#90 / Editorial

The war between Russia and Ukraine is also a war about memory. We have seen how the past was constantly recalled, in particular the Second World War and the Shoah. Sergei Lavrov’s comparison of Zelensky to Hitler, who would also have Jewish blood, and the Chief Rabbi of Moscow, Pinchas Goldschmidt’s departure from Russia, after having been pressured to publicly support Putin’s war, are two symptoms of the way in which the “Jewish question” remains one of the factors of the conflict. Thus, as Boris Czerny reminds us this week, the Jews are in the place of the “absent-present” in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict; they are not physically present, but everyone talks about them. Without forgetting to recall the tragic dimension of the relations between Jews and Ukrainians throughout history,  in his text, Boris Czerny intends to return to a part of another history, woven of dialogues and exchanges. Is there a common Jewish and Ukrainian culture, however marginal and parallel it may be to the history of violence that memory retains? His text presents two emblematic figures – Oleksa Dovbush, the popular hero of the Carpathians, on the one hand, and the “Baal Shem Tov”, on the other – and recalls how they have been able to intersect, and sometimes symbolically merge within the same shared imaginary.

Nazism is political, and an aesthetic. The philosophers Jean-Luc Nancy and Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, in ‘Le mythe nazi’ , spoke of a “national-aestheticism”. Music played a fundamental role in this. The great German classical, romantic and post-romantic composers provided much of the soundtrack of Hitler’s regime. Performers were needed to play it, and between 1933 and 1945 musicians flourished in the shadow of the Third Reich, committing themselves to varying degrees of exaltation to their führer. Some of them were outstanding artists, who continued their glorious careers after the war, and their records remain references and milestones in the history of performance. How can we listen to them today? Philippe Olivier, music historian and musicologist, who does not intend to forget the political off-field of these recordings, raises the question of his own discomfort when listening to this musical heritage.

Finally, this week we republished Macha Fogel’s interview with Tal Hever-Chybowski. The director of the Maison de la culture yiddish – Bibliothèque Medem in Paris, the largest Yiddish center in Europe, talks, paradoxically, about Hebrew. Not the Hebrew that is his mother tongue, but a Hebrew that he refuses to confine to the borders of the State of Israel. As he explains “My typically Israeli education had hidden from me the role of Europe in the modernity of Hebrew,”.

The history of relations between Jews and Ukrainians came back with insistence from the beginning of the war initiated by Putin. It is an essentially tragic history, which Boris Czerny revisits, but reminding us that it is not limited to acts of violence. Through the evocation of Dovbush, a popular hero of the Carpathians, and of Rabbi Israel Ben Eliezer, known as the “Baal Shem Tov”, he focuses on the web of linguistic and cultural exchanges that demonstrate the richness of the links between Ukrainians and Jews and that constitute the complex material of a common past.

Do today’s music lovers and discophiles feel embarrassed when they listen to recordings of the great performers who played, between 1933 and 1945, without any qualms, for the Nazi leaders? This is the case of Philippe Olivier, a music historian and opera specialist – particularly Wagner – for whom this question is not insignificant and who wonders about his own relationship with this musical heritage.

Tal Hever-Chybowski is the director of the Paris Yiddish Center – Medem Library, the largest center for Yiddish language and literature in Europe. His native language, however, is Hebrew, which is the focus of journal he has founded, Mikan Ve’eylakh (“From Now On/From Here On”). The journal’s novelty rests in its treatment of Hebrew not as the exclusive property of the State of Israel, but as a Diasporic language in its own right. Mikan Ve’eylakh’s two issues feature articles, short stories and poems by Hebrew writers living in the Diaspora. Macha Fogel, K.’s Yiddishland correspondent, recently met up with Hever-Chybowski to discuss his project.

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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.