Landmark Paris synagogue closes on Shabbat for first time since World War II

The synagogue was evacuated during the kosher market siege, Le Monde reported on Friday, and did not reopen for services on Friday night.

January 9, 2015 23:15
2 minute read.
The Grand Synagogue of Paris

The Grand Synagogue of Paris. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)


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The Grand Synagogue of Paris shuttered ahead of Shabbat services on Friday night in the wake of a series of terrorist attacks across the city, including a siege on a Jewish market by an Islamic extremist.

The synagogue was evacuated during the event, Le Monde and USA Today reported.

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The closure marks the first time since World War II that the synagogue, a Paris landmark, was shuttered on the Sabbath, according to the Orthodox Union.

On Saturday, a Twitter account claiming affiliation with the synagogue said a Shabbat ceremony did ultimately proceed. Several sabbaths were also observed during the Nazi occupation of Paris in the 1940s, the account noted.

The Grand Synagogue was only one of several evacuated during the hostage crisis, according to local reports.

“The Jewish community feels itself on the edge of a seething volcano,” said Dr. Shimon Samuels, the Paris-based director for international relations at the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

“Hostages in a kosher supermarket held [up] by an African jihadist, who reportedly already killed two victims,” he said. “The scenes are out of a war movie. But the war is undeclared as long as the sickness is not publicly named as a state of emergency. A culture of excuse exonerates the perpetrators as ‘disaffected, alienated, frustrated, unemployed.’ No other group of frustrated unemployed has resorted to such behavior.”

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations released a statement late Friday in which it “expressed the solidarity of the Jewish community of the United States with the people of France in the wake of the horrendous attacks by Islamist terrorists on the Charlie Hebdo magazine, the killing of the female police officer, and now the assault on the kosher food market near Saint-Mandé.”

The statement went on: “We have been in touch with leaders of the Jewish Community of France and the facts regarding the situation are still developing and remain unclear. As part of the ongoing communication and coordination with our European counterparts, Paul Goldenberg, the head of the Secure Community Network of the United States, is in Paris for meetings with his European counterparts and is close to the site of the attack on the kosher establishment.

We pray that everyone will emerge safely.”

The Paris branch of the American Jewish Committee called for “stepped-up efforts to combat Islamist terrorism in France as violent attacks in Paris over the past two days expanded to a kosher supermarket.”

Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, director of AJC Paris, called last week’s events “a shock to the entire French nation” and “our 9/11.”

“Hatred of Jews never ends with Jews,” Rodan-Benzaquen said Friday. “Radical Islamists have struck violently, from the murders at a Jewish school in Toulouse two years ago, to repeated incidents of violence against Jews and synagogues in Paris, to the vicious rape of a Jewish woman in her own home, and today’s assault on a kosher supermarket in the middle of Paris.”

Rodan-Benzaquen praised French authorities for mobilizing quickly after the Charlie Hebdo and kosher market attacks.

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