World Jewish Congress and French Consulate present: France and Judaism - 2,000 years of Intertwined History

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World Jewish Congress and French Consulate present:  France and Judaism - 2,000 years of Intertwined History

Photo: Shahar Azran / World Jewish Congress

NEW YORK - The World Jewish Congress, in partnership with the Consulate General of France in New York and the Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaïsme (MahJ) in Paris, launched on Wednesday a new series of conferences focusing on lesser known episodes of the history of Judaism in France and on the situation facing Jews in the country today. 

“The World Jewish Congress is extremely grateful for the strong relationships that we have built with our friends in the French government, particularly at this critical juncture of the rising antisemitism and incitement to xenophobic violence that has swept Europe, including in France,” said WJC President Ronald S. Lauder. “Education is without a doubt one of the most important tools we have to eradicate sentiments of hatred among before they are formed. It is our collective duty to combat misinformation and encourage coexistence whenever and wherever we can. We see great importance in this initiative that we have developed together with the French Consulate of New York to bring the long and rich history of Judaism in France to the general public and look forward to the discussions and future collaboration that this inspires.”

Consul General of France in New York Anne-Claire Legendre stated: “Today, France would not exist but for its Jewish citizens and the role they played throughout our history."

France was not and is not immune to the resurgence of antisemitism on both sides of the Atlantic, the ambassador said, but the government is "absolutely committed" to eradicating this plague. Legendre added that remembering the history of Jews in the country is critical as "telling this whole story is a way of fighting antisemitism," a fight, she said, that we must fight together.

Photo: Shahar Azran / World Jewish Congress​​​​​


Four conferences over the course of the next year will highlight the critical role that Judaism has made to French society and bring forward the current situation of the Jews of France.

At the launch of the series at the French Consulate in New York on Wenesday, Paul Salmona, Director of the MahJ, spoke about what archeology can reveal about the history of Judaism in France. “A few key ideas guided our choices: archaeology makes it possible to show the very old roots of Jews in France, often poorly known, and renews the historical perspective with recent discoveries. The 'Ecole de Paris' brought together artists from all over the world, many of them Jews, in a moment of unprecedented artistic effervescence: it is a model of cultural sharing. In occupied France, 75% of Jews survived the Holocaust thanks to the rescue networks they built, but also thanks to the help of many French Protestants, Catholics and atheists, deeply imbued with the values of equality and fraternity that have been those of the French Republic since 1789," Salmona said.

The second event will be held at The Neue Galerie in January 2020, on the Jewish influence about the artistic movement of the Ecole de Paris with Pascale Samuel, curator at the MahJ. 

In February 2020, the Museum of Jewish Heritage will welcome a full day symposium on the survival and rescue of Jews in the occupied France, with the participation of several academics including Jacques Semelin, Patrick Cabanel, Nathalie Heinich, and the premiere of the newly remastered documentary “Weapons of the Spirit” by Pierre Sauvage.

Finally, in June, Delphine Horvilleur, rabbi in the Liberal Judaism Movement of France (MJLF) and renowned author will discuss the current situation of the Jewish people in France and the fight against antisemitism. 

The Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaïsme in Paris hosts one of the most beautiful collection in Europe covering 2,000 years of European and Mediterranean Jewish communities. The mahJ shows judaica, objects and artworks including Chagall, Modigliani, Soutine, El Lissistzy, Liebermann.

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