A PSA on Jewishness, because apparently non-Jews just have to know this stuff and can't figure it out on their own
Jews are an ethnic group. Global Jewry is made up of several different ethnic groups, the largest of which are: Sefardi Jews, whose ancestors historically lived in the Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal) and western Europe; Ashkenazi Jews, whose ancestors historically lived in central and eastern Europe; and Mizrahi Jews, whose ancestors historically lived in MENA (Middle East/North Africa). There are other groups of ethnic Jews living in other places in the world as well. Jews from all of these groups have moved across the world, largely due to persecution in their host countries, and formed new communities in new places, so that there may be longstanding communities of Ashkenazi Jews in France, and Sefardi Jews in Morocco.
All ethnic Jews have ancestral, genetic heritage stemming from the Levant (specifically, the area now known as Israel and/or Palestine). All Jews also have cultural heritage stemming from the Levant. This is no less important or relevant than genetic heritage.
Some Jews have mixed heritage (one Jewish parent only). They are also Jews. The matrilineal descent question is a question of Jewish religious law, and is interpreted differently by different Jewish denominations and individuals. (My personal stance is to affirm patrilineal descent.)
The religion historically practiced by Jews is Judaism. Ethnic Jews may practice any religion they please; this does not mean they are less Jewish in terms of their heritage. Non-ethnic Jews may convert to Judaism; this does not make them any less Jewish in terms of their religious practice. Judaism does not proselytize.
Judaism as a whole takes no global stance of Zionism as a political ideology. Different Jews have different opinions on Zionisms (plural intentional, because Zionism takes a lot of forms), and while they may be good or bad people, and you may agree or disagree with their politics, their Zionism or anti-Zionism does not inherently make them any more or less Jewish.
The question of Jewish identity is ultimately not the purview of non-Jews. It is nothing more or less than gross arrogance for non-Jews to assume that their opinions on this question are remotely relevant or of interest to Jews, and the persistent insertion of some non-Jews into these private conversation is extremely offensive.
If you are not Jewish, and have written, or are considering writing, a post on Jewish identity/ethnicity, I have some advice for you: don’t. You almost certainly don’t know what you’re talking about, and you definitely can’t have a better understanding of these complex issues than someone who is actually Jewish themselves. If you really feel, for some inexplicable reason, that you simply must weigh in on this issue, consult an actual Jew before doing so.
This is a poem for the nice Jewish girl
You are taught three things that you cannot even remember learning you have known them so long
1)your nose is ugly
2)you should be on your best behavior at family parties as you represent your family
3)there was a war to kill everyone like you a long time before you were born
These things inform everything you do for example
1)if someone tells you you don’t look Jewish you must take it as a compliment
2)you are naturally shyer and more socially conscious
3)you have constant nightmares of that war for the rest of your life
The nice Jewish girl goes to Hebrew school at age five or six and learns her aleph bet
The nice Jewish girl is happy to tell her friends what Hanukkah is and why we don’t have school so much in September and how to pronounce “challah”
The nice Jewish girl lights the shabbos candles every friday night and says words in a language she barely understands
The nice Jewish girl is pretty, pretty in a way that her grandma pinches her cheeks and calls her a “shayna maidel”
The nice Jewish girl is not sexy and she is meant to laugh and privately call the girls who wear too much eyeliner to the bat mitzvahs “sluts”
The nice Jewish girl feels stuck between the secular world and the religious world but she doesn’t ever say that
The nice Jewish girl hates going to Hebrew School though she’d never make a fuss but moans about it to her goyische friends at school
The nice Jewish girl smiles politely when asked her opinion on Israel and changes the subject
The nice Jewish girl has pennies dropped around her in all of seventh grade by some kid claiming to be her friend and all she does is stand there with her mouth gaping open when he reveals this was his “Jew test”
The nice Jewish girl picks up none of the pennies and passes his test as triumphantly as possible
The nice Jewish girl doesn’t tell anyone that they’re always yelling at home and she never feels good enough and the walls are too small in her tiny brooklyn house and she just wants them all to stop
The nice Jewish girl always has her curly hair and her big nose even when it’s inconvenient because no amount of hair straighteners and brushing and makeup can make them go away
The nice Jewish girl sits in the corner, flicking through her iphone, as the music’s too loud and the lights too bright for her to enjoy the bar or bat mitzvah she’s been dragged to
The nice Jewish girl feels like she knows no one and nobody knows her
The nice Jewish stiffens when a holocaust joke is made but says nothing
She goes into the bathroom later to cry and feels like she may throw up
The nice Jewish girl does not throw up
When a friend makes a comment about how the Jews ruined Germany’s economy and that’s why Hitler came after them and the nice Jewish girl wants to SCREAM
She straightens her spine and lifts her chin and politely corrects her with the grace of Esther or Ruth
The nice Jewish girl’s friend does not understand and contradicts her and she wants to tear her own skin off and feels her forehead heating up and pins pricking her
The nice Jewish girl is every untold story in a mass grave from France to Italy to Germany and Poland
The nice Jewish girl isn’t special, she isn’t a phoenix waiting to rise from the ashes, she will not transform into someone cool or beautiful
The nice Jewish girl will always be awkward and shy and mediocre
The nice Jewish girl will simply have to live with herself
The nice Jewish girl lives and dies a normal life making charoset and speaking out only at meetings at the local Jewish Center and works some nice liberal arts job
The nice Jewish girl will marry a nice Jewish boy and hug her children tight with fear
The nice Jewish girl will shake every time she turns on the news and hears they are chanting “gas the Jews” in France
The nice Jewish girl will pass this pain onto her daughter and the nice Jewish girl’s daughter will be just like her
The nice Jewish girl will hate herself and hate her own hate
The nice Jewish girl is me
The nice Jewish girl is you
The nice Jewish girl never existed in the first place
STOP MAKING JEWISH PEOPLE YOUR ANTI-OPPRESSION EXCEPTION.
HERE IS A SMALL LIST OF ANTISEMITIC ATTACKS THAT YOU PROBABLY DID NOT HEAR ABOUT THIS YEAR.
Jewish student beaten and stabbed by three assailants [Kiev, Ukraine 1.17.14]
Molotov cocktails thrown at Jewish Community Center and syanagogue [Zaporozhye, Ukraine 2.24.14]
Jewish man attacked with a stun gun near synagogue [Paris, France 3.10.14]
Two Molotov cocktails thrown at synagogue [Nikolayev, Ukraine 4.19.14]
Jewish woman and her newborn baby assulted [Paris, France 5.13.14]
Jewish man stabbed in the chest. Assailant arrested but had to be released as hundreds of masked men threatned to burn down the police station where he was being held if he wasn’t released. [Djerba, Tunisia 5.22.14]
Gunman opens fire inside the Jewish Museum killing four people [Brussels, Belgium 5.24.14]
Two Jewish brothers beaten up with brass knuckles on their way to synagogue. Had to be hospitalized. [Paris, France 5.24.14]
Two Jewish teens sprayed with lachrymator (chemical weapon) [Sarcelles, France 6.7.14]
Knife and other objects thrown at a synagogue [Garges les Gonesses, France 6.14.14]
Neo-nazi’s attack music festival partcipant wearing a kippa with fireworks and rocks [Tottenham. UK 6.22.14]
Seventeen year old girl attacked with pepper spray while assailant shouted antisemitic slogans [Paris, France 7.7.14]
Two synagogues attacked by dozens of demonstrates shouting “Death to the Jews!” [Paris, France 7.13.14]
A kosher store was attacked with a Molotov cocktail after having been attacked before with a handmade granade. [Sarcelles, France 7.20.14]
Ten hooded individuals broke a window with the Star of David visable and threatened to kill the woman inside. [Gap, France 7.22.14]
Disabled Jewish woman attacked by ten people throwing stones and chanting antisemetic violence. [Southeast France, 7.23.14]
Two molotov cocktails thrown at a Jewish Community Center [Toulhouse, France 7.26.14]
Molotov cocktails thrown at synagogue [Wuppertal, Germany 7.29.14]
Firebomb thrown at the apartment of a Jewish woman [Amsterdam, Holland 7.29.14]
Six men climb onto a bus of Jewish children ages 5 to 12 and shout “Kill the Jews” while threatening the children with violence. [Sydney, Australia. 8.25.14]
Synagogue attacked by arsonists [Anderlecht, Belgium 9.16.14]
Firebomb thrown at a synagogue during Rosh Hashana [Kiev, Ukraine 9.24.14]
Rabbi stabbed in the throat while heading to synagogue [Antwerp, Belgium 11.15.14]
Additionally, dozens of Jewish graveyards were destroyed this year all over the world.
Jewish Bakery in the Rue des Rosiers, a street that lies at the center of the Jewish quarter of Paris unofficially called Pletzl (Yiddish for “little place”). The area is characterized by its butchers, Jewish delicatessens, synagogues, and falafel vendors, which provide a social and cultural fabric for its inhabitants. Photos by Gueorgui Pinkhassov.
The Jewish Autonomous Region of Russia, with its capital Birobidzhan, is a territory created by Stalin in the 1920s as a Jewish homeland within the USSR on a barren piece of land on the Russian-Chinese border. The first Jewish homeland of modern time, created twenty years before Israel, it became the unlucky home of tens of thousands of Soviet Jews that were lured there by heavy-handed propaganda. Even Jews from America, France and Palestine embraced this barren place as their Promised Land, although most of these non-Soviet Jews were subsequently executed. 75 years later, the Birobidzhani Jews, having known anti-Semitic purges, frozen climate and economic disaster, left again in a mass exodus. The Jewish Agency, an Israeli government affiliated organization, provided a free one-way ticket to Israel for any Birobidzhani who could prove their Jewish ancestry. Nearly all the region’s Jews have accepted the offer to get out of Birobidzhan.
This photo essay was photographed during the winter of 1998-1999 and documented this last chapter in the story of Jewish Birobidzhan.
basically France has been playing Jews against Muslims and Muslims against Jews for years, since way before Israel was created, during colonial times.
for example in colonial Algeria, the native population of Algeria (both Jewish and Muslim) was initially under the “indigenous” status which meant they were second-class citizen in the colonial legal regime. and then in 1870 the Jews of Algeria were granted full national rights as French citizens by default, which suddenly gave them privilege over Muslim Algerians who were still under the “indigenous” status.
this divide and conquer strategy made the Jews of Algeria suspect of being on the side of colonial power - which was partly true. many were in favor of Algerian independance and participated in the national liberation movement and resistance against colonialism, but in terms of privilege, they had indeed gained a superior social, legal and economic status. and many therefore sided with the French because that is what served their material interests.
before the “Décret Crémieux” (the 1870 law that made all Jews of Algeria French), there was also a long process of assimilation of North African Jews into French culture, which was a deliberate process mainly implemented through colonial Jewish schools created by the “Alliance Israelite Universelle”. these schools had the explicit purpose of “civilizing” the Jews living in these “barbarian” and “savage” lands, to enlighten them with the modern French culture etc, so they were very quickly and forcibly assimilated with European clothes, French first names, and of course repression of the use of Arabic language. these schools did the job within one generation. Arabic / Judeo-Arabic speaking parents sent their kids to schools of the Alliance Israélite Universelle where they were taught in French and became assimilated and lost their cultures. my father was raised in a French colonial school in Tunisia and he never even learnt Arabic although his grandparents spoke Arabic at home, and his parents understood it perfectly.
after the decolonization, most of Jews of North Africa were forced to leave because they had been given this special status that made them suspects of double allegiance in the eyes of the rest of the population, they were considered traitors, they were not considered as fully Tunisian/Algerian/Moroccan anymore, so some didn’t feel like they had a place there anymore post-decolonization. some had been given subaltern jobs in the colonial administration, they had been hired to do France’s dirty jobs, so now that the countries had gained independance the colonial administration was gone and they lost their jobs. France’s Jewish population is i think majority descendents of post-colonial immigrants - although it’s just my impression but i might be wrong.
it must be noted that Adolphe Crémieux (the parliament member who passed that decree in 1870) and the Alliance Israélite Universelle, the organization who began this forced assimilation of Jews from colonized lands, were white French Zionist Jews. and they held really fucked up racist and colonialist positions. they stole our North African, Maghrebi, Arab/Amazigh Jewish cultures to homogenize all Jewish cultures to look like, sound like, smell like, feel like and taste like French European Jewish culture. their writing really reflect the “white man’s burden” type of mentality, they felt like they had to “save” Arab/Amazigh Jews and educate them and civilize them. just like Israel has been doing too, inventing a monolithic Jewish culture that is so colonial and so European and so Islamophobic and anti-Arab, negating all diversity of Jewish cultures, and creating a new language (modern Hebrew), new names (Tal, Dor, Or, Ronit), just stripping Jews from their cultures of origin and pretending they all have the same “neutral” Israeli culture… anyway.
many had left, but many Jews had chosen remained in Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco after the independence. they belonged in their countries and were attached to them, they felt fully Tunisian, Algerian, Moroccan. But after the creation of Israel, antisemitic hostility grew. in 1967, after the 6-days War, there were violent anti-Jew riots in Tunisia for example, the synagogue burned, the whole community left and came to France. unlike Moroccan Jews who massively went to Israel through shady zionist displacement programmes, most Algerian & Tunisian Jews had no interest in Israel and felt deeply Tunisian & Algerian. They didn’t go to Israel when they were forced to flee, but instead they went to France, to escape the rising antisemitism in their home countries, in which they had been existing as communities since before even the Arab Conquest.
There have been Jews in North Africa since before Islamization, since before the Romans. We are indigenous to North Africa, as most Jews of the Maghreb are Amazigh (also known as “Berber”). for example in Morocco most Jews are Chleh (an amazigh people of Morocco, of which some are Muslims and some are Jews and were all living in the same villages, speaking the same languages, before the creation of Israel and massive displacement).
now the Jewish communities of Tunisia & Algeria are almost extinct, and they all went to live in France were they assimilated after a while, but still many of them live in racially & socially segregated neighborhoods along with North African Muslims. but after decolonization and immigration, France did not stop its colonial practise of trying to create tension. so now the government and the media use Jews as ammunition against Muslims in the Islamophobic propaganda. and everybody knows France is pretty much a laboratory of islamophobia. so then because public officials use Jews against Muslims so much, its just stirs hatred and they play dangerously with fire, and Jews end up being considered allies of white power. basically capitalism and white supremacy use Jews as a human shield, a scapegoat to receive all the resentment and anger of poor people and people of color. you don’t have money? it’s because of the Jews. you are being exploited? it’s the Jews. as a Muslim you are denied your rights in this country? look at the Jews, they are not treated as bad as you are, they do not get the same treatment because they are France’s “favorite child”. etc. which then designates Jews as an easy target for terrorism, for hatred, for anger, etc. ‘cause of course if a parent keeps designating one of his kids as the favorite, and conspicuously treating his two kids with double standards, of course the “good treatment” from the parent will ‘cause anger, jealousy and resentment from the sibling who feels neglected and treated unfairly. it is an intentional policy in the case of France and its two religious minorities, to cause oppressed people to misdirect anger and social unrest at the “favorite sibling” instead of lookin at the oppressor. and of course the government and the media also keep repeating that there is no antisemitism in France, except for the one imported by the immigration from North Africa, that antisemitism is inherent to Islam, that all North African Muslims are antisemitic, etc, that it is very dangerous to be Jewish in neighborhoods with lots of immigrants, etc, so that Jews will start being more islamophobic and distrustful of Muslims, etc. the whole thing becomes performative. they just repeat and repeat and repeat those lies until they become truths. it’s just a horrible mess. the more state Islamophobia grows, the more popular antisemitism is growing too, and there are crazy people making a lot of money and feeding it… it’s just a nightmare for all of us, Jews and Muslims of color being used against each other by white supremacy and being victims of its plotting against us all.
the main French Jewish organization, the CRIF, is even more problematic than AIPAC. extremely Zionist, extremely Islamophobic, right-wing, and dominated by rich white/Ashkenazi Jews. they get to be the voice of Jews in France although they do not really represent what most French Jews believe, but they have coopted Jewish identity here so much that the French Jews who DON’T agree with them have almost given up on feeling Jewish, they/we feel almost ashamed to be Jewish, it is very hard to still want to identify as Jewish when that is what Jewish has come to mean in France in public discourse and in the media : Islamophobic, anti-Arab, Ashkenazi, White Supremacist, assimilationist, capitalist right-wing conservative, etc. All the Jews that have a voice as intellectuals in the mainstream media, Bernard Henry Levy, Elizabeth Levy, Eric Zemmour, Alain Finkielkraut, Gilles William Goldnadel, are extremely Zionist, racist, nationalist, and/or bordering on extreme right wing. the only ones i can think of who claim a visible Arab/North African Jewish identity/culture are all comedians/buffoons/clowns - Gad Elmaleh, Cyril Hanouna, and Michel Boujenah, so not political or intellectual or cultural commentors, they are not taken seriously.
this is an unfinished draft for an article that i might someday write
It’s a wikipedia link because because blood libel is a historically well-established accusation that has been used to justify violence against Jews for 2,500 years, and that article contains a free but concise history of how it’s been wielded over the ages.
But hey, if you really want academic peer-reviewed sources explaining what blood libel is…
Bar-Itzhak, H. (2012, Fall). Women and blood libel: The legend of adil kikinesh of drohobycz. Western Folklore, 71, 279-291.
Baum, S. K. (2009). When fairy tales kill. Journal for the Study of Antisemitism, 1(2), 187+.
Brackman, H. (2004). “Christ-killer”–the long shadow of a blood libel. Midstream, 50(2), 14+.
Frankel, J. (1997). “Ritual murder” in the modern era: The damascus affair of 1840. Jewish Social Studies, 3(2), 1.
Johnson, H. R. (2016). Stories People Tell: The Blood Libel and the History of Antisemitism. Law & Literature, 28(1), 11-26. doi:10.1080/1535685x.2015.1110380
Kalman, J. (2007). Sensuality, Depravity, and Ritual Murder: The Damascus Blood Libel and Jews in France. Jewish Social Studies 13(3), 35-58.
Leeson, D. N. (2012). An intergenerational blood libel. Journal for the Study of Antisemitism, 4(2), 671+.
Matteoni, F. (2008). The Jew, the Blood and the Body in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe. Folklore,119(2), 182-200.
Mercier, A., Atlani-duault, L., Rousseau, C., Guyot, P., & Moatti, J. P. (2015). Blood libel rebooted: Traditional scapegoats, online media, and the H1N1 epidemic. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry, 39(1), 43-61.
Weisberg, R. H. (2016). Preface: A Thousand Years of Infamy: The History of the Blood Libel. Law & Literature, 28(1), 1-2.
Weinberg, R. (2012). The Blood Libel in Eastern Europe. Jewish History,26(¾), 275-285.
As for comments claiming that Gadot is a child-killer, they are literally all over the fucking internet. Just open any article, video, facebook post, etc. about her and you’ll see them. I found all of these from just the last few days:
Like, seriously, WTF is is your point?
My post was only to specifically ask people not be critical of Gadot in a way that relies on an anti-Semitic trope that has been a motivation for anti-jewish violence since 460 BCE, because SURPRISE, you can criticise her viewpoints/boycott her film without lying about a Jewish woman killing children. I linked to wikipedia because it’s a free resource for people who don’t have access to academic journals with basic information and sources about a phenomenon that is an undisputed historical fact. You really want to make accusations that blood libel isn’t a thing? Back off.
You guys remember when Europe had a massive influx of Jewish migrants who they failed to integrate properly because integration was made a taboo by media and politicians and every month there was a radical Jewish terrorist attack and eventually people started asking their governments if they could maybe limit migration for a while so they could try to integrate the Jews they already had so they didn’t radicalize and blow themselves up because a Jewish Caliphate had been established in the Middle East that actively sought to brainwash European Jews with extremist anti-Western views?
Yeah, you bastards didn’t learn anything from Hitler, did you? We are literally doing that all over again.
List of some countries and dates where the Jews have been expelled … as you will see the western civilization if it fought for its values and way of life not like today!
Year 1028 : Pope Gregory VII issued a decree against Judaism committing the Catholic Church in the struggle against them. Year 1147 : The Jews were attacked in France and southern Germany by the populations of Rouen, Treves, Regensburg. Year 1198 : France, a decree against “Hebrew Infiltration” is proclaimed in various institutions. Year 1209 : At the Council of Avignon, The Catholic Church proclaimed a new Anti - Jewish edict. Year 1210 : By order of King John of England, the Jews were imprisoned. Year 1215 : Pope Innocent III, proclaimed the anti-Hebrew edict, known as the “Jewish Sign”. Year 1242 : The Jewish Talmud was publicly burned in Paris after its contents were known. Year 1252 : In England, the Jews were again imprisoned by the government for their activities contrary to the interests of the state. Year 1278 : In England, the Jews were expelled by King Enrico II. Year 1306 : Jewry returned illegally to France was again expelled. Year 1313 : The Catholic Church at the Council of Zamora, proclaimed another edict against Judaism. Year 1394 : By royal mandate, the Jews were expelled from France for the third time. Year 1424 : The Jews are cast out of the German city Cologne. Year 1442 : Pope Eugene IV proclaimed an edict against all the Jews of the Catholic countries. Year 1450 : Pope Benedict VI violently attacked Judaism, showing the danger they represent to the Christian world. Year 1453 : The Jews were attacked en masse in Poland and German Silesia. Year 1480 : In the Cortes de Toledo the Jews were separated from the Christians and forced to live in separate quarters or aljamas and also had to wear red rounds that identified them as such. However they were able to keep their own laws and celebrate their religious ceremonies without problems. Year 1484 : a small expulsion of the Jews residing in Seville, Cadiz and Cordova was made but allowing them to remain within Castile, Establishing themselves mainly in Extremadura
Year 1492 : The Catholic Kings, Isabel and Fernando, order the expulsion of all the Jews of Spain. Year 1496 : The Jews are expelled from Naples. Year 1496 : The Jews were expelled from Portugal. Year 1507 : The Catholic Order of Dominicans violently attacked Judaism for the danger they posed. Year 1534 : A group of Jews returned illegally to England led by Goshan, met Henry VIII and persuaded him to separate the Church from England from the Catholic Church, proclaiming the Anglican Church and titling himself head of that Church (1st blow to Catholicism ). Year 1555 : Pope Paul IV promulgated an edict against the Hebrews. Year 1559 : The Talmud was publicly burned in Cremona Italy. Year 1561 : The Jews were expelled from Prague. Year 1569 : The Jews were expelled from the Papal States. Year 1582 : The Jews were expelled from Hungary Year 1597 : The Jews were expelled from all the Italian principalities. Year 1629 Jews expelled from Hamburg Year 1669 : Jews expelled from Vienna Year 1744 : Jews are expelled from Slovakia, Moravia and Bohemia. Year 1789 : Jewish - Freemasonry unleashed the “French Revolution” mother of all liberal revolutions of the last 2 centuries, Beginning of Judaism’s ascending career for World Power. Year 1796 : Under the reign of Catherine the Great, in Russia, Jews persecuted for attacking the security of the Empire were persecuted (a century and a half later, in 1917 the Jews seized the Russian Empire). Year 1808 : Napoleon Bonaparte promulgated the famous “Infamus Decreë” prohibiting new Hebrew establishments in Germany. Year 1809 : Bismarck stifled the Jewish danger and called the Masons “Lacayo of the Jews” Year 1880 : They are expelled from some Russian provinces Year 1891 : It decreed the expulsion of small Jewish merchants and craftsmen from Moscow. In 1917 :
Asesinan al Zar Nicolás II y a su familia y se toman el poder en Rusia estableciendo el comunismo con apoyo de banqueros judíos estadounidenses como Jacob Schiff que financiaría al judío León Trotsky.
Did the Catholic Monarchs belong to the National Socialist Party?
Was Catherine the Great a Nazi?
Was Pope Paul IV Reactionary?
Did Bismarck belong to the Gestapo?
Was the Talmud burned in Italy a work of a fascist band?
Was the Council of Avignon a nest of anti-Semitic elements?
How can you call us ‘good’? We did what had to be done.
The village of Le Chambon in southern France hid Jews throughout the duration of France’s occupation, and began an escape route of Jews from Le Chambon to the nearby Swiss border. Inspired by a religious conviction and sense of duty, the rescuer citizens of Le Chambon were resolute in their duty, hiding Jews in households and countrysides. They refuse praise for their deeds; this remark made by one of Le Chambon’s citizens.
Tumblr always cares about everything- the attack in France, Ebola in Africa, Ferguson, LGBTQ, and much more. And they are all right and we have to talk about this issue.
But why doesn’t anybody care when there is a terror attack in Synagogue in Jerusalem? When Israeli girl was almost burned to death? Why doesn’t anybody shout and scream because Israel has daily terror attacks?
On the eve of the
Revolution, there were four principal centres of Jewish population: the
Sephardic communities of Bordeaux, Saint-Esprit-les-Bayonne, Dax and
Peyrehorade ; the Ashkenazi communities of Alsace, of Trois-Évêchés and of
Lorraine ; the communities of Avignon, Carpentras, Cavaillon and
L'Isle-sur-Sorgue in the possessions of the pope, in Avignon and in the Comtat
Venaissin ; and a mixed community of Ashkenazim, Sephardim, Avignonnais and
Jews from the Comtat Venaissin in Paris. Small Jewish communities also existed
in Marseille, Nîmes, Montpellier, Lyon, Fontainebleau and Versailles. Out of
around 40,000 Jews, the majority (20,000) lived in the province of Alsace.
Although endowed with a
strong organisation and strong discipline, the communities lacked unity and
uniformity. Their diversity reflected the particular circumstances in which the
communities had received their own privileges, composition and economic
orientation, and the particular links which the territories where the Jews
lived maintained with the crown. In one case – the one of the Sephardic Jews –
the diversity reflected a distinct heritage in terms of socio-economic,
cultural and religious matters, as well as a greater independence concerning
discriminatory financial charges, and a higher degree of cultural integration.
Once the National
Assembly had temporarily adopted the Declaration of the rights of Man and of
the Citizen, the status of the Jews, linked in an inextricable manner to the
hated privileges of the Ancien Régime, could no longer be left in the shadow.
The Jews themselves furthermore resolved to present petitions to the National
Assembly. Internal divisions harmed the unity of these efforts. Preferring to
be included in all political, economic and social changes, the Sephardim
advised the Abbé Gregoire to refrain from exceptional measures concerning the
emancipation of the Jews. The Ashkenazim, in their address of 31 August 1789,
demanded the rights of citizenship and renewed their previous demands for liberty
of abode and of work. They also wanted to obtain the upholding of the juridical
autonomy of the communities ; this demand was rejected by the Jews of Paris, in
their address of 26 August 1789. Having a very clear conscience regarding the
important price which the Jews would have to pay in order to benefit from the
numerous profound changes taking place in France, they demanded to be submitted
to the same administrations and to the same tribunals as the rest of the French
; in return, while conserving the right to remain loyal to their religion, they
explicitly renounced the privileges that were bestowed on them by the existence
in a constituent body.
The Jewish question was firstly
raised during the debates of December 1789. The adversaries and partisans of
the emancipation of the Jews saw a contradiction between the Jewish specificity
and the French citizenship. Those who were hostile regarded this contradiction
as permanent and irremediable, whereas those who defended it believed that the
Jews could and would like to become Frenchmen. Robespierre, who opposed himself
to Reubell, the only ultra-revolutionary speaking out against the emancipation
of the Jews, and the Abbé Maury defended the Jews with eloquence. With a logic
which had to be employed often in support of emancipation, he accused the
Frenchmen of having created and of having exaggerated the faults of the Jews. Unable
to decide for or against the emancipation of the Jews, the National Assembly
separated their case from the one of the Protestants and reserved its right of
judgement. All Jews of France, the Sephardim as much as the Ashkenazim, had to
await the legislation to come.
Not wanting to see
themselves this limited, the Sephardic Jews of Bordeaux and those of Bayonne
prepared petitions to the National Assembly and sent deputies in order to « faire les couloirs » in their name. They
experienced success when on 28 January 1790, while it only assembled two-thirds
of the deputies, the Assembly decreed, by 374 votes against 224, that the
Portuguese, Spanish and Avignonnais Jews could enjoy the rights of active
citizens. Nonetheless, Le Chapelier clearly expressed that there is no link
between the status of the Jews from Bordeaux and the ones from Alsace.
Resolutions from nearly all urban districts of Paris, a memorandum that was
adopted on 24 February by the assembly of the Commune and a deputation to the
National Assembly could only obtain that the Assembly revisited its decision to
indefinitely adjourn the question of the civil rights of the Ashkenazim.
Just before the Assembly
would dissolve without having decided anything concerning the Jews, Adrien
Duport rose and proclaimed that the freedom of religion did not tolerate any discrimination
between the political rights of citizens based on their confessions. On 27
September 1791, the Assembly promulgated a law in terms of which all measures
of exception against the Jews had to be repealed and the Ashkenazi Jews had to
be accepted in the oath of citizenship. This law equally applied to the Jews
living in Avignon and in the Comtat Venaissin. These Jews had already been
emancipated by the provinces themselves and thus enjoyed civil rights even
before being recognized as citizens.
Legally, Jews were
henceforth French citizens. No city could any longer refuse the liberty of
abode to them ; they theoretically could work the land and the access to
diverse professions solely depended on their capacities. But one could predict
that neither Christians nor Jews could or wanted to change their existence as
fast and radically as they had changed the laws.
Also, although there
were Ashkenazim wanting to join clubs and the army and to participate in the
elections, the majority of them remained in their communities and continued to
exercise their traditional economic activities. The activities of these Jews –
emphasized and often exaggerated – were the target of their traditional
enemies, although often expressed under the cover of revolutionary language.
Contrary to the Ashkenazim, however, the Sephardim became closer to the
non-Jewish population, joined the ranks of the army and participated in the
National Guard. Some of them were elected city counsellors, thereby playing an
influential role in the first years of the Revolution.
The Jews suffered, like
the rest of the population, due to the anti-religious attitudes and activities
of the Jacobins. The synagogues were closed and the observance of Shabbat was
forbidden. Some Jews in Paris, Bordeaux and chiefly Bayonne supported the
Jacobin cause. The Société montagnarde et
régénérée des Amis de la Constitution de 1793 of Saint-Esprit-les-Bayonne,
one of the strongholds of Jacobinism in the department of Landes, was almost
exclusively composed of Jews.
The only question which involved
the Jewish communities during the Revolution was the one of the nationalisation
of the goods of the Jewish communities and of the collective debts. Whereas it
was a matter of conserving the immobile goods of the community for the
Sephardim, for the Ashkenazim it was the occasion to liberate themselves from
the burden of community obligations. Although three commissions supported the
nationalisation of the goods and Jewish debts, the Council of Five Hundred
decided differently (6 December 1797). The failure of the nationalisation of
the debts forced the Ashkenazim to maintain their community organisation
(despite their official dissolution), in order to raise the necessary
contributions. In the payment of their debts to their Christian creditors, the
Jews of the Northeast of France suffered from sensitive economic losses.
Under the influence of
the liberal revolutionaries of his Conseil
d'État and of the social pragmatics of the post-revolutionary consolidation,
Napoleon assembled an Assembly of notable Jews (1806), later the Grand Sanhédrin (1807) ; the acts of
these foundations united all Jews of France in the consistories and assured to
the French that the Jews regarded France as their country and the French as
their brothers. The decrees of Napoleon (which were promulgated on 30 May 1806
and 17 March 1808) equally liberated the Alsaciens from the majority of their
debt towards Jewish moneylenders and temporarily
deprived the Jews from North-eastern France of their economical liberty.
The emancipation was
based on a profound transformation of the traditional life taking place in
terms cultural, linguistic and theological matters. This transformation, as
well as important economic and social changes, followed the Napoleonic era and
accompanied the industrialisation and urbanisation of France. But modern Jewish
history truly begins with the civic and political equality of the years of the