The French Jewish community, at 550,000, is the largest in Europe, and many Jews say the targeting of their children represents an attack on the future. But many Jews say if there is any silver lining to the horrific tragedy, it is the universal solidarity and revulsion shown by all of France and its communities.
Gilles Bernheim, the grand rabbi of France, said Tuesday, "We are first of all French, Jewish or Muslim, attached to these [French] values, and when a religious community is attacked, as was the case in Toulouse through its school, it is also France that is being attacked.”
“My wife was crying when she told me, and I could not at first believe,” says Immanuel, a recent immigrant who was waiting outside a synagogue and said his wife was Israeli. “I don’t care if it is a Jew, a black, any person, it is shooting a child. Your children are everything. Who touches a child? Who grabs a girl by her hair with a gun? Who shoots? What kind of man is that?
“We’ve had a Muslim killed, a black, and now the Jews…it seems like we have a French Breivik,” he says, referring to Anders Breivik, the Norwegian extremist who claimed to be a new crusader in killing more than 60 youths at a summer camp run by a center-left Norwegian party that promoted multiculturalism.
Messas says the most heartening thing in the aftermath is the overwhelming condemnation, the public marches and the cessation of the political campaigns in France, out of respect. “All the people of France are shocked … they have spoken about it all the time. Everyone, Sarkozy, all the [political] parties, have stopped campaigning.”
"It's a terrible personal tragedy. A family torn, a stunned Jewish community, we are all in shock,” says Richard Prasquier, president of the Representive Council of Jewish Institutions in France. “But what I would say is that I have seen in our country a national admirable response."