World Jewish Leaders React to French School Shooting
As the school day began in Toulouse, France, Ozar Hatorah – a Jewish school – was attacked. Three children and the father of two of them were murdered by what appears to be a lone gunman, shooting at close range. An eyewitness said the children killed were waiting for transportation to an elementary school. The father and two of the children had been in France less than a year, having arrived from Israel in September.
Two similar incidents have occurred in Southern France recently, with a total of 7 people murdered. “We have to be very vigilant. There is one or more killer out there right now,” a French government spokesman said.
“He shot at everything he had in front of him, children and adults. The children were chased inside the school,” the spokesman said. The suspect remains at large and an eyewitness told French television that “He was shooting not haphazardly but directly as close as possible to the heads of those, adults and pupils, around the entrance of the school.”
French President Nicholas Sarkozy arrived at the school shortly after the morning attack and said the “incident has reverberated across France.”
“The whole French republic is touched by this abominable drama,” said Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet. “It’s a day of national tragedy. The barbary, the savagery, the cruelty cannot win. Hate cannot win. The nation is much stronger.”
In an exclusive interview with Executive Vice President of the New York Board of Rabbis Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, JointMedia News Service learned that an immediate meeting is being sought with French officials to “express the outrage” of the Board. Asked what additional measures might be put in place at New York areas schools and synagogues, Rabbi Potasnik said “the relationship with the New York Police Department is extremely strong. Synagogues could not have better protection.” Said Potasnik, “The NYPD is to be commended. It did not take a tragedy to secure the relationship.”
Speaking on behalf of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, President Richard Stone and Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein, expressed outrage “at the brutal attack…We are outraged at this savage act against schoolchildren who were waiting outside their school building at the beginning of the day. Not only did the shooter attack children at the entrance to the building but he also chased them inside….We stand in solidarity with the Jewish community of Toulouse and the entire Jewish community of France.”
The Conference sent condolences to the families and friends of the victims and called on French law enforcement to do everything to apprehend those responsible for the attack.
The Orthodox Union expressed solidarity with the French Jewish community saying “all Jews feel responsible for each other, and never more keenly when any of our brethren come under attack for no reason except that they are Jews. The horrific murders today of four Jews in Toulouse, France, were an attack on all Jews everywhere. ”
In an exclusive interview with the Managing Director of the Orthodox Union Worldwide, Rabbi Stephen Burg told JNS he had learned of the attack early Monday, New York time. “To see something so cold-hearted done to children scares us. It makes you realize that there are those capable of doing something like this. Nothing is off limits.”
Burg said OU associated synagogues and schools have safety protocols already in place. Nathan Diamond in the organization’s national office in Washington, D.C. has been in contact with Homeland Security and is speaking with local and state officials “to make sure they were aware and immediately encourage synagogues to work with local law enforcement and make sure all safety precautions are instituted.” .
The tragedy in France “makes people much more aware. One can tell people to be secure and vigilant, but it is when something like this happens – especially involving children and a rabbi – that it hits home,” said Burg.
The greatest threat, said the OU Managing Director, is that of “copy cats.” “It is the greatest fear in the world. The lone wolf is the most dangerous – anyone can pick up a gun. An individual can be even more dangerous than organized plots.” Burg stressed that the OU and its members work closely with local law enforcement.
Burg advised “Don’t panic. We in the US have very good police and governmental agencies.” He cautioned that “people need to be vigilant and to know what security measures are in place. Keep asking: ‘what are we doing to keep our communities safe?'”
“It can happen anywhere. Vigilance is needed.”
Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director noted other recent attacks on the Jewish community of Toulouse. “It is critically important that the Jewish community in France feel assured that they will be safe and secure in the aftermath of this horrific incident.” Foxman said “We appreciate President Sarkozy’s decision to immediately go to Toulouse” in response to the “barbaric, hate-filled and brutal crime,” he said, calling for a thorough investigation into the role of anti-Semitism in the killings.
France’s Le Point newspaper reported that officials believe the killer may be linked to two similar incidents and may involve former members of a French paratrooper division discharged for links to Neo-Nazis. The paper says their profiles correspond with information describing reports them as “well muscled, tattooed and dressed in black.”