#84 / Editorial

At the beginning of October, Pinchas Goldschmidt, the former Chief rabbi of Moscow, published an article in the New York Times entitled “My first Yom Kippur in exile”. It is a beautiful and instantly nostalgic text that remembers all the work done to contribute to the revival of the Russian Jewish community since the Gorbachev years. In this article, the rabbi, a Zurich native, recounts how he decided to leave his adoptive country: “For years, we hoped that democratic institutions in Russia would take root. We hoped that Jewish communities could keep their distance from President Vladimir Putin’s increasing authoritarianism (…) Our hopes were crushed. (…) One day, a government source informed the synagogue that we would be expected to support the war — or else. It was then that my wife and I decided to leave the country.” K. met with Pinchas Goldschmidt – on the occasion of his visit to 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. In the interview he gave us, he looks back on the thirty years he spent in his “new home”, on his exile, like that of many Russian Jews, and on the possible future of the Jewish communities in the East that were affected by the war.

About the so-called anti-Nazi Putin propaganda that justifies the war, Pinchas Goldschmidt evokes a language that is science fiction and reminds us that Zelensky is Jewish. However, we remember how much this reminder was circumvented in an irrational way by Serguei Lavrov, the head of Russian diplomacy, suggesting in his speech last March that one could be a Jew and a Nazi, and that, moreover, Hitler had “Jewish blood”. These words are the starting point for the reflection of the philosopher Stéphane Bonnet. What does it mean that one might fantasize, like Lavrov, that the Jews are no longer the victims of Nazism but the executioners, and that it is once again possible to be anti-Semitic in good conscience? According to Stéphane Bonnet, beyond Lavrov’s scandalous sentence, there is a fundamental ambivalence in the relationship between Europeans and Jews that needs to be questioned.

Finally, we republish the text of Nathalie Skowronek: “Diamonds are forever”. The author of Un monde sur mesure (Grasset, 2017), an investigation into the decline of the Yiddish shmattès, returns to the great years of the Antwerp diamond district and its activity today displaced to Dubai, Moscow, Mumbai, New York and Tel Aviv. It is the end of a world that she evokes: the sons, grandsons and great-grandsons of the Antwerp diamond dealers understand that “for them, it’s over” and see that “English has finally buried Yiddish”.

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.

Lavrov’s statement that Zelensky could be both a Jew and a Nazi and that Hitler had “Jewish blood” struck a chord. Reactions in Europe were unanimous in their indignation at what was perceived as the obscene words of a political leader ready to do anything to justify his country’s brutal war. But what exactly is behind this sense of obscenity? Is it really the expression of a rejection of the real Nazism, the one that had the hatred of the Jews as its springboard? Or does this feeling cover a more fundamental ambivalence in the relationship that Europeans have with Jews, even today? Stéphane Bonnet shows us that this is indeed the case. Europeans, rightly shocked by Lavrov’s words, are not so inclined to analyse themselves as much as they should be to fight the roots of their antisemitism. After the Shoah, it is impossible for them to ignore the fact that it lies deep within themselves. And opposing it is a task that requires more than condemning it when it is stated openly: it requires going so far as to want Judaism in Europe and for Europe.

Antwerp and its diamonds. Nathalie Skowronek introduces us to a world that is disappearing. The author went around the city to meet the sons, grandsons and great-grandsons of Antwerp’s diamond merchants, who understand that “for them it’s all over” and see that “English has finally buried their Yiddish.”

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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.