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By STEVE McDONALD The horrific antisemitic attack at the Hyper Cacher (Super Kosher) store in Paris in January has naturally increased anxiety within the Canadian Jewish community. How could it not?

France is a country that prides itself on liberty, democracy, openness, and progress. Who would have thought that such a country would have to post nearly 9,000 police and soldiers outside Jewish schools? For that matter, who would have thought that – seventy years after the liberation of Auschwitz – Jews would feel such insecurity in Western Europe?
It must be noted that the French government and most of broader society has shown solidarity with the country’s 600,000 Jews, as seen in the deployment of security forces and unequivocal statements from leaders denouncing antisemitism. Nevertheless, many French Jews have chosen to relocate their families to countries like the UK, the US, Canada and, of course, Israel.
Statistics from the Jewish Agency show that, in 2014 alone, a record-breaking 7,000 French Jews made aliyah and a further 50,000 requested information about immigrating to the Jewish state. Natan Sharansky, Chair of the Jewish Agency, estimated that 70% of French Jews leaving the country have chosen Israel. Following the Hyper Cacher attack, he projected that the number of olim (immigrants) from France would double in 2015 – reaching some 15,000.
It is heartbreaking to consider the difficult choice many French Jews are now facing. It is all too easy to say “they should just leave” without putting oneself in the shoes of those who have built a thriving Jewish community in France. As an ardent Zionist, I am among the first to applaud those around the world who choose aliyah, but we should not be dismissive of the very rational, complex, and compelling reasons some Jews want to stay in France. While aliyah may be the solution for some, the French government owes protection and support for those who choose to stay.
Here in Canada, we are blessed to live in relative security and social equality. This is not to suggest that Canada is free of antisemitism: Statistics Canada data show that the Jewish community is the country’s most frequently targeted group for hate crimes. However, we are nevertheless able to be openly Jewish and exercise our religious freedoms without the level of concern – and often outright fear – experienced by Jewish communities in Europe.
Such security does not relieve us of the duty to be security-conscious, aware of our surroundings, and take simple but effective steps to protect our communal institutions. In addition to traditional advocacy work, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) – through its National Director of Security, Adam Cohen – maintains close ties with federal authorities and law enforcement agencies across the country.
While the Paris attacks have shone a light on security, it should be noted that CIJA is not aware of any intelligence or evidence to suggest a heightened threat to Canada’s Jewish community at this time. Nevertheless, police in major cities have told CIJA that, in the wake of the Paris attacks, they took measures to increase their patrols and visibility near Jewish institutions.
While Cohen confirmed that security agencies have not identified a specific threat to Canadian Jewry, his advice to synagogues and schools is to take precautions and follow existing security protocols – beginning with everyday common sense. “I’ve talked to teachers and students…if you’re leaving your school or entering it and there is someone next to you that you don’t know, don’t hold the door open,” he recently told the Canadian Jewish News. “Just like you don’t hold the door open for a stranger to come into your home at night, you’re not going to hold the door open for a stranger to come into your school if you don’t know who they are.”
Regardless of events overseas, Canadian Jewry has long had to take special measures to preserve community security. Given the reality of the world today, this is unlikely to change. At the same time, we must continue using and enjoying our communal institutions – our shuls, schools, and community centres – that are essential hubs for Jewish life in Canada. To do otherwise would be to forfeit one of our fundamental freedoms as Canadians.
Steve McDonald is Associate Director, Communications, at the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) – the advocacy agent of Canada’s Jewish Federations.

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