French Jew in stable condition after stabbing in Strasbourg


A French Jew in his sixties was stabbed in Strasbourg in a suspected anti-Semitic attack.

The man, who was wearing a kippah when the incident happened, was leaving his home when a suspect who is in police custody allegedly stabbed him in the abdomen Friday morning, Le Figaro reportedAccording to Le Monde, the victim, who was not named, is in stable and non life-threatening condition.

The incident occurred less the half a mile from the main synagogue of the city in eastern France inside its Jewish quarter, René Gutman, the city’s chief rabbi, told AFP.

The presumed assailant has a history of mental illness, according to Le Monde. Gutman, who did not witness the attack, said the suspect shouted “Allah hu akbar” — Arabic for “Allah is the greatest” — during the incident but the interior ministry did not confirm this, Le Monde reported.

Gutman also said that the same suspect was involved in an earlier assault in 2010 against a Jew in the center of Strasbourg.

But, Gutman said, such attacks are unusual in Strasbourg, where more than 10,000 Jews in relative peace.

In 2015, the French Jewish community’s main watchdog on anti-Semitism, SPCJ, documented 808 anti-Semitic acts — a slight dip from the 851 incidents documented in 2014 but still almost double the 423 incidents recorded in 2013.

Destination: Strasbourg


It’s not every day a grown woman gets her cheeks pinched by another woman who’s tickled pink to see her eating, but then Yvonne Haller is no ordinary French restaurateur.

She’s one of the handful of honorary Jewish mothers — actually elegantly coifed and no doubt WASPy grande dames — who make the winstubs (wine bars) of Strasbourg so special; even heads of state gather to discuss business at their crowded trestle tables rather than somewhere more private.

Chez Yvonne has hosted European leaders, while members of the rock group, Radiohead, were equally unlikely guests at Le Clou, round the corner. These convivial hostelries and dozens like them provide a disarmingly homely counterpoint to the grave institutions that bring so many suits — politicians, lawyers and lobbyists — to the European city.

Perhaps the haimish ambiance is the result of Jewish influence — the community may have been decimated during the war, but Alsace has a phenomenally strong Jewish heritage reaching far beyond city limits. More than 200 historic sites document a shtetl system to rival Eastern Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, when the region was home to half of France’s Jews. All but a quarter were wiped out by the Nazis, but Strasbourg remains a Jewish haven thanks to an influx of Sephardim from North Africa who have been enthusiastically embraced by the remaining Ashkenazim.

The blood link makes a visit to one of the prettiest parts of France particularly resonant for the Jewish visitor, who will find antique synagogue furnishings of magnificent quality in Strasbourg’s exquisite Musee Alsacien. There are also a host of other museums, synagogues and other testaments to Jewish life across the region.

Strasbourg, which has a host of magnificent museums, houses medieval Jewish tombstones in its Musee de l’Oeuvre Notre-Dame; there is also a third-century mikvah that can be visited, the inevitable Rue des Juifs and two restaurants specializing in Jewish Alsatian cuisine. Although the magnificent Gothic synagogue was destroyed by the Germans in 1940, many beautiful shuls (Moorish in Thann, neoclassical in Haguenau, neoromanesque in Struth) still stand in the countryside, notably the 1791 temple in Pfaffenhoffen with its matzah oven and superb painted ark.

Even without the Jewish sites and heritage tours on offer, Alsace would be a delight and Strasbourg its crown jewel. The most decorated city in France, where every wooden surface seems to be exquisitely carved, every piece of cloth embroidered, every wineglass etched and every piece of pottery hand-painted, the riot of ornament somehow comes across as far from sweet, more a celebration of life.

To get an overview, take immediately to the water; bateaux-mouches (river boats) await in front of the Palais Rohan, where a teenage Marie-Antoinette came to be married. You will float through the picturesque ancient quarter of La Petite France into the handsome harbor and upriver to see the breathtaking buildings that are Strasbourg’s modern raison d’etre — the elliptically elegant European Parliament and swirly, swaggering Court of Human Rights designed by Richard Rodgers.

Once off the boat, your first stop in the engrossing Old Town should be the world’s prettiest and most engaging cathedral. Reminiscent of a pink wedding cake on the outside, the interior boasts a magnificent 16th-century astronomical clock whose 12:30 p.m. performance is not to be missed. The clock portal outside the cathedral is remarkable, too, not the least because it is flanked on one side by a piece of ancient synagogue statuary. Around the cathedral lies a warren of streets rich in winstubs and fine shops. The best shop for regional products is the large emporium on the square where you disembark the bateaux-mouches, lying in wait for the discerning tourists with fine linens, painted cookware and the carved iron for which the region is also famous.

Strasbourg is rich in well-priced, comfortable hostelries like the Tulip Inn-Hannong, where elegant rooms range from $60 to $125 per night. In a smart shopping street only a five-minute stroll from the Old Town, it offers a quieter alternative to the Maison Kammerzell, a hotel-restaurant famous for its ornate medieval exterior, and other lodgings close to the cathedral.

Although there is enough in the city to command a dedicated weekend trip, it would be a shame to miss the riches of the surrounding region. Colmar is another handsome town packed with fine museums and Jewish heritage sites. The Musee Bartholdi, dedicated to the creator of the Statue of Liberty, contains a collection of artifacts and works amassed by the Historical and Contemporary Jewish Art Fund, but the town’s most justly famous museum is the Unterlinden, a former Dominican convent with 13th-century cloister, packed with fabulous mediaeval art and a famous altarpiece.

Like Strasbourg, a river runs through it, and it’s delightful to have lunch by the water during summer; head for the Tanners’ District and Little Venice. Although Colmar does have a luxurious riverside hotel, it is more pleasant yet to stay in one of the surrounding villages on Alsace’s delightful Route des Vins.

While picnics are a good reason to summer in Alsace’s rolling hills, December is when the region, famous for its Christmas markets, is at its most atmospheric and entrancing. Strasbourg’s festive lights are simply unforgettable.

Celebrating Jewish History in Alsace


Alsace, a picture-perfect rural region of rich vineyards, farmlands, soft green mountains and rolling valleys, sits on France’s northeast border, next to Germany. Around every bend along the narrow roads are charming villages with winding cobbled streets and neatly painted black and white timbered houses. In summer, pink and purple and scarlet geraniums blossom in gardens and window boxes. Though the region is only 20 miles wide and 100 miles long, its largest city, Strasbourg, has a population of more than 388,000, with a magnificent cathedral, and is home to the prestigious Council of Europe.

The Alsace tourist office, in association with the region’s Jewish communities, has produced an illustrated brochure in French and English describing some 200 places with Jewish significance and many special events that have been set up in towns and villages.

Alsace has a long Jewish history. In 1170, a Spanish Jew traveling in Europe wrote about a flourishing Jewish community in Strasbourg. Most of the Jews left in 1348 during the Black Death, when anti-Semites accused them of poisoning the wells. The Jews settled in villages and small rural communities to become farmers, cattle traders and secondhand clothes dealers.

It was the French Revolution’s Emancipation Decree that gave the 20,000 Jews in Alsace full citizenship in 1791. People moved back to the towns from the villages to work in industry and other trades, and the Jewish population increased. When the Germans occupied France in 1940, the Jews were expelled from Alsace.

Alsace itself suffered during the war. The Germans invaded and hung their swastika flag on Strasbourg Cathedral. Non-Jewish Alsatians who refused to fight for the German army were forced to build the Struthof concentration camp for their incarceration. Some 40,000 people from Alsace died. The camp, with its barbed wire and crematorium buildings, is open today as a tragic memorial.

After 1945, the survivors returned to Alsace, settling mostly in the cities. Today, Alsace is an important Jewish center.

Yiddish has influenced the Alsatian dialect, which you can still hear today. Words like schmooze (chat) and meshuge (crazy) are part of the language adapted from Jewish residents.

In Strasbourg, there is a guided walking tour called Discovering Jewish Heritage. The city’s Alsatian Museum has two rooms devoted to the Jewish community with treasured objects on display from local synagogues. You can also find restaurants that serve Jewish-Alsatian specialties such as sauerkraut, the traditional dish cooked with beef or goose, not pork; strudel, here an apple, raisin and cinnamon cake; and pickelfleisch (beef brisket in brine) – that’s pastrami to you.

Once you leave the city, there are dozens of villages with places of Jewish interest easily reached by car or bus. Guided tours are available. For the energetic, there’s a 50-mile bicycle trip touring a group of villages with Jewish connections.

Wolfisheim, just north of the city, has an beautifully restored 1897 synagogue. Further northeast is Bouxwiller, the county capital in 1791, a lovely village with distinctive stone fountains. You can visit the old synagogue, which has been converted into a modern museum showing the culture and history of Judaism.

In Pfaffenhoffen, the oldest synagogue in the region, built in 1791, has been completely restored and is open to visitors. Upstairs, where services were held, is an ornate frame for the ark that looks like an elaborate doorway, while downstairs is a community room, a matzah oven, a mikvah and a room for guests. You can also visit Ettendorf, about four miles southwest, where the oldest Jewish cemetery in Alsace sits on a hillside.

Hagenau, a few miles to the east on the banks of the Moder River, has a collection of Jewish art and artifacts in the Museum of History, which tells the story of the town from the 12th century to the 19th century. Marmoutier, to the south, has created a museum in an old house with a mikvah. On display are memorabilia of famous Jews from the town, among them the artist Alphonse Levy and his patron, Albert Kahn.

Colmar, a major town in the central southern region, is renowned for Little Venice, an area that has miles of peaceful winding waterways that you can tour by boat. The sculptor August Bartholdi, who designed the Statue of Liberty, lived here. The Bartholdi Museum commemorates his life and work and also displays Jewish arts.

The Alsace region is famous for its vineyards, particularly its white wines. There are vineyards in Goxwiller and Sigolsheim specializing in kosher wine; you can take a tour and taste the different vintages. In Wasselonne, there’s a company that makes unleavened bread products, which also offers tours. Several villages have excellent restaurants serving Alsatian-Jewish specialties.

For more information, contact France-on-Call Hotline at (410) 286-8310 or the French Government Tourist Office in Los Angeles at (310) 271-4721, at 9454 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 715, Beverly Hills CA 90212. Its Web site is francetourism.com

Travel expert Evelyn Kaye’s books include “Free Vacations,” “Active Woman Vacation Guide,” and “Adventures in Japan.” You can reach her at www.travelbooks123.com.

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