History

Simon Dubnow (1860-1941) was a historian-sociologist – died in the Riga ghetto – who made the history of the Jews a history of the mutations of the diaspora, spread out and organised around various centers. The Jewish nation is polycentric and, at the beginning of the twentieth century, it was necessary for him to grasp the new map of these centers in the modern era, to understand the tensions and balances, in a context of persecution, but also the obvious vitality of Judaism in the East. But, after the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel, how can we understand the scattered community of modern Jews today? Bruno Karsenti, a century later, asks this question in conversation with Dubnow.

Argentina’s Jewish community is mainly an outgrowth of European Jewry. Just as the nation’s overall population was constituted by waves of migration from Europe – in particular Spain and Italy – Jews from Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France as well as a few from the Ottoman Empire and Spanish Morocco made the long way across the ocean, too. Researcher Jacqueline Laznow draws on culture, folklore, cuisine, and other sources to examine in this issue of K. Argentine Jewry’s integration in the New World.

The concept of “metaphysical antisemitism” was first used by Bernard Lazarus – notably to explain the sophisticated antisemitism of intellectuals and philosophers – before being used by Gershom Scholem and Hans Jonas to identify Heidegger’s antisemitism. It implies the conception of an alienated reality, within which the Jew and the Jewish worldview are fundamentally at fault.

When he was a child, Alain de Toledo thought that “Spanish” meant “Jewish”. Then, he realized that the Spanish he spoke at home was not the same as the one he was taught at school… In his story for K., through the evocation of his family’s destiny and the gradual awareness of the fate to which he belongs, he recounts what makes the singularity of a language and of the group of those who have carried it to the present day.

Paris’ Institut du Monde Arabe (Arab World Institute) is now hosting a new exhibition dedicated to “the Jews of the Orient.” Showcasing the art and material culture of Jews in the Middle East and North Africa, the exhibit has won plaudits in the French press for a deep and sensitive depiction of these vanished Jewish communities. The museum has nonetheless raised the hackles of some Arab intellectuals, who accuse it of “normalization” vis-a-vis the state of Israel, due to the presence of several artifacts on loan from Jerusalem’s Israel Museum. Denis Charbit, political scientist at the Open University of Israel, discusses the polemic, as well as the long silence on the Jews of the Arab world

The term “Israélite” has recently come back into the news following its repeated use by a polemicist-cum-presidential candidate in the French elections. However, the Israélite model that he claims to embody has nothing to do with the reality of what Israélitisme was. Through a vibrant tribute to Marcel Wormser, recently deceased, and to his father, Georges Wormser, Milo Lévy-Bruhl recovers the essence of this pre-war French Jewish phenomenon and discusses the reasons for its ultimate disappearance.

The “Diaspora” collection, founded by Roger Errera in 1971 at the French publishing house Éditions Calman-Levy, has been decisive in more than one way for the French public in general, and for French Jews in particular. For non-Jewish French people, it opened the best possible access to Judaism. For the Jews themselves, it represented an invaluable aid for re-understanding their diasporic situation after the Holocaust. By sketching a portrait of Roger Errera, Bruno Karsenti endeavors to bring out the new meaning of this diasporic position in post-Holocaust Europe. If persevering in exile is the characteristic of the Jewish people, and if this condition is modified without being vitiated by the existence of the State of Israel, then it is a singular political position that emerges.

Thirty years ago, the great historical account “Vichy France and the Jews,” by Michael R. Marrus and Robert O. Paxton, was published simultaneously in French and English. Released in a new edition in 2015, the book is now experiencing increased interest in France, where some are questioning the responsibility of France in the persecution of Jews under the German occupation. In 2015, on the occasion of a tribute to the man – Roger Errera – who was at the origin of the work’s inception, Robert Paxton revisited the difficult process of researching and writing this book, which so fundamentally challenged France’s ‘resistance myth.’

The ban on ritual slaughter (shehita) has confronted Jews in Europe several times. Shai Lavi reminds us that traditional authorities have always reacted to this situation by trying to adapt to the context in which the ban was formulated – which implies that the intention behind the ban must be clearly identified. Since only the antisemitic motive condemns any compromise, it is extremely important to establish this motive before making a decision. The essay by Shai Lavi, professor of law, suggests that we would be well advised today to extend this enquiry whenever Jews are caught up in any such controversy.

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Thanks to the Paris office of the Heinrich Böll Foundation for their cooperation in the design of the magazine’s website.