Special Interview; Rabbi of Bombed Paris Synagogue Says Situation in French Jewry is Complicated

Rabbi Michael Williams of the Rue Copernic Temple in Paris. And the Jewish Telegraphic Agency here today what he is visiting the U.S. to make American Jewry “understand how complicated” the situation of French Jewry is “and why we have to keep balance between a low profile and acting courageously when we need to.”

The 36-year-old English-born Reform rabbi has arrived here Sunday for a one-week visit, discrete be effects on French-Jews of the Oct. 3 bomb attack on his synagogue. In an interview with the JTA at the headquarters of the World Union of Progressive Judaism, he warned that “It is possible this kind of thing will happen again” and “Jews will have to be courageous.”

Williams said another reason for his visit is “to ask for financial help for the security of my synagogue and other synagogues in Paris.” He said the attack on Rue Copernic which took four lives was not an isolated incident but the culmination of a series of anti-Semitic acts. He said that in the opinion of French Jews, anti-Semitism is the latest phenomenon in France which has its moments of crises and therefore there was little surprise and little panic by members of the synagogue at the time of the bombing.

The rabbi said that the Middle East policy of the French government, which he described as “anti-Israel” and “sympathetic to the Arabs,” contributed to the revival of anti-Semitism in France. But he stressed that the French government itself is not anti-Semitic.

According to Williams, who is married to a French woman and moved to Paris from England five years ago one of the factors that undermines the status of French Jews is that they are not considered by French society to be “real Frenchmen.”

NO EASY SOLUTION

“There is no easy solution for the status of Jews in France,” he said. Because of these factors the Jews must exercise “a high degree of discretion and courage.” He stated that he would say “to my fellow French Jews” that when they encounter violence “I am for Jewish self-defense but not for Jewish aggressiveness or high profile propaganda” because “it is counter-productive and can cause a backlash” in the context of French society.

Asked about anti-Semitism in England. Williams said he had not encountered it personally but was aware that it exists. Only in France, he said, have “I experienced hiding my true identity at times.” He said the feeling among French Jews nearly a month after the synagogue bombing is that “they are more nervous and more apprehensive” but “they are more proud for the way they have reacted.” He said that in the aftermath of the attack. French Jews are more united on a personal level but not in an organizational or community way.

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