The attack at a French Jewish school yesterday that left four dead has shaken France’s Jewish community. There are still many unknowns from yesterday’s attack. But the murders have been linked to two earlier shootings of French paratroopers and details have emerged that the gunman had a camera rolling as he gunned down a teacher and three students outside the Jewish school in Toulouse.
The victims are going to be buried in Israel. Meanwhile, again evoking the horror of the North Valley JCC shootings in the San Fernando Valley, French Jews are trying to reconstruct their shattered sense of safety.
On Monday night, thousands of Jews and non-Jews, including politicians, gathered in Paris for a silent demonstration organized by the French Union of Jewish Students. One banner among the many French flags held aloft by the marchers read, “In France, Blacks, Jews and Arabs are killed.”
“It could have been anyone’s child,” said Jacques Benichou, the executive director of the Fonds Social Juif Unifié, the main French Jewish welfare organization, in a phone interview as he was boarding a plane for Paris Monday night after spending a large part of the day with Jewish leaders in Toulouse. “Even if the killer was targeting other minorities, there’s no escaping that he targeted Jewish children as well. We all feel deeply sad and very alarmed.”
Nicole Yardeni, one of the leaders of the Toulouse area branch of the CRIF, France’s main Jewish umbrella organization, said she was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support after the shooting.
“What I’m focusing on is how we feel about the outpouring of support from our neighbors, the country and beyond the country that came so quickly,” she said Tuesday. “Even the Jewish community of Istanbul has called us. And not just Jews; many people all over the world have reached out. It has been such a great help. We never expected such an outpouring of support.”
Yardeni’s son attended Ozar Hatorah a few years ago and she, like many in the 20,000- to 30,000-strong Jewish community in Toulouse, knew parents and teachers at the school.
She said the Paris-born rabbi killed in the attack, Jonathan Sandler, 30, was an enormously well-liked teacher who had just begun work at the school in July. Not everyone knew that he was an alumnus of Ozar Hatorah and, after 10 years of study and training in Israel, had decided to return.
“He wanted to give back to this school who had given him so much,” Yardeni said.
Tragic and heartbreaking doesn’t convey it.