#2 / Editorial

Pessimist? Optimist? Once our first issue was online, we were deluged by questions of this sort, coming from journalists asking about the magazine, as well as from certain readers. The statistics presented last week by Sergio Della Pergola left some shocked, even as those numbers added a tangible aspect to a nebulous sentiment shared by many European Jews. There is of course room for nuance: such feelings are more or less shared, and more or less nebulous, based on the city and country in which one lives. There are fewer Jews in the whole of Italy than in Paris’ 17th arrondissement. The entirety of Bulgarian Jewry could be housed in ten buildings of that same neighborhood. In other words, the feeling of solitude, of disconnection, of disarray, as well as the anxious thoughts that the future evokes, vary in function of one’s native milieu.

France, home to the third-largest Jewish community in the world, is perhaps the most riven on this question. “It is over.” “The question is closed.“ How many times have we heard such utterances, but as often we hear voiced contrary sentiments: “We must consolidate French Judaism.” “There can no longer be talk of European Jewry.” “Leaving, giving up is simply inconceivable.” This division sometimes runs through individuals, as much as among them. The oscillations of the pendulum are disquieting, unsettling but also energizing and thought-provoking.

Pessimist? Optimist? The question is not the right one, or the most useful or productive one. One must avoid a dichotomy of overpowering melancholy and invulnerable, care-free denial. We prefer a clear accounting of the facts and a will to enter the public arena on the basis of those facts. We are neither pessimistic nor optimistic, but rather realistic. The European Jewish reality is complex, which is reflected in our second issue. Emmy and Phebia Barouh relate in images and text Bulgaria’s Lukov March, a neo-Nazi event held last February in Sofia: one has to see through one’s own eyes the lure of neo-Nazism in Eastern Europe. Rudy Reichstadt, whose battle against conspiracy theories helps us better discern their place in our political life, writes his first column on the mutations and metamorphoses of anti-Semitic conspiracism in Europe. Bruno Karsenti examines the complex history of the Enlightenment in discussing the movement’s great Jewish luminary, Moses Mendelssohn. He evaluates Mendelssohn’s life and legacy, and what these might mean for us today. Mendelssohn was not inclined to give up when faced with the demands of intellect and mind. The “question” for him was never “closed.”

In Sofia, the “Lukov March” took place in February, an annual event organized for almost twenty years by the Bulgarian National Union – Edelweiss (BNUE). The march commemorates the memory of a pro-Nazi Defense Minister of the thirties, assassinated by Communist resistance fighters in 1943. Every year, the great and good of the European neo-Nazi movement like to gather there. The journalist Emmy Barouh, author of several books on the history of Bulgarian Jews and the memory of the Shoah in her country, was in 2021 in the streets of Sofia: She examined for K. the history and continued relevance of this event. In 2022, she increases her report with an update on the Bulgarian atmosphere of the moment… which has not gotten any better.

At regular intervals, Rudy Reichstadt, the director of the Internet website Conspiracy Watch, will write for K. a column on anti-Jewish conspiracy theories in Europe. First of all, let’s take a look at the frequency with which anti-Semitic motifs appear in contemporary conspiracy culture.

Through Moses Mendelssohn, the greatest figure of the Haskala, the Jews ceased to be intruders and became distinguished guests. Today, as Europe seeks to reconnect with the Enlightenment, Mendelssohn may well become our contemporary again. He will return, however, in a different guise than the one he wore in the era of emancipation…

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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.