I had intended to write today about a visit during my family’s December vacation in Atlanta at the Ebenezer Baptist Church. I wanted to tie that into this Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend when we recall King’s struggle for civil rights in this country. However, recent events have unfortunately redirected my message.
Nearly three years ago I was in Israel for Jewish Agency for Israel meetings. While there, the shooting at the Jewish school in Toulouse, France took place, killing four people. I had the true honor to represent our Federation system with Becky Caspi, the Director General of the Jewish Federations of North America’s Israel office, at the funeral in Jerusalem for school children murdered by a terrorist.
It was a powerful moment. I recall the hot sun, the frustration with the wall to wall traffic, the hike we had to take from where we parked our car to the grave site and the sea of hundreds of thousands who came to show their respects.
Then, last week, another instance of Jews being targeted in France at the Kosher market in Paris – just for being Jewish. My memories of that funeral in March 2012 stirred inside me as I watched the funerals from Jerusalem from this latest murder plot.
Woody Ostrow, our Chair of the Board, and I wrote a letter to the leadership of the French Jewish community to express our community’s condolences. Amazingly, in the midst of all that they have to deal with, we received a letter back two days ago. It begins by stating:
We have read your words of solidarity and would like to sincerely thank you. We are deeply touched. Thank you for standing with us.
The letter goes on to state that their major communal need right now is improving and increasing security at Jewish institutions. Our Federation system, in complete coordination with the French Jewish community, has launched an effort called the France Emergency Fund. We invite you todonate now to be part of our collective approach to assist a proud Jewish community in its time of need. In addition, you can send a letter of support to the French Jewish community’s leadership. All of the details can be found by clicking here.
The increase in Aliyah from France to Israel has been widely reported in the general media (New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NBC News, etc). Our overseas partner agency, the Jewish Agency, sent us a communication stating:
The work of French Aliyah has taken place without special campaigns and fanfare. We have dramatically increased our staffing in both France and Israel to accommodate the rise in inquiries about and applications for Aliyah. We have conducted numerous Aliyah fairs. And we have adapted our “klitah” (absorption) programs in Israel to meet the needs of rising numbers of French Jews. We have supported Masa trips for ever larger numbers of French young adults, many of whom are making the decision to remain in Israel. We have done this, in large measure, with the collective funds we receive from the federations.
The financial assistance to help those who choose to make Aliyah is there because of your support of our 2015 Annual Campaign. Thank you.
Je Suis Juif! Shabbat Shalom.