Paris’s Jewish community is mourning the petirah of Alain Ghozland, z”l, 73, who served as deputy mayor of one of its suburbs.
Ghozland died Tuesday as intruders entered and robbed his home. While most early reports assumed that Mr. Ghozland was murdered, a prominent community leader told Hamodia that his sources had told him that that police had not ruled out that he had suffered a heart attack during the robbery.
Despite many media reports raising fears of anti-Semitism as a motive, officials say that there is no evidence to indicate that the victim’s identity played a role in the crime.
According to a statement by the Council of French Jewish Institutions (CRIF), an umbrella organization of Jewish institutions in France, Mr. Ghozland was a “prominent leader of the local Jewish community.” Born in Algeria, Mr. Ghozland was a member of the town council and deputy mayor of Créteil, about 10 miles outside of Paris.
“He was a very well-known and well-liked person in the community,” Rabbi Moshe Lewin, executive director of the Conference of European Rabbis and special advisor to the Chief Rabbi of France, told Hamodia. The victim’s father was among the founders of Créteil’s Jewish community.
Roger Cuikerman, president of CRIF, told Hamodia that despite suspicions, “we have no clue to indicate anti-Semitism as the motivation … the only way to establish it would be if the perpetrators were caught and found to have some sort of history that would show that.”
Mr. Ghozland’s body was discovered by his brother, who went to check on him after he failed to attend shul that evening. Police said that the apartment showed signs of forced entry and that many items had been taken.
While initial media reports said that the victim had been stabbed, Mr. Cuikerman countered these claims, saying that his sources had told him that there was “no sign of violence on the body,” and that the cause of death was still to be determined. Créteil, which has a large population of Jews and Muslims, has seen several incidents of violence with anti-Semitic overtones. In December of 2014, a young man and woman were violently attacked and robbed by assailants who repeated comments about attacking Jews.
At the time, many said that the crime revived chilling memories of a brutal killing in 2006, when a gang targeted a young Jewish man, Ilan Halimi, Hy”d, held him captive for three weeks and tortured him. He was discovered near railroad tracks south of Paris and died on the way to the hospital.
The present incident comes amidst a background of heightened fears for France’s Jewish community, which has become an increasing target for several years. Earlier this week, a Jewish teacher was attacked in Marseille by a youth wielding a machete and pledging allegiance to ISIS. The attack set off a new wave of debate among French Jews over whether they should avoid sporting yarmulkes in public.
“For now we are more nervous about what happened in Marseille, because we do not yet know what the motivation for this incident was,” said Rabbi Lewin in reference to the community’s reaction to Mr. Ghozland’s death. “We don’t know what’s going on yet and I expect it will take a few days before we do.”