Jewish Federations Represented
at Funeral for Victims of Toulouse Shooting
March 21, 2012 -- Significant developments took place today following the killing on Monday of a teacher and three children at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France.
The bodies of all four victims were flown to Israel overnight, accompanied on the flight by French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, family members and leaders of the Jewish community in France. The victims, 30-year-old Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, his sons Arieh, 5, and Gabriel, 3, and seven-year-old Miriam Monsonego were all laid to rest in Jerusalem’s Har Hamenuchot Cemetery, accompanied by over 2,000 mourners. The Jewish Federations of North America’s senior vice president, Rebecca Caspi, represented Jewish Federations at the funeral, accompanied by Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh Jeff Finkelstein.
As the funeral took place, police and special forces in Toulouse, France had surrounded a house apparently containing Mohammed Merah, the terrorist who carried out the shooting, who was identified as a member of an Al Qaeda-affiliated jihadist group. Reportedly, the gunman is alive inside the house and has admitted to carrying out the attack, as well as a separate shooting that killed three French soldiers.
A large number of dignitaries attended the Jerusalem funeral including Israel’s Interior Minister Eli Yishai, Minister of Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edelstein, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and both the country’s chief rabbis.
Turning to the victims’ families during his eulogy, Edelstein said: “An entire nation embraces you.”
Rivlin echoed the sentiment saying that “Jews around the world are standing with us today, in shared pain, facing people filled with hate; murderers, who kill indiscriminately.”
“I’m here to represent the French government and president,” Juppe said, adding that he wanted to express his solidarity with the families of the victims. “This was a despicable and intolerable murder. The blood of both the French and Israeli nations was spilled in the vicious attack.”
JFNA’s Israel office also represented Jewish Federations at a special committee meeting in the Knesset yesterday that discussed the shooting. Attended by the French ambassador to Israel and numerous members of Knesset, the session discussed security precautions, potential aliyah from France and other issues connected with the attack.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu severely condemned the terrorist incident. Read his full remarks.
After the funeral, JFNA’s Rebecca Caspi penned the following comments:
“I’ve been thinking a lot about the cost of Jewish education all morning. I’m not thinking about the price of tuition or the longer school days we sometimes have to talk kids into accepting. It’s something much more basic. I’ve been thinking about how a father who chose not to pursue fortune or fame, but to dedicate his life to teaching, lost his life because of that decision. And I’ve been thinking about his wife – now a widow – who lost not only a husband, but her two beautiful sons. Aryeh was only six, and Gavriel just three. And I’ve been thinking about Miriam Monsonego who got up to go to school and was brutally murdered instead.
“None of them had to be at the Ozar HaTorah school in Toulouse this Monday morning. They were part of a Jewish community that was building a Jewish future – securing our continuity as a people – by investing in education. And for that, they were sacrificed.
“Jeff Finkelstein and I met to attend the victims’ funerals together. On this beautiful spring morning in Jerusalem, we were part of a single community – our global Jewish family. Alongside murmuring in French, Hebrew and English, we were repeatedly startled by the keening of relatives whose grief poured out unrestrained. I hope that they will somehow draw comfort from the presence of so many of their fellow Jews – we distant cousins – who mourn their terrible loss.
“Let the memory of Rabbi Yonatan Sandler, Aryeh Sandler, Gavriel Sander and Miriam Monsonego be a blessing.”
JFNA and its Secure Community Network will continue to monitor the situation closely and report developments as needed.