Saint Denis rabbi: Terrorists will not affect Jewish life here

(JTA) – The presence of terrorists in the Paris suburb of Saint Denis will not affect the daily life of the Jewish community there, the head of the local Chabad centre said.

Rabbi Mendel Belinow said the community will only “increase the volume of its activities” following a raid Wednesday that ended with the death of two suspected terrorists and a police dog in the poor and heavily-Muslim suburb north of the capital. Police stormed a building in Saint Denis believing it was the hiding place of people responsible for the attacks that killed at least 129 people on Friday.

No members of the Jewish community of Saint Denis, which has 15,000 to 20,000 congregants, are known to have been injured in the takeover, in which three police officers were wounded. One of the suspected terrorists, a woman wearing an explosive vest, died in an explosion she set off as counterterrorism troops were preparing to enter her hideout. Police arrested seven people.

“We are not suspending our activities, and are preparing to celebrate Chanukah as usual,” Belinow said, adding he was “not surprised at all” by news that terrorists chose to hide in the municipality.

“It’s a difficult neighbourhood, that is no stranger to extremism,” he said.

Following the attacks on Friday, many French Jewish institutions, and in Paris especially, briefly suspended their operations, though many synagogues remained open.

Anti-Semitic attacks have remained are a “frequent occurrence” in Saint Denis, but have not increased in recent months, said Belinow, who has served as an emissary to the Chabad-Lubavitch movement in Saint Denis for the past 25 years.

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