Jews Attacked in Marseilles

An attack on three Jews en route to shul in Marseilles on Shabbos morning is being treated as an isolated incident, but serves as an unwelcome reminder of the tense situation for the country’s Jewish community.

Rabbi Sylvan Amoya, the Rav of one of several Orthodox shuls on the city’s Rue Dragon, was walking to Shacharis with his son, Eliav, at approximately 7:30 a.m., when they were accosted by a man in his 30s shouting anti-Semitic slurs. He soon turned violent and began to assault the two. Leon Bieberg, who was on his way to the same shul, attempted to intervene; the assailant produced a knife and stabbed him.

Contrary to initial reports, a source in Marseilles confirmed to Hamodia that Mr. Bieberg’s wounds were considered light and he has been released from the hospital. The Amoyas, too, were not seriously injured. The attacker, whose identity has not been made public, was arrested. Police reported that he was strongly intoxicated at the time of arrest, and some reports claimed that he was mentally ill.

“It is obviously unfortunate, but not unusual,” Xavier Nataf, a representative of the Jewish community in Marseilles, told Hamodia, adding that such incidents have become somewhat commonplace in France. “The fact that he was drunk and maybe crazy definitely makes it less worrying.”

Anti-Semitic incidents have been on the rise in France for several years. A number of anti-Israel demonstrations during the 2014 Gaza conflict resulted in several acts of violence and the proliferation of anti-Semitic rhetoric. The murder of four Jews in a kosher grocery last winter moved the government to stronger actions to protect its Jews and their institutions. Rising tensions in Israel are again causing increased concern.

“Unfortunately, this is an additional act in an already unstable environment,” Simone Rodan Benzaquen of the Paris-based AJC told Hamodia, “another layer in the situation that is keeping Jews in France from feeling secure.” On the question of whether security would be heightened in the wake of this incident, she responded that “not much more can be done.”

Marseilles is home to some 80,000 Jews, making it the third-largest Jewish population center in Europe.