The hysterical phone call in French, punctuated with outbursts of tears, was obviously an exceptional case. The operator manning Yad L'Achim's hotline transferred the call to the organization's French-language division for immediate care.
On the phone was Jeanette, a young Jewish woman from Toulouse. She feared for the life of her only son, whose father was an Arab from Tunisia, and was taking advantage of her husband's absence from home to call Yad L'Achim in Israel.
The story had begun two years earlier, when Jeanette, born and raised in France to a Jewish mother and a non-Jewish father, met an Arab youth. A year later, she gave birth to their son, but at the same time the Arab youth, who until then had lived a secular life, began to draw closer to Islam. He grew a beard and went to the mosque five times a day.
"I feel like he's cooking something up," Jeanette told Yad L'Achim. "I have reason to believe that he plans to run away with our son to his Muslim fundamentalist family in Tunisia."
In an instance of astounding Hashgacha (Divine intervention), Jeanette's older brother Pierre had begun studying at the University of Paris. When his roommate, a Muslim, asked him in what way he was Jewish, as he didn't practice any of the traditions of his forefathers, Pierre began to study his origins and return to Judaism.
When Pierre heard about what his sister was going through, he turned to Harav Eliezer Rismack, the head of the Ohalei Yaakov Yeshivah for French immigrants in Modi'in Ilit, who referred him to Yad L'Achim.
"Of late, we have witnessed many incidents of Jewish girls from France marrying Arabs," Rav Rismack observed. "The danger of assimilation in France has reached a new dangerous level."
The head of Yad L'Achim's French division who took Jeanette's frantic call reassured her that things would work out. They decided that Jeanette would ask her husband about taking her son for a week-long vacation with her family. Her husband saw nothing suspicious about the request, as her family was wealthy and frequently took vacations.
Exactly one week later, Jeanette and the child landed in Israel and are now living in a suitable community that Yad L'Achim found for them. Some French immigrant families there have enlisted the entire community to help Jeanette and provide for all her needs.
Meanwhile, Yad L'Achim's lawyers are working on a legal justification for separating the boy from his Muslim father.
"This case, like many others that have arrived at our doorstep from France over the past year, testify to the importance of the French-speaking division that we established not long ago to deal with the problem of assimilation and intermarriage in France," a Yad L'Achim official said.
"I know the division up close and am amazed at the quick and efficient care it provided in this case," said Rav Rismack. "There is no doubt that this division will be able to assist in other tragic cases that regularly come to our attention."
The department is preparing a round of meetings in schools throughout France, to warn youths of the danger of intermarriage and to inform them that there is an address they can turn to in such cases.