click here to jump to start of article
  • Torah Reading: Naso
Join Our Newsletter

Get latest articles and videos with Jewish inspiration and insights​

An Open Letter to My Sisters and Brothers in France

An Open Letter to My Sisters and Brothers in France

There is no future for you in France. I appeal to you, come home to Israel.


To My Sisters and Brothers in France,

My heart weeps as I read about the ghastly attack on the kosher supermarket in Paris – the tragedy of the murdered, the precarious condition of the wounded, the panic of the hostages. I remember with fondness how you, the Parisian Jewish community, welcomed me when you invited me to speak there three years ago. Your warm smiles and your enthusiastic greetings made me feel like we are indeed one family, the Jewish People.

That visit seems like a lifetime ago. It was “before Toulouse,” where Rabbi Sandler and his two young sons, as well as 8-year-old Miriam Monsonego, were murdered in front of the Jewish school. It was “before the quenelle” anti-Semitic salute swept France. It was “before the attack on the Don Isaac Abravanel synagogue,” when thousands of kefiyeh-clad rioters, armed with axes, knives, and iron bars, kept 200 Jewish worshippers trapped in fear for more than two hours. It was before Jewish men had to take off their kippot on the streets of French cities to avoid being assaulted, and Jewish girls had to fear being pepper-sprayed or worse.

As I read about your plight, I am haunted by a story told to me by a family friend in Los Angeles. All four of his grandparents were wealthy, assimilated, upper class German Jews before World War II. Yet the two families suffered very different fates.

His father’s family, the Adlers, owned a factory that employed a thousand workers. In 1936, a year after the Nuremberg Laws were enacted, the German government confiscated the family’s passports. Herr Adler was well connected. He managed to get the passports back. But he understood that, although his ancestors had lived in Germany for centuries, his family was now in danger because they were Jews. He decided they had to flee Germany without delay, but he suspected that the Nazi authorities were keeping a close eye on his movements. So he devised a plan.

For their son Heinz’s Bar Mitzvah, they threw a lavish party in their mansion, complete with a band and hundreds of guests. In the middle of the party, as crowds of people were coming and going, Herr Adler, with his wife, and two sons, slipped out the back door where a trusted employee was waiting in a car with a few suitcases. They had told no one, not even their servants. By the time their disappearance was discovered, they were safely over the Swiss border.

They left behind everything – their fancy automobiles, their mansion, their rich furnishings. They took with them only diamonds sewn into their clothing that they used to bribe their way from Switzerland to England to America. By the time the fugitives arrived in the United States, they had only enough left to buy a chicken farm.

Frau Adler had never washed a dish in her life. Seeing her shoveling chicken manure in the late 1940s, someone asked her if she was bitter about all she had lost. She was abashed by the question. She had her life, and the lives of her husband and children.

Our friend’s other set of grandparents had a very different saga. Even after the Nuremberg Laws and Kristallnacht, they harbored the illusion that Jews in Germany were not in mortal danger. Only in 1939 did they send one of their daughters (who would become our friend’s mother) to England. By the time the rest of the family tried to escape Germany, it was too late. They all were murdered in the Holocaust.

From this story I learned, if you don’t leave “in the middle of the party,” you may not be able to leave at all.

There is no future for the Jews in France, or in the Ukraine, or anywhere in Europe.

Of course, France in 2015 is not Germany in 1939. In today’s France, the anti-Semitism is not state-sponsored. But for too long it has been state-denied. Until last summer’s two synagogue attacks, one French government leader after another denied that the violence against you was anti-Semitism. They claimed it was anti-Zionist. But you, my French sisters and brothers, know that anti-Zionism is thinly veiled anti-Semitism. You know that the French police, as much as they may try, cannot protect you from the rabid hatred of hordes of rioting Muslims, who make up 10% of France’s population. You know that the French police, as much as they may try, cannot protect you from the barbarism of the lone jihadist trained by Al-Qaeda or ISIS.

The truth – the painful truth – is that there is no future for the Jews in France, or in the Ukraine, or anywhere in Europe.

So I appeal to you, my Jewish brothers and sisters, come home to Israel. This is a choice I made 30 years ago. I moved here not because I was fleeing anti-Semitism in my native America. Not because I was brainwashed by the dream that life here is a Zionist utopia. Not because I was unaware that Jews here are also beset by terrorism. I moved here 30 years ago because I was convinced, as the Torah states over and over again, that God wants the Jewish people to live in the Land of Israel.

Of course picking up and moving to Israel is no easy enterprise. It requires courage and resolve to leave everything -- your home, your job, your community, for an uncertain future. I know. I left “in the middle of the party.” I was 37 years old and single. I came with no savings and no friends or family in Israel. However, I trusted the Torah’s promise that “God’s eyes are on the Land of Israel from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.” This means that everything that happens here in Israel is under direct Divine supervision. Those of you who have spent time in Israel know this. You feel it. Both our manifold blessings and our difficult challenges in this God-soaked Land come directly from God. As Chaya Levine, who moved to Israel from the United States, said a month after her husband was murdered in the Har Nof terror attack: “We are not victims of circumstance or of terror. We are people of choice.”

The choice of the Jews of Israel is to live with the Jewish people in the Jewish homeland. Please, come join us.

With love and pain, your sister,
Sara Yoheved Rigler

Sara Yoheved Rigler’s all-encompassing online marriage program, “Choose Connection: How to Revive and Rejuvenate Your Marriage” is available to readers at a special price. Click here for more info:

January 10, 2015

Give Tzedakah! Help create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.
The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 78

(43) Dr C D Goldberg, April 20, 2017 11:52 AM

Fighting back

One cannot run away from problems forever. Both in South Africa and in Great Britain there were Anti-Semitic incidences in the 1930's and the Jews fought back, and by fighting back helped to reduce much of such incidents. The way forwards for the Jews of France is to learn self defense, join the police and security services, get jobs in the prison services as wardens and Councillors, get involved in the military and do massive public relations exercises to convince that they are not as bad as they are made out to be. Also they must be extremely honest in both business and professional life and take security and law enforcement seriously.

(42) Anonymous, February 20, 2016 4:21 PM

the world is becoming like Israel

Today it is obvious that Eastern muslim salafist jihadism has spread all over the world. The situation is deteriorating by the minute. Who knows when and where it will stop? We can only hope it won't cause so much destruction as the Western atheist ideologies of communism and nazism have done in the past 100 years.
If we talk about physical security, we can see that the whole world is becoming like Israel with terrorists ready to strike everywhere everyone regardless of faith at every hour. It is not only Jews (although for sure they are a top priority) who are not safe from them. Virtually everyone is a potential target. We can only hope they won't copy the new Israeli method of the knife as well.
The idea of establishing the secular State of Israel was to give security to the Jews and a refuge from anti-Semitism for them. The unfortunate truth is that ironically it has achieved just the opposite since its establishment: fueling and creating new forms of anti-Semitism both in the East and in the West. Its existence is one of the major catalysts of modern jihadism as well.
So Jews might enjoy to live and fight for an ideal in the State of Israel but the reality is that tragically it hasn't worked out. Too many of them have payed a horrible price for it with their lives and health with peace and security still nowhere in sight and they increased the hatred and danger for other Jews everywhere else, too.
So, although my moral support is on Israel's side, I personally have always felt more sad than enthusiastic about Israel. I cannot see how it was worth it. For the technical and cultural and sports and democratical and even spiritual achievements the price was too high.
Jews in the West in the last 70 years have been in much less danger than Jews in Israel. And what's wrong with choosing not living in Israel for security reasons? It's a sane choice.

(41) Moshe Akiva, January 18, 2015 1:24 AM

It's not that easy

For seven years I tried to make Aliya. People who should have helped me didn't even bother to call me. I contacted Israeli MK-s, even the Prime Minister. Nobody even answered.
At the end I realized Israel only needs rich or middle class Jews, possibly those who also speak Hebrew, I don't, and I needed financial help, too. That disqualified me I guess. Nobody even mentioned Nefesh Be Nefesh to me, I learned about them years after I gave up.
For some reason Israelis do not really worry about anything else but themselves.

(40) Madison Dines, January 16, 2015 9:10 PM

Things have changed a lot in 30 years, and I worry that it's not all for the better. G-d has given the Jews his covenant and also his instructions, and they are far, far more than the country of Israel can do. The amount of forgiveness, patience, prayer, kindness, and trust to be placed in the hands of G-d despite the machinations of men cannot be forgotten. And these days, it seems like it is in Israel in profound ways. The rising sense that only fighting can repel terrorism, and that the very nature of all Arabs is one of evil, this is the very mistake that G-d commanded us not to fall into in the first place. I cannot support your opinions, while your intentions are pure. I feel Israel as a country is too wounded, too fresh from the memories of the holocaust, and they have not yet let G-d come back in to teach them what peace feels like. Because if they did, no Jew would cheer the shelling of Gazans. And no Jew would advocate systemic violence against anyone. Jews are held to the highest standard of all peoples of the world, we all know this is true. And that requires patience, and mercy, and most of all a rejection of fear based decision making, and a necessity to always see the best light in all individuals. The law is very clear on this. And it makes the hardened, jaded, perpetually distrusting (of Arabs and Europeans) culture of Israel almost the opposite of the instructions given by G-d. Yes, Israel may be targeted, it may be hated, and it may be under threat. But that doesn't change the express instructions of G-d to always pray, to have joy in the heart, and to always have compassion. And that means that in wartime, as well as in peace, Israel must conduct itself elegantly, which it hasn't done in years. If you want to go where you won't be exposed to a vast culture with its eyes focused on its pain, and off of the words of G-d, go to the United States. It's a friendly place for Jews, and the Jews have an easier time following the law.

Moshe Akiva, January 18, 2015 1:30 AM

just wait a little more

I don't think Israeli Jews neither hate all Arabs, nor think all Arabs are evil. I think you are mistaken. But then they have a few thousand reasons to be scared of Muslims.
And as for you and the US, just wait my dear sibling... Muslims are flooding the US as well. Pretty soon the situation will be in the US just like it is now in France.

See All Comments

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.

  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment