Toulouse, After the Terror Attack



by Peter Radvanszki

I spend the last year of my studies in Toulouse, France, where I have a full-time placement in the Liberal Jewish Community of Toulouse, which allows me to help develop the community in several ways. Besides the usual rabbinic tasks of leading services and teaching, I started a cantillation course, in order to create a new generation of Torah readers in the community. There are around six very enthusiastic participants in the course, which is a huge number in such a small community.

The community had a lot of success in the past few months. We moved into a new building which allowed us to increase the number of the participants in services and programs. The new place gives us huge potential to grow in number and in to increase the number of educational programs.

The building also features some wonderful colored windows created by Anita Bartha (my fiancée), which play with patterns of the Margheb region, from where, many of our members originated.

Then the terrorists attack happened on the 19th of March. Immediately after hearing the news, we (me, Anita, and other members of the community) rushed to the scene. Several families and journalists were there of course, with slight police presence. Two boys from the community just came out from the school, unharmed. We just celebrated the bar mitzvah of one of them, the weekend before. We hugged them, kissed them, and let them head home. The attack hugely affected the Jewish life in the town, mainly on an emotional level. There were at least three families from our community who were traumatized. For a week, it seemed that many of our dreams were shattered among the hopes to create a large and dynamic community.

But our successful Pesach Seder and services showed that this is a community which will not let itself be overwhelmed by fear. It is true, everything is changed, and it will be a long process to heal the wounds. But I feel that with the enthusiastic, collective work of the community, we shall be able to overcome the terrible, long-term effects of the attack, and to continue our growth. I would like to emphasize that all of this work would not have been possible without the financial support of the Women of Reform Judaism.

Peter Radvanszki is a 5th year student in the rabbinical seminary Leo Baeck College, London. He is a recipient of a WRJ YES Fund grant.

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