22/11/2018 14 Kislev 5779
Harav Avraham Yosef, together with the head of the Hidabrut organization and leading Torah spokesman Harav Zamir Cohen, led a delegation organized by the RCE on a visit to Jewish communities throughout France, including Jewish schools and local universities. The emphasis of their campaign was to strengthen Jewish identity and to prevent assimilation among the youth, who are now three and four generations removed from those who experienced the Nazi’s perpetration of the Holocaust. The delegation also met with the local rabbanim and discussed the problems and challenges facing them.
The RCE’s delegation included director Rabbi Menachem Margolin, deputy director Rabbi Aryeh Goldberg, and Rabbi Avraham Abba Turetzky, who is responsible for maintaining the RCE’s lines of communication with Europe’s Jewish communities.
The tour began in synagogue of Rav Bougid’s community in Paris, which is led by Harav Shmuel Chori. From there the delegation visited a long list of Jewish schools and synagogues throughout Paris and its suburbs.
One of their stops was at Harav Shmuel Chori’s kollel, whose students presented the rabbis with a list of complicated halachic queries. The delegation fielded these questions, and expressed their admiration for the depth and breadth of the students’ Torah knowledge. The kollel avreichim deliver regular Torah classes to the community, including practical halachah classes for women.
Afterward, the delegation met with Yoel Margi, president of the consistory of France, who expressed his concern over the rate of assimilation among France’s Jewish youth. He asked the rabbis’ advice on how to rekindle the spark of Jewish identity among a generation of Jews who were raised without any knowledge of Judaism or of its significance, as their parents, too, lacked knowledge of Judaism. On the positive side, many, many Jews have expressed their desire to preserve their Jewish identity and to become more observant of the mitzvos.
During a discussion with leaders of the Jewish community, they expressed their concern for the future for French Jews who had made aliyah in recent years. They claimed that these people were experiencing difficulties finding suitable schools for their children, and this had caused a sharp decline in their level of mitzvah observance and their connection with their Jewish identity. The French leaders explained that they had approached officials from the Jewish agency asking that they re-evaluate their campaign to bring immigrants from France unless they were willing to do whatever is necessary to provide proper schools for their children. They asked Harav Yosef and Harav Cohen to use their influence to see to it that schools are provided to care for the spiritual needs of the new French immigrants in Israel.
“The RCE’s arranging of this visit, and the involvement of two of the most important rabbanim in Eretz Yisrael, to bolster the Jews in Paris, is greatly appreciated by the community,” said Rav Chory. “We are already seeing the impact of the visit, as dozens of young Jews in various communities are repeating the rabbis’ statements regarding topics brought up in our discussions.
“The discussions covered everything: girls’ responsibility to dress modestly, the value of observing mitzvos, the obligation to eat only kosher, avoiding assimilation, the importance of observing Shabbos, the question of whether a Jew is obligated to immigrate to Israel, and a host of other topics. In each community, the same scenario repeated itself: The rabbanim spoke to an audience of Jews of all ages and encouraged them to ask questions on any topic at all. The rabbanim had answers and explanations for everything. They gave generously of their time to address each question. These open discussions, and the rabbis’ willingness to answer every question, left us all with feelings of deep admiration!”