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, held a special discussion on Thursday at WJC President Ronald S. Lauder’s Neue Galerie in Manhattan on the profound Jewish influence of the Ecole de Paris artistic movement at the beginning of the 20th century.
In his address to guests at the Neue Galerie, WJC President Lauder reflected on the “indelible legacy” of some of the most seminal Jewish artists of the period who “influenced the direction of art for generations,” including Marc Chagall, Chaim Soutine, Amadeo Modigliani, and others, who had arrived in liberal Paris to flee the antisemitism and discrimination of the Russian empire. By the 1930s, the waves of antisemitism began to take stronger hold in France, as well, and many Jewish artists were murdered in the death camps during the Holocaust.
Lauder took a moment during his address to stress the pertinence of such a discussion amid the rise of antisemitism both in France and around the world, and to recall the fact that January 9 marks the fifth anniversary of the horrific terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo and the HyperCacher market in Paris.
“I visited Paris shortly after that attack. I marched with world leaders and ordinary Parisians, and I was touched by the strong show of support that I saw,” Lauder said. “It is a reminder that we must continue to fight antisemtism, but we should also remember that the world is filled with good people.”
“And here’s one more thing that everyone should remember,” Lauder said. “When Jewish people are allowed to live and practice their religion in freedom, they produce wonders for all mankind.”
We joined @franceinnyc & @mahjparis tonight for a fascinating journey into the history of the School of Paris movement & the influence of Jewish artists of that era on the direction of art today.— WJC (@WorldJewishCong) January 10, 2020
Stay tuned for part three of our conference series on Jewish life in France. pic.twitter.com/Y8a7S2DIqe
At the Neue Galerie on Thursday, French Consul General Anne Claire Legendre remarked on the importance of this four part series "to increase awareness about the complicated but also extraordinarily rich history of Judaism in France. Through these four conferences, we want to convey how deep-rooted the Jewish presence is in France, and how closely intertwined this community has been with the history, culture and building of the French nation and its values for the past 2000 years. Let us be clear: France would not be France without its Jewish citizens."
The discussion at the Neue Galerie, led by MahJ curator Psacale Samuel, was the second of a four-part lecture series being held over the course of the year, aimed at highlighting the critical role that Judaism has made to French society and bringing forward the precarious situation facing the Jews of France today. The series was launched in November at the French Consulate in New York, with an exploration of what archeology can reveal about the history of Judaism in France, presented by MahJ Director Paul Salmona.
In March, 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.