The Greater New Orleans Jewish community has been stunned by the terrible events that took place this week in France. We are all shocked at the series of horrific acts: the massacre at Charlie Hebdo, the killing of police officers and the standoff at a Jewish grocery store in Paris that resulted in the murder of four hostages.
We express our condolences and sympathies to the families of those murdered and pray for the speedy recovery of those injured. We are appreciative of the strong immediate response of the French government and the security forces who have labeled these as acts of terrorism and anti-Semitism.
France has a large Muslim population of over two million and growing — and with that growth, we have seen a dramatic increase in extremism. We have also seen a tremendous rise in anti-Semitic acts, including the murder of three innocent children and one adult at a Jewish school in Toulouse in March 2012.
The impact of the rising jihad movement in France has been stark. Emigration of French Jews to Israel reached more than 5,000 in the last year. This is mostly a manifestation of the unease that French Jews feel being seriously threatened in a country that was the first in Europe to offer free and equal citizenship to Jews.
We call on all of the people of France at this time to show tolerance and restraint. This is a time to treat all with equal respect and dignity, regardless of race, religion or nationality. Revenge (such as the recent mosque bombing) is to be condemned, too, as both hateful and in opposition to peace.
Here in New Orleans, we hope for similar tolerance and respect for all, whether Jewish, Muslim, Christian or any other culture or faith. Our door is always open for dialogue and cooperation with all.
Michael J. Weil
executive director, Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans