Suspect arrested for beating Jewish man leaving Paris synagogue

A total of 1,242 antisemitic attacks were reported in France during the final three months of last year, a 1,000 percent increase on the same period in 2022.

By Ben Cohen

French police on Wednesday announced the arrest of a man alleged to have carried out a brutal antisemitic assault against a Jewish man as he left Friday night services at a Paris synagogue.

The unnamed assailant is reported to have a prior history of antisemitic acts, police sources told the news outlet Le Point. No further details have yet been released.

The 61-year-old victim, who wears a kippah, had just left the Beth Loubavitch synagogue on rue des Orteaux in the 20th arrondissement of the French capital last Friday evening when he was approached by the assailant. Speaking to broadcaster BFMTV, the victim recalled that the man had insulted him as a “dirty Jew,” before adding: “You kill people in Gaza.” The victim said he replied, “Me? I haven’t killed anyone.”

The assailant then attacked the victim, raining down a series of punches and kicks before fleeing the scene on foot. The victim briefly lost consciousness and was rushed to the hospital with a broken nose, cuts to his face, and severe pain in his jaw.

The victim emphasized that the feeling of being “belittled and humiliated” was worse than the physical pain he endured. “It reminds me of World War II, a return of Nazism — a new Nazism,” he said.

The attack was strongly denounced by French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, who confirmed over the weekend that he had instructed law enforcement across the country to reinforce their “surveillance of places frequented by our Jewish compatriots who must not become victims of the tragedies taking place in the Middle East.”

Darmanin had already been working on a series of measures to enhance security at Jewish institutions — including the presence of armed security personnel at Jewish schools, particularly when students are arriving or leaving — when news of the latest attack surfaced.

Antisemitic acts have risen precipitously in France since the Oct. 7 Hamas pogrom in southern Israel. During 2023, nearly 1,700 antisemitic acts were reported, the vast majority in the wake of the Hamas atrocities. A total of 1,242 attacks were reported during the final three months of last year, a 1,000 percent increase on the same period in 2022 and greater than the total number of attacks for the previous three years combined.

Corinne Serfati, the victim’s lawyer, praised the police for apprehending the assailant in a timely manner.

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“I’m relieved and pleased by the speed of this arrest,” she told BFMTV. “My client is relieved, because since Friday he has been feeling absolute anguish.”

The attack has further boosted anxiety within the large Jewish community residing in the same neighborhood over their security.

“I’ve lived in this neighborhood since I was born,” Richard, a Jewish man in his thirties, told broadcaster Europe 1. “Since Oct. 7, unfortunately, we no longer have the opportunity to go out as before, when we went out wearing a kippah. We’re forced to hide.”

Lucas, a 17-year-old student who attends a high school in the district, said he had been confronted with a number of instances of antisemitism, including a crossed out Star of David next to a Palestinian flag. He added that his sister had been insulted for belonging to the “dirty Jewish race.” He said that his father had nonetheless assured him that the “Republic will protect us.”