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Thousands of French Jews check out aliyah

JTA

May 7, 2012 | 10:16 am

France's newly-elected President Francois Hollande waves from a balcony at his campaign headquarters in Paris on May 7. Photo by REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier

France's newly-elected President Francois Hollande waves from a balcony at his campaign headquarters in Paris on May 7. Photo by REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier

Some 5,000 French Jews participated in an aliyah fair in Paris.

The fair, organized and run by the Jewish Agency, took place Sunday as French voters went to the polls and elected Francois Hollande as their new president, beating incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy, considered the favored choice in the Jewish community.

“I cannot recall having seen such a massive number of people interested in aliyah since the days when lines of people stretched out of the Israeli embassy in Moscow,” said Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, who attended the fair. The annual fair usually attracts about 2,000 visitors, according to the Jewish Agency.

The French Jewish community is the largest in Europe, with some 500,000 members, according to the Jewish Agency.

The fair comes on the heels of an attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse in which a rabbi and his two young sons and the daughter of the head of the school were killed.

On a visit Monday to Toulouse, Sharansky said the Jewish Agency and the Israel Trauma Coalition will send counselors to the Ozar Hatorah school from Israel in the coming days, followed by a delegation of Israeli youth counselors. The professionals are charged with helping the students and their parents, as well as the teaching staff, return to their normal routine following the March attack.

“I came to Toulouse in order to strengthen the children and the community, but also to remind them that the Jewish Agency will strengthen their connection to Israel and assist those who are interested in making aliyah,” said Sharansky, though he added that aliyah should not be based solely on a tragedy like the one in Toulouse.

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