Article by Ruben Honigmann
“One thing never ceases to amaze me about Jews—their ability to marvel at the hostility directed against them. With every antisemitic murder, attack, massacre, or pogrom, we’re stunned. We are offended by the lack of empathy of our usual affable greengrocer; we are outraged by the reaction of the UN Secretary-General; we cannot stand the semantic contortions of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, worthy of the best Yeshiva students; we are revolted by the radical loneliness of the persecuted Jewish people. We rub our eyes every time, as we did the first day when we saw Harvard daddy’s boys denouncing the “genocide underway in Gaza” or the Queers for Palestine tearing down posters of Israeli hostages. But why are we surprised?”
Often, I look at the class photo. Each time, I catch myself tracking down the tiny clues that foreshadowed the destinies: the Michael Jordan cap of one, the dissimulation of another, the absent air of this one, the coquetry of that one, a mischievous smile, a false air of self-confidence. For a long time this photo remained my social compass, the measuring instrument of my inner geometry, the one by which I evaluated the distance that separated me from each of my classmates. Each of us has gone our own way, the group has broken up and that’s good. I am no longer the center of the group, I am my own center.”
“I like Sukkot. For a week, Jews are required to eat their meals in an ephemeral dwelling, in Hebrew a sukkah, which is translated, for want of a better word, as “booth.” This draws the curiosity of children and perhaps softens the hearts of antisemites. (…) A clever solid-fragile construction to which one repairs three times a day to eat, dining cart in tow. By temporarily settling outside while keeping one foot at home, inside and outside merge, primary and secondary residence are reversed. In short, you stage your own exile. And as I never manage to feel totally at ease where I am, hoping at each station that the next one will be the right one, this festival of fidgeting suits me perfectly.”
“I arrived in France when I was only one year old and waited 37 years to become French. I knew nothing about my homeland Germany, my Germanness was virtual, reduced to a language and a passport. The procedure was expeditious and I received my French birth certificate only six months after I started my naturalization process. Three days later, the dual citizen I had just become was again seized with identity-related restlessness and I contacted the Austrian embassy in Paris. Since 2019, Austria, like Germany, allows the descendants of victims of Nazism to recover the nationality of which their ancestor was deprived. This is my case. »
“It’s the same scene every time. I’m in a Parisian square and people ask me what language I speak with my children. My “Jewish face” throws them off the trail with two wrong answers: either it’s Yiddish or Hebrew. In either case, they don’t recognize my mother tongue, spoken by one in five Europeans.”
With the support of:
Thanks to the Paris office of the Heinrich Böll Foundation for their cooperation in the design of the magazine’s website.