Shep Englander — Federation Journal
On Paris attacks and the American Jewish community’s response
Like me, I know you were horrified by the terror attacks in France last week.
These murders were particularly shocking because they took place in Paris. When my father was growing up in a poor immigrant neighborhood in the Bronx, learning French transformed his self-image because it symbolized entry into the world’s most cosmopolitan civilization. Visiting Paris was his dream. All this inspired me, and countless other Jewish students, to learn French and study abroad in France.
France has the largest Jewish population in the Diaspora after America. For centuries, French Jews have proudly led from the highest levels of French political, business, artistic, and intellectual life. In fact, my mother’s family thrived in France for generations. So it is horrifying that last week’s attacks were not the first but only the continuation of decades of violent attacks by Islamist extremists specifically targeting French Jews. We cannot stand idly by.
As a supporter of the Jewish Federation, you should know that your investment supports a global system to respond to such crises:
- The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) is coordinating with the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office and the French Jewish community’s Service de Protection de la Communauté Juive (SPCJ) to ensure that French Jewish schools, synagogues, and neighborhoods are protected.
- JFNA is also sending a Solidarity Mission (please let us know if you would like to participate).
- Our Federation funds the JDC (the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee) which sustains robust European communities to enable full Jewish lives in freedom and security.
- We also support the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), whose specialists in Paris help French Jews who want to move to Israel.
- JFNA has sent the director of its Secure Community Network (SCN), Paul Goldenberg, to Paris to assist with security issues. All three agencies now have experts there on the ground.
JFNA has set up an emergency fund for the victims’ families and for increased security for France’s Jewish community. You may access it here. Millions of dollars are needed to increase security for synagogues and other Jewish institutions. French philanthropists and the institutions themselves have committed to providing 80 percent of these security costs, and the American Jewish community has pledged to raise the remaining 20 percent.
JFNA also encourages each one of us to send a letter of condolence and solidarity to our brothers and sisters in France. Our Cincinnati community can do so here.
Also, as Cincinnatians, we are directly connected because Cincinnati’s Partnership City in Israel, Netanya, is the No. 1 destination for French Jews making aliyah, i.e. immigrating, to Israel. (See this remarkable recent article in the Washington Post). This past year alone more than 7,000 from France made aliyah—more than from any other country.
Locally, while there is no indication of any threats to Cincinnati’s Jewish community, you should know that Mark Dowd of SAFE Cincinnati (the local Jewish community’s security initiative) and our Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) have increased their close coordination with security officials.
Cincinnati’s Jewish community stands in solidarity with the French Jewish community, the families and friends of the victims of the Charlie Hebdo shooting, and the entire nation of France and its commitment to free speech. We take heart from the outpouring of support from world leaders, and millions of ordinary French citizens, determined to fight for a tolerant, multi-ethnic, and free Europe. We also recognize the numerous Muslims who have spoken out against these murders.
The motto of France is “liberty, equality, brotherhood.” Jews have thrived in Western civilization because of values like these. It is critical today to protect them.
Click here for more information including our JCRC statement on the attacks.