comic who was born in Israel, raised in Texas and now lives in Los Angeles. Avi founded Comedy for Koby, a bi-annual tour of Israel featuring some of America's top stand-up comedians.