US Jews Hold Mass Memorial to Paris Victims

Hundreds, including US and French officials, meet in Washington synagogue to pay tribute; US Jews fear violent anti-Semitism is on its way.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Demonstrators hold up signs reading "I am Jewish" in Paris
Demonstrators hold up signs reading "I am Jewish" in Paris

Last week's jihadist terror attacks in Paris triggered worldwide outrage, and among those most touched were Jews in the United States, fearful that they heralded a new wave of anti-Semitic violence.

France is home to the third largest Jewish community in the world, after Israel and the United States, and transatlantic ties of faith and family are strong.

Horrified Americans watched live television images of the Shabbat eve siege of a Paris kosher supermarket last Friday, where an Islamist gunman killed four Jewish hostages before police burst in and shot him.

Hundreds of people gathered in a synagogue in Washington in tribute to the victims of the store attack, along with the earlier killings of French police and the staff of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.

"Jews must not and will not be driven out of Europe," Jason Isaacson, executive director of policy at the American Jewish Committee of Policy, told mourners at Tuesday's event - even as many Jews worldwide are calling the attack a wake-up sign indicating the need to return to the Jewish state of Israel.

Commentators such as America's cable news anchors have made alarming parallels to the darkest periods of European history, but the official White House response has downplayed the brutal attacks.

As part of its fight against terrorism, French troops are battling Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists in the deserts of West Africa and its aircraft carrier is steaming towards the Middle East to reinforce the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) group.

Washington values the diplomatic and battlefield support it gets from Paris, but some in America worry that France is struggling to combat mounting extremism at home, leaving concerns about its ability to help abroad.

Responding to the growing Islamist terrorism threat within France, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has urged French Jews to come home to Israel.

US officials told AFP they would not endorse Netanyahu words, but US President Barack Obama's administration nevertheless made known its concerns about the threat.

A rising tide of anti-Semitism

White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said the Paris attack was "the latest in a series of very troubling incidents in Europe and around the world that reflect a rising tide of anti-Semitism."

Representing Obama at the memorial gathering, he affirmed "our nation's solidarity to the French people and the Jewish community in France and around the world."

The synagogue was plastered with posters reading, "Je suis Charlie," "Je suis juif" and "Je suis Francais" - "I am Charlie. I am Jewish. I am French."

Since the Paris attacks, Obama, US Secretary of State John Kerry, lawmakers and thousands of Americans have made gestures and sent messages of solidarity to the people of France - although Obama, or indeed any senior US figure, was notably absent from the Sunday counter-terror march by world leaders in Paris.

US concerns about French anti-Semitism date from before the recent attacks.

In its annual reports on religious freedom and human rights around the world, the US State Department has repeatedly expressed concern - in particular since French jihadist Mohamed Merah murdered Jewish pre-school children and a rabbi in the 2012 Toulouse massacre.

"We will confront and combat hateful forces of antisemitism, intolerance and violent extremism," Julieta Valls Noyes, Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, told the event at the synagogue on Tuesday.

She paid tribute to the four Jewish men killed at the supermarket - Yohan Cohen, Yoav Hattab, Philippe Braham and François-Michel Saada - on January 9 by the jihadist Amedy Coulibaly.

Speaking in French, she added: "Je suis Yohan. Je suis Philippe. Je suis Yohav. Je suis Francois Michel."

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida congresswoman who is Jewish, warned "over the past few years we have seen a rise of anti-Semitism from the streets of Paris to the streets of Miami Beach."

AFP contributed to this report.