Thousands of Jews from across France and around Europe traveled to Paris on
Sunday to hear from the new leader of the haredi, non-hassidic world, Rabbi
Aharon Leib Shteinman.
Having conducted a similar visit six years ago,
the 98-year-old rabbi embarked on the rare journey abroad to speak with Jewish
communal leaders and strengthen the community ahead of the upcoming Jewish
According to associates of Shteinman, concerns about the legal
status of brit mila and shechita, Jewish religious slaughter, in Europe were
foremost among his decision to travel and express his support for the French
Several thousand people turned up to the main event
where the rabbi addressed the assembled audience, comprising a broad
cross-section of French Jewry, as well as visitors from Germany, Belgium and
other European countries.
Haredi journalist Yisrael Cohen from the Kikar
Hashabbat news website described the atmosphere to The Jerusalem Post as
“jubilant and moving,” adding that “there is a sense that the whole of Paris is
celebrating a holiday, children in their Shabbat clothes and everyone in fine
suits are coming to welcome the [spiritual] leader of the
The visit was agreed upon last week, and Shteinman flew out
Sunday morning on a private jet lent to him by French businessman Rafael
Upon arrival, the rabbi was escorted by police from Charles de
Gaulle airport to the auditorium. He was scheduled to return to Israel Sunday
Shteinman’s journey was delayed briefly when he reported feeling
weak, and he left his house a couple hours later than expected.
Gafni and Uri Maklev of the Degel Hatorah faction of the United Torah Judaism
party escorted Shteinman to the airport, and his personal physician accompanied
him on the trip.
Rabbi Yitzhak Katz, the head of the Yad Mordechai
network of educational institutes in France and the dean of the largest yeshiva
in Paris, along with other communal leaders, requested and arranged the
Katz said that the visit of “such a great religious and spiritual
leader in Paris gives the entire community energy, and provides a sense of
support to French Jewry to preserve Jewish tradition even during worrying
Rabbi David Tuyito, an associate of Katz, told the Post that the
Jewish community in France is concerned about the influence events in Germany
surrounding brit mila will have in their country, as well as threats to shechita
in other European countries.
“This is one of the reasons why the
community is gathering together today to say in a loud voice ‘we will not allow
anyone to harm Jewish tradition,’” Tuyito said.
David Kahana, a member of
Katz’s community in Paris, said “We know it is not easy for Rabbi Shteinman at
his age to travel, but for us, for all the Jews in Paris, this is a historic and
exciting occasion which provides us with a burst of inspiration during these