#52 / Editorial


To the surprise of all, and certainly the Jews themselves, the Jewish signifier has been present since the first day of the war against Ukraine. Implicitly invoked, at least to a Western ear, by the Russian president when he spoke of the “denazification” of Ukraine in an attempt to justify his war, it was explicitly named by the Ukrainian president who appealed for diplomatic mediation by Israel and for the support of Jews around the world for Ukraine.

Yet in recent years, nothing had particularly connected Ukraine and the Jews, except the Jewish origin of the current President Zelensky. He himself had jokingly referred to it as “the twentieth of his faults on a long list.” And no one in Europe really paid much attention to it. For what Europe generally pays attention to is the very specific connection between a nation and its Jews, represented by anti-Semitism. And on this terrain, Ukraine, to all appearances, had not particularly distinguished itself in recent years. No anti-Semitic murders have been reported there, and even fewer executions in cold blood of Jewish children. It was in France that these murders took place, ten years ago, in Toulouse, at the Ozar Hatorah school.

At the time, the anti-Semitic dimension of this act, in which, for the first time since the end of Nazism, Jewish children were killed on European soil, seemed to escape public opinion. The Jewish community knew that it was specifically targeted; but the rest of France was content to be frightened by an Islamist attack committed on its soil, while omitting the particular affiliation of the victims, including the Muslim soldiers who were shot by the same terrorist in the days preceding the Ozar Hatorah massacre. For the Jews of France, this initial silence was only the beginning of a long series of occlusions and euphemisms when the Jewish community was attacked and its members murdered because they were Jews. The murders of Sarah Halimi and Mireille Knoll, to mention only the most publicized incidents, took a long time to be recognized as anti-Semitic acts, and after the attack on the Hypercacher in Vincennes (the 2015 attack coincident with the assault on Charlie Hebdo), a journalist was still able to refer to the victims as “customers of a kosher grocery store” in the presence of a great philosopher, Alain Badiou, without arousing any protest from him.

Today, ten years after Toulouse, the climate may have changed. This is the slight hope that the President of the Crif Toulouse Midi-Pyrénées, Franck Touboul, suggests (CRIF is the umbrella group representing French Jewry). On the occasion of the commemorations that will take place in the coming week, we had a long discussion with him in the presence of the director Georges Benayoun, who had already interviewed him for his documentary Chronique d’un antisémitisme nouveau (Chronicle of a New Anti-Semitism). But if Franck Touboul recognizes that French society has, in recent years, gradually become aware of the anti-Semitism within it, it still does not deal with it and the Jews of Toulouse continue to leave the city, and even France. Did the awareness come too late? Was the reaction too tepid? Or is it that Toulouse Jews, and perhaps French Jews as a whole, consider that it is already too late to recover from this abandonment of the Republic which has manifested itself so violently in their daily lives for at least twenty years? Of course, Franck Touboul cannot give a definitive answer to these questions, but from his sadly privileged position within the most cruelly affected community, he allows us to better perceive the tensions that run through the French Jewish community.

The second text we publish this week also speaks of Jews who are no longer there. Danny Trom had already recounted in K. his journey to the East, his crossing of the lands where the Nazis and their acolytes erased all Jewish life, down to the smallest traces. Today we are republishing his text, “Return to Lemberg, Return from Lvouv” – Lviv in Ukrainian – which the author, in a post-scriptum, has contextualized in the light of current Ukrainian events. How can we find a position that is both Jewish and European when Ukraine calls for a particular solidarity between Jews and the State of Israel?

The news from Eastern Europe makes one want to leave off from his senses, much like the protagonist of the short story we are running this week. Moriel Rothman-Zecher, a promising writer from the United States, has given us an original contribution in the form of his tale, ApoE4. Rothman-Zecher, whose first novel Before All the World will be available this fall, carries us to far-flung landscapes and the realms of memory. Our magazine reaffirms its commitment to the best in contemporary Jewish fiction with the publication of ApoE4. We need fiction now more than ever, both as divertissement and a spur for the imagination of alternatives.

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.

After reading Philippe Sands’ essay ‘East West Street’, Danny Trom returned to the Galician town, once Polish and now Ukrainian, to follow in his family’s footsteps. The footsteps of Lemkin and Lauterpacht, the two heroes of Sands’ best-seller, overlap with those of Trom’s  grandfather. Lemberg was a land of crime and the epicenter of emerging international criminal law, but also a place where Zionism was dreamed up in Yiddish. Why does Sands occlude this fact? Now war is raging in Ukraine – and thus in Lviv, formerly Lemberg. In what way and how does the tragic situation in the Ukraine involve the Jews? Ukraine addresses this question to both the Jews and the State of Israel. Danny Trom, to resolve this matter, revisits his story with an epilogue, from which he draws a common position for both Europe and the Jews.

“Those goddamn Jew scientists were right.
Sol gazed into the top right drawer of his desk. There, in a neat row, they lay: pen, pen, toothbrush, highlighter, pen. For as long as he could remember — ah — Sol had always thought in full sentences, often in lengthy dialogues, had frequently been amused to the point of laughing out loud by his internal banter. This time was no exception: Sol chuckled— goddamn Jew scientists indeed — even as moisture welled up on the itchy lower rims of his eyelids. Like dewdrops on a windbent sundried wheatstalk. Sounds almost like something Sammy would write”.  

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