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Je Suis Valerie, Je Suis Lassana: Help Family of Victim of the Attack on Kosher Paris Supermarket

Paris—Valerie Braham, widow of murder victim Philippe Braham who was gunned down while shopping for shabbos, buried her husband at Har HaMenuchot cemetery in Jerusalem on January 13th. He was buried along with the three other Jews (Yohan Cohen, François-Michel Saada, and Yoav Hattab) killed in the Islamist attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris on January 9th. At least one hero did emerge from the tragedy. Store employee Lassana Bathily, the 24-year-old Muslim immigrant who saved at least six Jews during the terror attack by hiding them in the store freezer, risked his own life to hide customers from hostage-taker Amedy Coulibaly.

Throngs of mourners attended the funeral after the bodies of the victims were flown to Israel from France. Valerie spoke to the crowd, and described Phillipe as a “perfect person… a man who thought of others before himself, a great husband and father who lived for his children.” She recalled that they had buried their 3-year-old son in Jerusalem four years ago. “Today, he is with my son,” she said. “I cry, but I know that you are all crying with me.”

In addition to his wife, Philippe Braham, 45, a teacher, left four young children. Since Valerie was a stay-at home mother, she is suffering from financial distress. To help the victims’ families during this trying time, an online fundraiser was launched and is being hosted on French crowd-funding site Leetchi, who will waive all processing fees. For those who can help, the website can be found at www.leetchi.com/c/solidarite-philippe-braham, and there is a time-limit on donating through the site that is quickly approaching. To send a check, the address is: Synagogue de Cachan, 28/30 ave Beausejour, 94230, made out to ACCIC (the Cultural Association of Cachan); note that this donation is designated for Mr. Braham’s family. One hundred percent of all donations will go to the family.

Grateful for all the attention his heroism received and humbled by his experience, Bathily said, via phone through his interpreter, cousin Abdoulaye Bathily: “This has all been very overwhelming. People have been calling me a hero, but I’m not; I am just Lassana. I will continue to be myself and not change. I acted on natural human impulse, the one everyone should have. My heart made me act. There were no questions of communities or religions, only a question of humanity, normal decency. I am very pleased I was able to do something, but it is very difficult for me as well because it was a traumatic, and I lost a friend, Yohan Cohen, with whom I laughed all the time. I miss him.”

The self-described practicing Muslim said he considered his fellow market employees to be his second family. “Anyone in that situation should have done the same thing. We’re all brothers. It’s not a question of Jews, Christians, or Muslims. We have to help one another. I deeply believe in the French motto of liberty, equality, and fraternity.” Born on June 27, 1990 on the Ivory Coast with Malian nationality, Lassana arrived in France when he was 16, had dreamed of gaining French citizenship since his childhood. He attended vocational schools and had a difficult childhood. Bathily received French citizenship from the hands of Prime Minister Manuel Valls and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve at a ceremony in Paris in recognition of his heroism. He said, “I am so glad to have dual citizenship. Vive freedom, vive friendship and solidarity, vive la France.”

By Lisa Matkowsky

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