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Gunman Slaughters Four Outside French Jewish School

Gunman Slaughters Four Outside French Jewish School

A distraught Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Yosef Matusof, who lost three students of his Gan Rashi elementary school in Monday's attack, seeks answers outside the Ozar Hatorah high school just meters from where they were slain. (Photo: Eric Cabanis/AFP/Getty)
A distraught Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Yosef Matusof, who lost three students of his Gan Rashi elementary school in Monday's attack, seeks answers outside the Ozar Hatorah high school just meters from where they were slain. (Photo: Eric Cabanis/AFP/Getty)

The tight-knit Jewish community of Toulouse was thrown into turmoil Monday morning, the peace of the southwestern France city shattered by a gunman’s bullets. As police counted shell casings, authorities released the names of the deceased, their lives snuffed out just steps from the Ozar Hatorah high school when a man riding a motorcycle opened fire.

In all, the unnamed assailant – whom reports are saying may have had a hand in similar fatal attacks recently on French soldiers in the area – claimed the lives of Jonathan Sandler, a 30-year-old Judaic studies teacher at the school, his three-year-old and six-year-old sons, and the second-grade daughter of another faculty member. The children were waiting for a bus to take them to the Chabad-Lubavitch run Gan Rashi elementary school.

“The whole community is anxious and on edge,” reported Rabbi Haim Hilel Matusof of Jeunesse Lubavitch-Beth Habad Toulouse, a Chabad Jewish center in the city. “That school is on a little street in a calm area. There’s no sign, and it’s a very secure place. He had to know it was a Jewish school.”


A 15-year-old boy, whose Hebrew name is Aharon ben Leah, was injured in the attack. Matusof urged people around the world to pray for his recovery.

“Schools are of course closed for the rest of the day,” said the rabbi, adding that psychologists and counselors were already helping students and their families deal with the crisis. “People will be in synagogue tonight, seeking to make sense of this horrific tragedy.”

A friend of Sandler’s, who identified himself to reporters as Baruch, said that he spoke to the man just before the shooting.

“I saw him, greeted him, and left toward the school. Seconds later, I heard shots. I didn’t turn around, and started running toward the synagogue that is about 10 to 15 meters from the entrance gate,” he detailed. “Everyone started shouting … and fled. At some point the shooter entered the school and began firing inside. We hid under the synagogue in a shed, until the police came and escorted us out.”

The scene outside the school could only be described as chaotic, with groups of parents and children huddled together, some in shock, others wailing. Older boys still wore their prayer boxes known as tefillin, carrying their hastily bunched prayer shawls through the streets.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his opponents in this year’s elections effectively cancelled campaigning, and Sarkozy ordered more security at Jewish schools throughout the nation. He visited Toulouse with Jewish community officials later Monday.

The Ozar Hatorah high school serves as a central point for Toulouse's 25,000-strong Jewish community. (Photo: Eric Cabanis/AFP)
The Ozar Hatorah high school serves as a central point for Toulouse's 25,000-strong Jewish community. (Photo: Eric Cabanis/AFP)

Calling the shooting an attack on the entire community of France, Sarkozy told those gathered at a hastily-called press conference at the school that investigators would bring those responsible to justice.

“We will find him,” he pledged.

CRIF, the umbrella Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions, condemned the attack and expressed outrage at the targeting of children, Haaretz reported.

“We have no doubt that the attack was anti-Semitic. It is certain,” said Meir Habib, deputy chairman of CRIF. “Killing children from close range just because they are Jewish is an unimaginable horror. These are innocent children.”

The attack bore similarities to a March 10 assault on a paratrooper in Toulouse, in which a gunman on a motorbike opened fire. Just last week, a gunman on a motorbike killed two other paratroopers in Montauban, about 30 miles away. Forensics experts said that the same weapon was likely used in the previous attacks, the Associated Press reported, but witnesses spoke Monday of possibly two weapons being used outside the Jewish school.

In Jerusalem, Israeli officials unanimously condemned the attack, expressing confidence that French authorities would conduct a thorough investigation.

“Whether it was a terror attack or a hate crime,” said Defense Minister Ehud Barak, “the loss of life is unacceptable.”

Tamar Runyan contributed to this report.

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Discussion (24)
September 7, 2012
In Temple Israel of the Poconos, in Stroudsburg Pennsylvania, USA, we have mounted a double memorial plaque to the three lost children and Rabbi Sandler. It will be permanently installed this Yom Kippur before Yiskor services It also memorializes all of our Martyrs lost because they were Jews throughout history. Such memorials to their honored memory should be installed throughout the world..
Emanuel Fineberg PhD
Bushkill, PA- USA
March 24, 2012
Toulose, France violence
Thank you, who, in such a dark hour, remind me to spread the Shabbat light for us all.
It has been a long time, but this Friday I shall begin again.
Rebecca Lippel Lockhart
San Francisco, CA/USA
March 24, 2012
Toulouse, a time bomb
My god, what did we do??!! Why have we let these people, whoever they are, enjoy the freedom of our world so that they can use it against us? It is pretty obvious that this is not the action of a French national but rather an individual who has been authorized to emigrate from a country where he would be hanged or stoned to death for far less than this. Have we no insight? Can we not all get up and say, enough is enough, let’s do away with the political correctness that is suffocating us and let’s tell these animals to go home and let’s make then go home. It is about time that the French government reclaims its territory and its beautiful culture. Let France be remembered for its beauty and its art not for its killing fields.
Montreal, Canada
March 22, 2012
this violence
Such evil!! to target a family, to take away their lives, their love, their RIGHT to exist!!! It is appalling and heartbreaking. My prayers continue.
bend, oregon
March 22, 2012
A dybbuk in the skin of a human
"...The gunman held the girl by the hair to execute her, pausing to switch to a .45 when his 9-millimeter pistol jammed.... He was wearing a camera around his neck at the school to record his murders."

There is a picture of the rabbi and sweet faced children on the web. This puts a face on the victims. The dead Rabbi. The Dead Children. The girl held by the hair to be executed by the terrorist coward with a gun.

Who feels sympathy for this terrorist killer? Please tell me why. Shooting at police,
Mohammed Merah vowed to ‘bring France to its knees.' He jumped off his balcony with two shots to his head. Now he is dead, and he will be judged by Hashem for his atrocities.

You don't have be Jewish to see the horror of this man's actions. You just have to be human.
Ephraim Yonathan
West Hills, CA/USA
March 22, 2012
Condemn Moslem Terrorists
Recall the murder of the Vogel family in israel--a "Palestinian" terrorist broke into their home, and slaughtered the parents, a baby, and siblings, because they were Jewish. Many times, Arabs in their towns celebrate these heinous acts by throwing candy to passersby. I am a child of Holocaust survivors, and we are experiencing a kind of Holocaust right now of our brethren. Yet in the US and many European countries, our Moslem enemies are protected and encouraged to emigrate to these lands. In the US, CAIR, an Arab group, actively sues broadcasters, etc. who criticize the Arabs/Moslems in the US and elsewhere, thereby threatening our free speech and existence. For example, right after the Toulouse attack, French officials first blamed a "Nazi" group--because they feared to blame it on the obvious group--Moslem terrorists. Until we do away with this political correctness, and pursue the obvious--Moslem terrorists who want to destroy Jews, we cannot properly protect our people.
Toronto, Canada
March 22, 2012
But Europe will fail to realise.
I was horrified naturally, to hear this news, this tragedy. But unfortunately, the general populace of Europe will forget about what Jews have to put up with. Antisemitism is on the rise in Europe, but it is ignored by most media, and even at government levels. Catherine Ashton, a key EU figure, even had the nerve to link this to Gaza. Now what an insensitive thing this is! It is like she is implying that what Israeli soldiers have to do to protect their homeland is anything like this brutal muslim murderer. And I note that most of the mainstream media is even ignoring the fact that he is muslim.
March 21, 2012
Toulose Abomination
It is a terrible act to take life, and more terrible because of Jewishness. I offer condolences to the Jews of Toulose the poor little children. Continued support for all things Jewish.
Geraldine Murphy
March 21, 2012
What should be done about this?
So terrible so unacceptable.
Mr. Jorge Munuzuri
March 21, 2012
Toulouse Jews
One's heart goes out to the entire congregation, especially the families.
Who kills for nothing? Who picks on defenceless children?
May their memories give rise to something great and wonderful.
Johannesburg, S Africa
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