We’ve all been following the story out of France this past week of Mohammed Merah, the anti-Semitic racist, who, over the last couple of weeks, first murdered three French soldiers of African descent and then killed three innocent children, and a rabbi on the sidewalk outside their school, Ozar Hatorah. Merah was finally killed by the French police yesterday morning.
Even though Merah is dead, I hope no one is saying this is the end of the story. It isn’t. Merah left horror and almost unbearable sorrow behind. Our hearts go out to the Sandler and Monsonego families for the loss they have suffered. (We have some pictures on the Federation Facebook page of a solidarity demonstration that took place in Paris after the attack on the school in Toulouse. The pictures are courtesy of French photojournalist, Julien Daniel, the brother of Federation’s own Sandra Wasserman.)
We have something in common with the Jewish community of Toulouse. We, too, underwent anti-Semitic violence not two months ago. The attacks did not rise to the murderous level of what happened in Toulouse, but not because the alleged perpetrator, Anthony Graziano – and the plot’s mastermind, Aakash Dalal – didn’t try. If not for the quick actions taken by Rabbi Nosson Schumann, nine innocent lives might have been lost.
In northern New Jersey, as in France, the lesson we must take away from these attacks is, even when the immediate danger dies down, it’s not time to relax. In France, the community is now planning to take more stringent security measures to protect people and institutions. Here, at home, we already have.
Before the arson attacks were even solved, we had begun dialogue with Community Security Service, the Jewish non-profit that works, at no charge, with synagogues, schools, and other Jewish institutions to train their members and staff in how to protect their people and their buildings. We convened representatives from our local institutions here at Federation and asked CSS personnel to give them an overview of how they could ramp up their security measures.
According to Adam Sager of CSS, they have already “provided assessments for a half-dozen schools.” The next step will be to host a security training course in New Jersey.
The lesson out of all this is those who would do violence to the Jewish community are everywhere. We need to stay vigilant. Federation will continue to act swiftly, to work with other leaders in the community to make sure we do everything we can to protect the Jewish community to the best of our ability.
PS - This Sunday is Good Deeds Day, an international day of volunteerism started in Israel. In northern New Jersey we are holding what we think is going to be the single largest one-day food drive and hope you will help. Bring non-perishable canned or dried goods to Federation Sunday, 2-5PM. We have more than 100 volunteers who will be packing it up had helping us distribute it to six different food pantries in Bergen and Passaic counties.
As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.