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February 8, 2019 4:08 pm

‘We Fled From Antisemitism’: French Jewish Woman Recalls Her Family’s 2017 Ordeal in Major TV Interview

avatar by Ben Cohen

Protesters rally in Paris against antisemitism in France in March 2018. Photo: Reuters / Gonzalo Fuentes.

A French Jewish woman has spoken in public for the first time about her family’s harrowing experiences with antisemitism in the Paris neighborhood where they lived for nearly a decade, in an interview with one of France’s most popular talk shows.

49-year-old “Stella,” who is married with children, spoke with Europe 1 host Olivier Delacroix on Thursday about two antisemitic episodes in 2017 that, she said, had driven the family out of their home. Now, Stella said, she and her husband continually debate whether their family should make aliyah to Israel.

For nine years, Stella and her family lived in a house in the suburb of Romainville, which lies about five miles to the east of central Paris. “We felt good, we never had the least concerns,” she said. “We loved the neighborhood, everything was always open on a Sunday, we knew all the store owners.”

Life for the family changed dramatically in March 2017, when they awoke one morning to find that their house had been ransacked while they slept. To her shock, Stella learned from the police forensics team dispatched to their home that the intruders had gained entry through their daughter’s bedroom window. Much as the family wanted to believe that they were the targets of a routine burglary — “one that could happen to any family,” as Stella put it — only a few items were actually stolen from the house. More suspicious was the spectacle of family photographs taken in Israel that had been ripped up and scattered on the floor.

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Shaken by the invasion of their home, Stella and her family took a ten-day vacation in April. Shortly after their return in early May, Stella was preparing to drive her daughter to school when she saw to her horror that the word “Juifs” — ”Jews” — had been scrawled in large letters on the driver’s side of the family car.

“‘Mommy, do you see what’s written there?’ my daughter asked me,” Stella recalled. “I told her, ‘Don’t worry, daddy will take it to the garage, let’s get in the car.'” As the two of them drove to school, Stella said, “I was honked a dozen times. I lowered my window and said, ‘Yes, I know what is written on my door.'”

But it wasn’t the antisemitic graffiti that the other drivers were calling attention to. “One of them called out, ‘Madam, your tires!'” Stella said. Pulling into a gas station, she realized that her rear wheels had been slashed. To underline the message, the word “Israel” had been scrawled on the back of the car.

When she spoke with the police later on, Stella said that one officer had told her, “Listen, I’m speaking to you not as a cop, but as a father — you have to leave.” The family did just that, moving that same evening to Stella’s parents house. More than one year on, she said of their experience, “I cry less when I talk about what happened, but I can say that we fled from antisemitism in 2017.”

It was at that point that Stella and her husband began to discuss moving to Israel. Several years of antisemitism had taken their toll on the French Jewish community’s morale, they reflected. “It is not for nothing that we put our children in Jewish schools,” Stella remarked.

At present, the family remains in France. “I said that I had seniority in my job of 23 years, our children had their lives here, I did not want to leave,” Stella recounted. “That was one year ago. But with what we see on TV, and what we hear, we will end up leaving one day or another.”

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