A million-strong show of defiance in Paris on Sunday helped reassure French Jews that they have support, with French Chief Rabbi Haïm Korsia saying: “We are not as isolated as we first thought.”

Haïm Korsia

Haïm Korsia

History teacher Yoram Frydman felt a change in mood, saying: “For the first time in a very long time there is the start of a change, especially among the young. It’s no longer everyday individualism. There is suddenly solidarity, collectively, and a kind of small hope.”

But for those speaking to French Jews on the streets of France this week, there was less defiance than fear, as they came to terms with yet another attack against Jews.

“We are no longer at home here,” said Yves Lellouche. “Fifteen of my relatives are attending a Jewish school near the site of the kosher store that was attacked. I fear for their safety. I fear for my safety.” 

Some felt that even more French Jews would now leave the country. “It is impossible to live like this,” said Parisian Daniel Corcos. “The Jew isn’t safe in France. You go to buy food, and you’re dead. If you think a lot of Jews left France last year, this year the number is going to be five times higher.” 

For researcher Thierry Meyer, the country wasn’t in a position to protect its citizens. “There are too many crazy people, and I don’t think this will stop,” he said. “I don’t have much hope that France will take the required forceful measures of finding and kicking out the extremists. France isn’t strong enough to do something like that.”

Sacha Reingewirtz, president of the French Jewish Student Union, echoed those thoughts. “What the government is doing to protect us is not enough,” he said. “I refuse to have Jews here living behind walls in fear of their lives. We need more than a security plan but an educational plan to fight against stereotypes.” 

The Kibbutz movement already has already said it will open up dozens of its communities to absorb French immigrants and Jewish Agency staff were this week rapidly redesigning absorption plans ahead of an expected increase in numbers.

Last year over 7,000 French Jews made aliyah, with Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky saying some 50,000 had asked for information about emigrating.