Interviews

Description – Interviews

As of this summer, Pinchas Goldschmidt is no longer the Chief Rabbi of Moscow, a position he held for almost thirty years. Born in Zurich, he arrived in Russia in 1988, during the Gorbachev era, to work on restoring Jewish life at the time of perestroika. He decided to leave his adopted country after the invasion of Ukraine, when he was pressured to support the war. K. met him while in Paris for a meeting of the Institute for Religious Freedom and Security in Europe (IFFSE), of which he is a founding member, as President of the Conference of European Rabbis.

Maya Katznelson founded the “Centre for Belarusian-Jewish Cultural Heritage” (BJCH centre) in 2019, with the aim of collecting and exhibiting the rich Jewish cultural heritage of Belarus. One of the goals of the centre, after having already hosted various events, is to create a Belarusian Jewish Museum, a space that also combines research and education. Maya Katznelson had to leave her country because of the events that are currently shaking her region. She spent two months in residence at the Museum of Jewish Art and History (Mahj) in Paris and is temporarily living in London.

From March 18 to October 3, the Jewish Museum in Frankfurt is presenting the exhibition “Revenge: History and Fantasy” (“Rache, Geschichte und Fantasie”). The spectrum of this exhibition is wide: from biblical stories to popular fiction films; from Judith and Holofernes to Quentin Tarantino, the director of Inglorious Basterds; from the anti-Semitic motif that makes Jews inherently vengeful to the historical episodes in which Jews wanted to respond with vengeance to the violence of which they were victims. Elie Petit met with the director of the museum, Mirjam Wenzel, and the curator of the exhibition, Erik Riedel, to ask them about the objectives and challenges of such an exhibition.

David Nirenberg’s Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition proved an instant classic of Jewish studies on its publication a decade ago. Nirenberg, Director of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, presents anti-Judaism as a structural discourse in the history of the West (and arguably in the history of the world at large). The figure of the “Jew,” and the bugbear of “Judaism,” he maintains, have served as epistemic tools for philosophers and theologians to define themselves – and Western civilization – over and against. In such a scheme, Judaism morphs from religion into foil, the Jew from living being into abstraction; and even societies hosting few or no Jews can entertain “Jewish questions.” Nirenberg’s study starts in the Egypt of the Hellenistic Period and ends in our own time.

We see in the books of Daniel Mendelsohn how the  convulsions of geopolitics forever intrude on the intimate lives of his characters. How does Mendelsohn feel about the tumult of our own times? He comments on topics ranging from the Trump presidency to the current war in Ukraine to the state of Israel, in this last installment of our interview focusing on the author’s political vision.

Daniel Mendelsohn’s writing style is a skilful blend of personal narratives and evocations of classical literary works; of the intimate and the intellectual. What is the origin of Daniel Mendelsohn’s attraction to philology? What does it have to do with his family background made of tragedies and exiles, with the fact of being Jewish and gay? These are the questions that Daniel Mendelsohn explores with us in this second episode of our interview.

Daniel Mendelsohn’s books are associated with the genre of ‘autofiction’. However, the richness of the subtexts that irrigate them, coming from the Ancient Greek and Jewish traditions, complicates the scheme of the self-narrative. To the representation of a multiple identity – Jewish, Gay and American, attached to Europe and to Ancient cultures – corresponds the variety and fluidity of an oral style. In this first episode, Daniel Mendelsohn discusses his writing style, his literary project and the genre of his work.

In March 2012, an Islamist terrorist targeted the Ozar Hatorah Jewish School in Toulouse, France. For the first time since the Holocaust, there were Jewish children murdered close at hand in Europe. This week marks the tenth anniversary of the attack in which eight-year-old Myriam Monsonego, Jonathan Sandler and his two sons, Gabriel, three, and Arie, six, were killed. We met with Franck Touboul, the president of the the Jewish Community of Toulouse.

In 2008, Ronen Eidelman, an Israeli artist living in Germany, founded the movement for the creation of a Jewish state in Thuringia: Medinat Weimar. The artistic project questions, seduces some and horrifies others, makes people react. More than 15 years later, he tells us, from Jerusalem, where he lives today, what led him to imagine such a project, oscillating between eccentric provocation and incitement to debate. An interview in which he talks about German guilt, Herzl as a plastic artist, and a second Jewish state conceived as a plan B…

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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.