The French Disconnection, 1: Innocence

It is the fall holiday of Sukkot when I am seated on the couch of our living-room nursing our 4-month-old firstborn Raphael Jacob. (He is now 30-years old.) Suddenly, the floor under my feet and the glass windows are shaken in a terrible explosion. Moments later we smell smoke and hear the screeching of sirens. My husband, ET races down the four flights of stairs and up again to announce the news: Just down the street the liberal synagogue on the rue Copernic has been bombed. (Our concierge referred to it as “The Israelite church.”) I look down at my infant son and wonder how in the life that lies before him I will keep him safe. In my need to escape the suffocating censure of New York Jewish Orthodoxy, I birthed him back in the Old World, never for a moment considering its inhospitable history towards Jews. The greater danger seemed to me the withering away of his mother’s spirit were there to be anything less than an ocean between her and the Orthodox crusaders back home.

Four people, three of them passersby, are killed in the terrorist attack, scores of others are injured, windows are blown out and cars are wrecked up and down the fashionable street just a few hundred yards away from where we live.

A thoughtless Prime Minister named Raymond Barre decries the incident in a telling way. He bemoans that terrorists who are targeting Jews end up killing “innocent French people” instead. The remark sends shock waves through the Jewish community, sadly protesting its relegation to the ranks of those who are not innocent. My little Raphael Jacob is dark-haired and big brown-eyed, he is an alert, curious, preternaturally cheerful infant. He is a circumcised and classically Jewish looking child. I don’t want to listen to the news and don’t consider joining the massive protest that follows the synagogue bombing. I tenderly lower my baby into his crib when he has had his full of my milk and watch him drift into undisturbed sleep. I find myself wishing, somewhat ashamedly, that for once this overbearing Jewish Question would by some miracle just forever fade away.

About susanrtorn

writer, life coach
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One Response to The French Disconnection, 1: Innocence

  1. Deborah says:

    I was particularly moved by the tableau you created nursing your firstborn, sudden chaos, your husband’s descent and re-ascent, the aftermath that included Barre’s words. It took me back. My first time in France was a semester’s stay beginning late-summer 1982. I remember the fresh handwritten note on Jo Goldenberg’s door, post-bombing. And now we have the lovely utterances of Mr. Galliano, in practically the same spot, no less. Plus ca change…

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