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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

France shooting rattles Jewish community

Published: March 23, 2012
Section: Front Page, News

Despite the university’s large Jewish population, Director of Public Safety Ed Callahan, said there is no cause for alarm after three children and a rabbi were shot and killed at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France, on March 19. In response to the incident on Monday in which a man opened fire at the Ozar Hatorah school before fleeing on a motorbike, New York City has assigned extra security patrols to guard Jewish institutions, like schools and synagogues, in case of a copycat or second incident. 

“At this point of time, there are no obvious concerns to our community, but we must be vigilant and report any suspicious occurrences to the proper law enforcement authorities,” Callahan said.

Fred Hazan ’13, a French Jewish student, said he does not feel threatened here at Brandeis.

“So, first there has been no evidence that this guy chose specifically a Jewish school; it might have been a random choice,” Hazan said.

Hazan referred to the suspected connection between this shooting and two others that occurred days earlier when three black soldiers were killed in Toulouse and Montauban in France. The gunman also fled on a motorbike at these occasions, and it is suspected that the guns used for all the attacks are the same.

“Overall, there is some anti-Semitism in France, but I feel that we are well protected; there has always been policemen in front of my synagogue,” Hazan said.

Dan Lahmi ’13, also a French Jewish student, said that, while he has never been to Toulouse, he felt especially connected to the victims because they were Jewish.

“I do not fear similar attack at Brandeis, not because the security is higher but just because the killing was the act of a lonely man who probably has the same psychological features [as] the killer, Breivik, in Norway [who massacred 69 people and wounded several others out of Islamophobia],” Lahmi said. “It happened in France but it could have happened anywhere else on earth, in my opinion.”

Police in France have cornered the suspect, Mohamed Merah, in his home in Toulouse. Merah had previously been arrested in Afghanistan for creating bombs, but escaped later in a breakout of Taliban members, and claims membership to al-Qaida. He has told the police that his attacks were done to protest the French involvement in Afghanistan and to avenge the deaths of Palestinian children.