“Peace be within your walls and security within your towers!” (Psalm 122:7)
The terrorist attacks in Paris last weekend not only shocked the world but convinced many Jews in France to emigrate to Israel.
“The time now is ripe to help French Jews immigrate,” Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, told Tazpit Press Service (TPS).
Rabbi Eckstein’s organization, largely known for supporting Jewish communities in poverty such as those from the former Soviet Union, has also been involved with helping Jews immigrate to Israel. “We talked to the French community and its leaders and there are tens of thousands of Jews in France who want to get out and come to Israel,” Eckstein said.
Rabbi Eckstein told TPS that his organization will aim to help those Jews in France who would like to immigrate but have been discouraged from doing so because of various stumbling blocks. “They don’t have a job waiting for them in Israel and they don’t have money for an apartment,” Eckstein explained.
“We need to provide them with more than a plane ticket in order to incentivize and motivate more Jews to come from France to Israel,” continued Eckstein . “What we are providing for the mainline Jewish community is the aliyah funds with the benefits and the plans that we have.”
The terror attacks over the weekend pushed some Jews in France who had already been in contact with Rabbi Eckstein’s organization, to speed up their Aliyah plans. “Two couples wanted to advance and to come quicker than our scheduled Aliyah flight next month in December,” noted Eckstein. “They arrived on Monday and although they did not come on a chartered flight, they still received all the benefits that we provide new immigrants with.”
Rabbi Eckstein told TPS that his organization is already developing plans to help other French Jews over the next month. “We have the money and the resources to do so and we were able to help move these two families overnight,” Eckstein said. “If we have to adjust now and have a flight in both November and December, we can do that.”
Rabbi Eckstein also informed TPS of the support his organization is now providing for the security of Chabad houses in France. Chabad houses are Jewish community outreach centers that are managed and run by the Lubavitch Hasidic movement.
“In light of the terrorist attacks in France, we’re now funding all of the 25 Chabad houses in the country,” Rabbi Eckstein told TPS.
Rabbi Eckstein elaborated on the need to concentrate on Chabad houses. “Jewish institutions are being secured by the police of France and by the Jewish institutions themselves, but the Chabad houses are not,” explained Rabbi Eckstein. “Chabad is not always recognized by the local Jewish community or even the police as a Jewish institution as it is not your typical synagogue or dayschool.”
“Chabad also doesn’t have access in the same way to the resources that the Jewish community as a whole does,” Eckstein added.
Rabbi Eckstein’s fellowship was already providing support for the Chabad house in Toulouse after the 2012 terrorist attack at a Jewish school in the city.
Meanwhile, Rabbi Eckstein told TPS that the organization will determine what else it can provide for Jews in France. “We have our staff there on the ground obviously and we’re seeing that there’s certainly an anxiety. We’re taking a good look as to how much more we can do.”
Israel has experienced a significant increase in immigration from France over the last few years. Since 2009, more than 20,000 Jews in France have moved to Israel. Last year alone, at least 7,200 Jews in France immigrated to Israel.