Police official reassures Parisian Jews

PARIS (JTA) — Jewish leaders and school directors from low-income, northern Paris towns were reassured by the region’s new police chief.

Nacer Meddah, the newly appointed police chief for Seine-Saint-Denis, which was hit hard by violent anti-Semitism during the Israeli offensive in Gaza, tried to comfort local Jews worried for their safety.

Meddah, whose parents immigrated to France from Algeria, said Monday night he agreed that in a democracy, it “wasn’t normal” that the community “couldn’t practice their religion in peace.”

Meddah and Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins assured those gathered at the public forum that police were doing their utmost to rapidly solve anti-Semitic crimes and improve security.

During Israel’s military operation in Gaza, anti-Semitic incidents in the region ranged from assaults against teens and adults to the firebombing of a synagogue in downtown Saint-Denis.

Officials could not determine the motives for a Jan. 23 arson attack against a major kosher food supplier for the area because no suspects had been identified, said the prosecutor.

Paris Chief Rabbi David Messas told the audience he felt “comforted” after listening to the police chief.

Participants also discussed opportunities for tolerance education programs among religiously mixed youth, such as trips to former Nazi concentration camps and
partnerships with Israeli schools.

Heads of the French umbrella group CRIF and France’s largest official religious body, the Consistory, also attended the program, organized by Sammy Ghozlan, head of the Jewish Community Council for the Paris region.

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