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March 22, 2012
Fear Must Not Rule Us
If you haven't taken a good hard look at the sweet, innocent faces of the Jewish children struck down in cold blood in France this week, you should. The horror of such young ones starting off their school day like any other and ending up the victims of a calculating murderer is too great to bear.
But that is what happened in the city of Toulouse when a man on a motorbike targeted the Ozar Hatorah school Monday morning, allegedly killing three children and a teacher, and gravely wounding a teenager.
We cannot get these precious lives back. We can only mourn, as we do, with our Jewish brothers and sisters thousands of miles away.
Such outrageous attacks are not new to us. We have seen them in Israel and closer to home. Think Los Angeles in 1999, when a white supremacist opened fire at a JCC, wounding five people, including children. Think Seattle in 2006, when a Muslim American opened fire at the local Jewish federation, killing one employee and wounding five others.
This was the gravest attack on a Jewish institution in France in decades. French President Nicolas Sarkozy should be commended for his decision to rush to the scene to express outrage and solidarity. He set the tone for the nation, which held vigils, rallies and prayer services to show support for the families and the Jewish community.
Attacks like these remind us of the need for vigilance.Visitors to Jewish institutions in Europe know that fortress-like security has long been commonplace, but apparently in Southwestern France, in the tranquil Toulouse community of 20,000-30,000 Jews, such stringent security was not in place.
In France and everywhere, we must be security-minded but not become entrapped in a mentality of fear. We should take a lesson from the Jewish leaders in Toulouse, who even in their grief, found solace in the expressions of support from around the Jewish and non-Jewish world. They did not cower in fear but instead re-opened their school just a few days after terror struck.
As Paul Goldenberg, who heads a nationwide Jewish communal security effort in this country, said this week: "Fear cannot be the currency of day-to-day life for this or any other community. Empowerment comes through knowledge, awareness and better understanding of how to mitigate risk and threats to our community and institutions."
Working in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security, his group has introduced a "If You See Something, Say Something" campaign.
No amount of vigilance can prevent all acts of terror. And such warnings are too late for the victims in Toulouse. We can only hope that their memory will be a blessing. And that their families can find strength and comfort from their community.