(JTA) — Nice’s Jewish community will hold Shabbat activities in a spirit of solidarity and
defiance after a terrorist killed scores of people in the city in southern France.
A 30-year- old man drove a rented white truck through a crowded promenade in the
coastal resort city on Thursday night shortly after the annual firework show on Bastille
Day, BFMTV reported. He may have had accomplices who participated in the attack
itself, the channel reported. Over 80 people were killed.
“We will not let this affect us, we will not let fear affect or damage the life of our
community, just as France will not let fear of terrorism change it,” Yossef Yitschok
Pinson, the rabbi of Nice’s Chabad House, told JTA Friday. Synagogue services and
community events will go on as planned, he said.
In addition to the fatalities, the attack resulted in severe injuries to at least 18 people
and a few other people were lightly wounded. The identities of the victims have not yet
been made known. At least five of the wounded are Jews, according to Pinson. French
government officials reported that the death toll was at least 84 people.
“The truck left a trail of blood as it tore through the crowd,” said Pinson, citing eye-
witness testimonies. One witness to the attack was “deeply traumatized by what she
saw,” he said. “Body parts, people screaming, blood everywhere and very, very difficult
Unlike Paris, Nice had never seen a terrorist attack of the scale witnessed Thursday.
“Although it is part of the reality of life in France that something like this can happen, it is
shocking to see it in Nice,” Pinson added.
The driver, who has a criminal record involving violence but not terrorism, barrelled
through the crowd that had gathered on the Promenade des Anglais to watch fireworks
on France’s national day, according to the BFMTV television channel.
President Francoise Hollande said that an “attack with terrorist characteristics cannot be
denied.” He added that France’s state of emergency, declared in November following a
lethal series of terrorist attacks in Paris, may be extended and that some army
reservists may be drafted. The driver, who fired a gun into the crowd, was killed by
return fire. His name was not immediately released.
Nice, which is located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, is an international tourist
destination that also draws hundreds of thousands of local French tourists in summer,
as well as many European Jews who come to Nice because it has a permanent Jewish
population of 25,000 with kosher shops and synagogues, in addition to the Chabad
But the summer crowd has not yet arrived, Pinson, the rabbi, told JTA. “They usually
come in August, then there are far more Jews in town,” he said.
Following the attack, Jewish groups joined other faith groups, heads of state and
international organizations in condemning the attack.
President Barack Obama said in a statement: “We stand in solidarity and partnership
with France, our oldest ally, as they respond to and recover from this attack. We know
that the character of the French Republic will endure long after this devastating and
tragic loss of life.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement Friday that his country
“condemns in the strongest terms last night’s horrific attack in Nice.”
Israelis, he added, “stand united with the people of France today” and “Israel is ready to
help the French government fight this evil until it is defeated.”
European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor spoke of his outrage, as well as
“pain and sadness,” following the attack.