Hadassah Executive Director/CEO Janice Weinman reports on her recent chilling mission to Paris
There are over 500,000 Jews in France, the third highest number in the world. Since 2014 there has been a 101% increase in anti-Semitism in France and more than 850 anti-Semitic incidents. While the Jews constitute 1% of the total French population, they were the target of 51% of hate crimes in 2014.
But these statistics do not come close to reflecting the pain, the anxiety and the fear that the Jewish population experiences in France. My meetings with young and old, rich and poor, public officials and private citizens reflects a conviction that history might repeat itself. And, the community feels completely unprepared and unequipped to deal with that potential reality.
While the French government is trying to protect its citizens from unexpected verbal, physical or dangerous acts it is difficult to anticipate every possibility. While French law clearly provides a framework in which to punish hate crimes, once they are committed, a life can be lost, a person can be injured and a community can be terrorized.
The sense of impeding threats has stimulated a widely discussed and anticipated Aliyah to Israel. While this is a positive move, we cannot lose our presence in the diaspora because of fear. Immigration to Israel should be based on a desire for our homeland rather than a fleeing for refuge.
Hadassah has begun conversations with the State Department, the U.S. Commission to the U.N. and other organizations to address this issue. Let us hope that the collective efforts of these entities will successfully provide measures to reduce anti-Semitism’s current spread.