After the fire at the Rouen synagogue, shock and support for the Jewish community

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Rally in support of the Jewish community, in front of Rouen town hall, May 17, 2024. LOU BENOIST / AFP

Questioned by the faithful on his cell phone or by a WhatsApp messaging loop, Chmouel Lubecki, the rabbi of Rouen, continued, Friday, May 17, to comfort and inform a Jewish community “upset”. The religious leader, who lives just across the street from the synagogue, was not present at the time of the arson. “But my wife, yeshe says, still overcome with emotion. She was awake and saw smoke coming from the synagogue, but not the attacker. »

A massive rectangle of gray concrete, built in 1950, surrounded by medieval buildings, the synagogue stands on rue des Bons-Enfants, barely a hundred meters from the famous Place du Vieux-Marché, in the heart of the historic city center. In the early morning, around 6:45 a.m., an illegal Algerian national set fire inside the building by throwing an incendiary device. Armed with a knife and an iron bar, he then tried to attack the police before being shot dead.

The firefighters were able to quickly stop the advance of the fire and no trace of the fire is visible on the exterior walls of the place of worship. “But the damage is significantdeplores Mr. Lubecki. The books and scrolls of the Torah were fortunately not affected, unlike the Bimah, the platform where the Torah is read, which was partially burned. »

“The foul beast has struck”

Since October 7, 2023 and the Hamas attack in Israel, security had been reinforced around French synagogues, as recalled by the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, who visited the site at the start of ‘afternoon. Apart from some spitting on the synagogue door, “no particular alert” recent months would not have anticipated such an act, according to Rabbi Lubecki.

Rouen, a city of 110,000 inhabitants, has some 200 Jewish families, or around a thousand people. Several hundred people gathered on Friday, May 17, to support the Jewish community in front of Rouen town hall, at 6 p.m., at the call of the mayor (Socialist Party), Nicolas Mayer-Rossignol. “The foul beast has struck. Attacking a synagogue is attacking the Jews, it is therefore attacking all of us, the Republic”thundered the councilor, surrounded by elected officials from his left-wing majority and the right-wing opposition.

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Kristell, a young forty-year-old who prefers to remain anonymous, came “out of solidarity with the Jewish community”. “After the murder of Father Hamel [victime d’un attentat terroriste islamiste en 2016 à Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, dans la Seine-Maritime], here is another religious symbol targeted in the region”, she sighs. Marco, a septuagenarian of Jewish faith, who also does not want to give his name, also wanted to participate in this demonstration, without however deluding himself: “Once again, we will say that it is exceptional. Once again, we will let it slip…”

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