#23 / Editorial

Despite our resolute European character, K. began in France, and this represents no mere coincidence. France has the continent’s largest Jewish population, a heterogeneous composite of old families long settled in France (Israélites), descendants of Eastern European immigrants who arrived in the twentieth century, the children and grandchildren of North African arrivals, etc. The stories are as wide-ranging as the nature of each grouping’s Jewish commitment. French Jews, in addition to their numerical preponderance, offer the richest illustration of Judaism’s tumultuous career in the modern world. The various experiences of France’s Jews find at least one commonality or theme: the question of how France and the Jews relate to one another. For two centuries, Tsarfat[1] has not been a nation like the others. France was at the vanguard both in promulgating the principle of human equality and serving as a laboratory of modern antisemitism. France was the site of revolutionary emancipation, an event to which we dedicated a roundtable in the spring, reproduced here as part of our summer reprise. But also the country where the Dreyfus Affair arose, an episode that Boris Czerrny examines this week in a new essay on the life of Salomon Reinach, one of the Jewish captain’s defenders. France’s outsize role in Jewish life is not limited to the past – it continues into the present. After a summer in which Holocaust imagery was hijacked for political ends, when antisemitic conspiracy theories raged, Jewish life in France again faces another test. The trials of French Jewry are equally those of European Jewry. But France itself must be put to the test, as Bruno Karsenti explains in his new essay “The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Jews of France” France’s own fate, the nation’s sense of itself, is intertwined with that of French Jews.


1 ’France’ in Hebrew

Discussions agitated the French revolution in the winter of 1789 when it was decided to examine the case of the Jews. The question that preoccupied the Assembly was simple: could Jews be citizens like any others? “Yes!” replied Clermont-Tonnerre and Abbé Grégoire. Not yet,” said the Prince de Broglie, “but never,” said Monseigneur de la Touraine. Never,” affirmed Monseigneur de la Fare…

Nicknamed the ‘Je Sais Tout’ brothers, Joseph, Salomon and Théodore Reinach represent both the academic excellence and the extreme assimilation of French Jews at the turn of the 20th century….

France was the first of the European countries to emancipate the Jews. The revolutionaries’ promise of freedom and equality for every Jew was not always honored. The Jews suffered for…

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