A group of British Jewish activists traveled to France to spend a Shabbat in solidarity with the Paris Jewish community, a week after the latest deadly Islamist terror attack claimed four of their members.
The solidarity trip was organized by the Sussex Friends of Israel (SFI) organization; SFI head Simon Cobbs said the group was "very proud" to have spent Shabbat morning at Paris's Great Synagogue, where they were warmly welcomed.
"We were not only warmly embraced by the congregation, but by passersby in the streets who saw us with our Israeli flags and waiters in restaurants, who wanted to have photographs taken with us," Cobbs said.
Nicholas Pitch, who was accompanied by his son, Hayden, said he was "honored" to be called up to read the haftorah during the morning service. "It was a very emotional experience for us all and I was proud to have taken part in the service."
The synagogue's rabbi welcomed the visiting group, and asked them to help correct an unfounded rumor spread last week that the synagogue had been closed in response to security threats.
He insisted that, even though the police had suggested it shut its doors, the synagogue remained open in the aftermath of last Friday's attacks, holding services that very Friday night and following Shabbat morning.
"The rabbi asked us to make sure that the truth was relayed to as many people as possible – the Great Shul in Paris was not closed by the threat of terrorism, it remained open for all those who wanted to pray", said Martin Rankoff, who made the journey to Paris from London.
After a smooth trip the group almost found themselves stranded on the wrong side of the English Channel, when their train was cancelled after a fire broke out in the Channel Tunnel.
But after braving the rough seas on a ferry they finally arrived home – exhausted but inspired.
Participant Rob Lorrimer said the last-minute complications hadn't dampened their spirits..
"It was the least we could do to show our solidarity with our French brothers and sisters and to let them know that we are all one large Jewish family, whatever country we come from."