Roger Cukierman, president of the Representative Council of French Jewish Groups, known as CRIF, said he believes France must do more to protect Jews and Jewish institutions in France and more aggressively prosecute and punish people who commit anti-Semitic acts. "These are very serious acts against the freedom of religion, freedom of education and liberty," Cukierman said in a telephone interview. "It's the duty of French authorities to protect these liberties, and we hope they will do everything necessary ... to ensure that new events do not happen."
A wave of anti-Jewish violence broke out in France in autumn of last year after Israeli-Palestinian fighting escalated in the Middle East. In many cases, incendiary devices were lobbed at synagogues. New attacks have occurred since Sept. 11. In October, for example, vandals burned down part of a Jewish elementary school in southern France and left behind spray-painted messages such as "Death to the Jews" and "bin Laden will conquer."
Earlier this month, attackers threw gasoline bombs at a Jewish school in suburban Paris, setting a classroom on fire. In December, a rabbi and two members of his congregation were attacked as they left a synagogue in the northwest city of Rouen. One of the men suffered a broken collarbone.
The violence has come to the attention of the Israeli government, which announced earlier this week that it would give greater financial assistance to French Jews who want to emigrate. "The greatest number of acts of violence against Jews in Western Europe have been taking place in France," Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Melchoir said in Jerusalem on Wednesday. "We got many calls from French Jews who are very worried and even afraid."
However, neither Cukierman nor Melchoir said they were actively encouraging Jews to leave France. About 1,000 French Jews choose to settle in the Jewish state each year.