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Ridgewood proprietor helps greet France’s chief rabbi

Photo by Victoria Schneps

Ridgewood businessman Herman Hochberg joined the mayor and others in welcoming France’s chief rabbi to Manhattan’s Park East Synagogue last week.

Chief Rabbi Haim Corsia spoke about the safety of French Jews following the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks in January and other recent anti-Semitic events across Europe. Thursday’s event was reserved “for leaders and representatives of the Jewish community,” as noted on the official invitation.

Hochberg — owner of Queens Wines and Liquors, a staple in Ridgewood for more than 60 years — has served as president of the Park East Synagogue board of directors for the past seven years and previously greeted Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI during his 2008 visit to New York.

Along with Mayor Bill de Blasio and Park East’s Rabbi Arthur Schneier, Hochberg presented Corsia with a crystal apple as a token of the congregation’s appreciation and support.

In a phone interview, Hochberg remarked that Corsia held a very positive and hopeful outlook for the Jewish people of France, noting that the rabbi is working closely with the government to ensure that people, synagogues and schools are properly protected from evildoers. Hochberg noted that Corsica — who also serves as chaplain of the French army — worked closely with the government of French President François Hollande to assign 10,500 soldiers and law enforcement agents to protect Jewish sites across the nation.

“The rabbi is a very energetic young man and his objective of course is not to have people leave but have them stay and make sure there’s the proper protection,” Hochberg said. “They consider themselves Frenchmen. For many generations, they’ve been there.”

As quoted in the Jerusalem Post, Corsia told those gathered at Park East last Thursday he witnessed in France “a sense of indifference” toward anti-Semitism and bias crimes prior to last month’s attacks in France at a satirical news magazine’s office and a Kosher supermarket. But in the aftermath, Corsia declared, French people from all walks of life rose to denounce the attacks and other acts of violence.

“[T]he entire society finally rose to say ‘no’ to the terrorist, ‘no’ to muzzling freedom of speech and freedom of the press,” according to Corsia’s remarks published in the Jerusalem Post. “I am of the view that if Charlie Hebdo as such had not happened, I’m not sure that so many people would march in the street.”

Hochberg echoed those sentiments, noting that the rally in Paris following the attacks — which included 4 million people and heads of state from across the globe — showed solidarity for the victims and sent a message that hatred will not be tolerated.

Even so, anti-Semitic incidents occurred in France weeks after the attacks, including the desecration of about 250 tombs at a Jewish cemetery in the eastern part of the country. Citing French authorities, the Jerusalem Post reported that anti-Semitic threats and incidents doubled in France over the last year.

De Blasio, who visited Paris soon after January’s terrorist attacks, reiterated that the city stands with France in opposition to terrorism and anti-Semitism.

“It’s our moment to say we don’t like this trend we see. We don’t find it acceptable,” the mayor said, as quoted in published reports. “As Rabbi Corsia said powerfully, there are no small crimes. No small affront to the Jewish community is acceptable because it will only lead to larger affronts and more dangerous ones.”

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