If you’ve grown up as a Sephardic Jew, there’s one singer that you’ve reliably heard at every single wedding, bar/bat-mitzvah, engagement party, Shabbat, or celebration of any kind.
His name is Enrico Macias.
Born Gaston Ghrenassia in Constantine — then in French Algeria — in 1938, the Jewish “Pied Noir” singer has come to embody the bittersweet memories and nostalgia felt by Jews who left their Arab homelands in the 1960s and ‘70s.
In other words, you’re not a Jew of North African descent until you’ve seen your grandmother tearing up to “Adieu mon pays,” (“Goodbye My Country”), Macias’s first hit, written from the deck of the boat carrying him and his family away from their war-torn home.
Macias and his wife, Suzy, fled the Algerian War for Independence in 1961 after his father-in-law, Cheikh Raymond Leyris — also a famous musician — was murdered. Macias’s father, Sylvain Ghrenassia, was a violinist in an Andalo-Arabic orchestra.
Since then, he’s become an international superstar of French music, an “Ambassador at Large for Peace and Protection of the Children of the World” (named by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan in 1997), and most recently, a successful comedy actor.
The Forward’s Anne Cohen sat down with Macias at the Gansevoort Hotel in New York City to talk about his upcoming move to Israel, his new movie career and, of course, his favorite songs.
This interview has been translated from French.
Anne Cohen: A movie about your life premiered at the 17th Annual New York Sephardic Film Festival. You also star in “Would I Lie To You 3”, which will close the festival on March 20. How do you like acting?
Enrico Macias: My first movie experience was “La Vérité Si Je Mens 2” (“Would I Lie To You 2”). When they asked me to be in “La Vérité Si Je Mens 3” (“Would I Lie to You 3”) it was like a reward, because it meant that I wasn’t so bad. The movie was a big success in France. Not just for the actors, but for me personally. I’m not a seasoned actor, I did this on a lark. But it turns out I really like acting. Especially comedy acting. Which is funny because I’m not necessarily like that in everyday life. I like to laugh, and I like to make jokes. But in front of a camera, I only have to stare and people laugh.
I think a new, younger audience has joined my traditional fans – and when I saw traditional fans, they also span a couple of generations. It’s great. Young people see me in movies and say “Oh, he’s also a singer, I’m going to listen to his songs.” And that’s how they discover my work.
Guess what? John Galliano feels bad.
In an exclusive interview with Vanity Fair, Galliano publicly apologized for the anti-Semitic remarks that got him fired from Dior in 2011.
“It’s the worst thing I have said in my life, but I didn’t mean it …” the disgraced fashion designer told contributing editor Ingrid Sischy. ” I have been trying to find out why that anger was directed at this race. I now realize I was so f***ing angry and so discontent with myself that I just said the most spiteful thing I could.”
Galliano added that he has been sober for two years, and that this will be his first sober interview. “I never drank in order to be creative, or to do the research,” he said. “I didn’t need alcohol for any of that. At first alcohol was like a crutch outside of Dior. Then I would use it to crash after the collections. I’d take a couple of days to get over it, like everyone. But with more collections, the crash happened more often, and then I was a slave to it. Then the pills kicked in because I couldn’t sleep. Then the other pills kicked in because I couldn’t stop shaking. I would also have these huge bottles of liquor that people got for me. Towards the end, it was whatever I could get my hands on. Vodka, or vodka-and-tonic. Wine, in the belief it would help me sleep. Wrong. I did manage to stop the voices. I had all these voices in my head, asking so many questions, but I never for one second would admit I was an alcoholic. I thought I could control it.”
Galliano has tried to show remorse for his remarks by educating himself on the Holocaust and Jewish culture, and has met with Jewish leaders like Abraham Foxman, president of the Anti-Defamation League — a surprising supporter of the designer’s efforts. “He is trying very hard to atone,” Foxman has said in the past.
But what to do with the penitent designer? As Forward Editor-In-Chief Jane Eisner put it in a recent editorial: “Is Galliano a permanent affront to Jews and to all good-hearted people everywhere? Or is he, in the words of his unlikely defender, Abraham Foxman, president of the Anti-Defamation Leagure, a “poor shnook” with an addiction problem who is trying to make amends?”
Only time will tell.
The interview is available in full in the July 2013 issue of Vanity Fair.
The New School’s Jewish Student Union has put out a petition protesting John Galliano’s teaching appointment at the Parsons School of Design.
“We do not want money from our tuition going to this kind of person. We feel like we’ve been slapped in the face by our school. There should be no room for this kind of person as a staff member on the faculty at Parsons,” the petition statement reads.
“Imagine if the school were hiring a person who publicly voiced support for the KKK — there would likely be backlash because it’s not right to have someone like that teaching at a school. But because this is someone who has made anti-Semitic remarks, people are willing to look the other way. This is unacceptable.”
The Parsons School of Design announced on Monday that John Galliano would be teaching a 3-day design workshop called “Show Me Emotion.”
“It doesn’t matter if its for three months or three days,” the statement added, “hiring someone who has made such horrific comments shows that the school values Galliano over their entire Jewish student body.”
Galliano was fired from Dior in 2011 after he was caught on video making anti-Semitic remarks in a Paris cafe. The New School JSU included the video in its petition (see it below).
The JSU calls on students and alumni to sign the petition and write an email to David Van Zandt, the president of the The New School, and Joel Towers, the dean of Parsons, calling for Galliano’s resignation. So far, 110 people have signed.
NEW YORK — Disgraced fashion designer John Galliano is continuing his public image rehabilitation with an upcoming stint teaching a master class at one of New York’s leading design schools.
Galliano, who was fired by Dior in 2011 after he was caught on camera making anti-Semitic remarks in a Paris cafe, will teach a course titled “Show Me Emotion” at Parsons The New School For Design, the school said on Monday.
Parsons said the class “will be a dynamic and intimate opportunity for our students to learn from an immensely talented designer.”
“We believe that over the past two years Galliano has demonstrated a serious intent to make amends for his past actions,” the school added.
Earlier this year, the 52-year-old British designer, widely thought of as one of the most talented and creative names in fashion, spent several weeks working at Oscar de la Renta’s studio in New York, preparing for de la Renta’s New York Fashion Week show in February.
A French court handed out a 6,000-euro ($8,000) suspended fine to Galliano in 2011 after he was found guilty of anti-Semitic behavior. Galliano has said an addiction to drugs and alcohol had left him out of control and he was determined to make amends.
Parsons said students in the master class “will have the opportunity to engage in a frank conversation with Mr. Galliano about the challenges and complications of leading a design house in the 21st century.”
Following his Dior dismissal, Galliano designed British model Kate Moss’s wedding dress.
It turns out that the anti-Semitic “Elmo” from recent news might also be called the pornographic Elmo.
Anti-Semitic Elmo is back in business in Central Park following the release of a viral video of him spewing anti-Jewish vitriol and his subsequent psychiatric evaluation at Metropolitan Hospital Center. But Michael Wilson of The New York Times has done some digging and discovered some even more disturbing information on the man behind the big, red, furry mask.
When Jon Lovitz tweeted his outrage over an anti-Semitic act of vandalism in Southern California this April, his ire was directed primarily at a group of teenage girls he called bullies. Lovitz’s friends, parents of a teenage daughter, found feces left on their doorstep and swastikas and the word “Jew” painted in maple syrup in the yard. They believed that perpetrators were classmates from their daughter’s school. A neighbor had caught the vandalism on a surveillance camera.
Now justice is being served — and it looks like this isn’t just a case of teenage bullying. Catherine Whelpley, a Southern California mom, is being charged with aiding in the crime. She allegedly drove her daughter and two other girls to and from the crime scene, as well as to a second home where they’re also accused of committing vandalism.
As many had feared, racism has reared its ugly head at Euro 2012. Italian football star Mario Balotelli was subjected to non-stop verbal abuse during the Italy-Spain match earlier this week at the Arena Gdansk in Poland.
The Mirror reported that 300 Spanish fans made monkey chants at Balotelli, and that the stewards (ushers) thought this was “funny.” A sports photographer who was on the scene said, “I was sat behind the goal with all the Spanish fans behind me and they were involved in monkey chanting and laughter and mockery whenever Balotelli was on the ball.”
In an educational effort to combat the troublesome phenomenon of anti-Semitism and racism in soccer, England’s national football team will visit Auschwitz and other Holocaust-related sites while in Poland next week for the Euro 2012 tournament.
According to the Algemeiner, the team will visit Auschwitz some time between its arrival in Poland on June 6 and its first game (against France) on June 9. The players are expected to light candles along the train tracks leading to the camp, and to sign the guest book there.
Jon Stewart seemed uncomfortable with some of the things guest Ricky Gervais was saying about famous Holocaust victim Anne Frank and the Nazis on the Daily Show on April 11. But while Stewart took it no further than trying to humorously push back at Gervais during their broadcast conversation, a guy in Boston named Dan Bloom is taking Gervais’s remarks more seriously. He has started a petition and is calling for “a worldwide boycott of any TV shows showcasing the sick anti-Semitic humor of Ricky Gervais and [Gervais’s professional colleague] Karl Pilkington, both ugly and sick anti-Semitic Brits.”
What upset Bloom so much was Gervais’s telling Stewart that Pilkington thought that Anne Frank and her family were hiding in the attic to avoid paying rent to their landlord. He also went on and on — while grinning— about how he couldn’t understand why the Nazis had not found Anne earlier. “Nazis must be stupid,” he exclaimed.
We may know Jon Lovitz as a joker, but he was very serious when he tweeted about a recent anti-Semitic act perpetrated against his friend’s teenage daughter by other students from her school. It was reported that Lovitz’s posts about the incident, which took place in Northridge, California on April 3, led to the expulsion of the perpetrators from their middle school.
“Some coward & idiot left this on a friend’s doorstep, yesterday. This is an insult to all of us,” the comedian tweeted along with a photo of the pile of feces and swastikas and the word “Jew” written in maple syrup on the front walk and doorstep of his friend’s home.
Soccer hooligans called Israeli soccer player Itay Shechter a “dirty Jew” and made the Nazi salute at him during a training session for the Kaiserslautern team in southwest Germany on Sunday, prompting an outcry in the German media against anti-Semitism in German football.
Although DFB, Germany’s national football association, condemned the incident and said it does not tolerate any kind of racism in the sport, it was reported that police and security personnel are reluctant to eject people making anti-Semitic remarks from the stadium. The media criticized the police’s inaction as part of a “deescalation” strategy, and journalist Alex Feuerherdt, who covers anti-Semitism in German soccer said it was “completely inexplicable that the police did not intervene” the minute the hooligans began calling Shechter a “dirty Jew.”
As 2011 draws to a close, children writing to Santa Claus aren’t the only ones making lists. Editors everywhere are furiously compiling the annual news round-ups that give us a chance to look back and smile — or cringe — at the year’s bests and worsts, in every category from books to fashion and beyond.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center has been hard at work, too, compiling something much more chilling — a list of the top ten anti-Israel and anti-Jewish slurs from 2011. It won’t fill you with holiday cheer, but it’s worth reading. A statement from the center, followed by the full list, appears below.
A German radio host who allegedly made Holocaust-denying remarks and also made light of 9/11 has been reinstated to his position after having been temporarily suspended.
Ken Jebsen, the host of the “Jugendwelle” program on Radio Fritz, which is based in Potsdam just outside Berlin, had written in an email to a listener that “Hitler’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels implemented the public relations plan of the Holocaust, and the Americans provided fuel for the entire Nazi bombing campaign,” according to a report in the Jerusalem Post. In a separate comment, he said that the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York was a “warm demolition.”
Anti-Semitism has reared its ugly head again at Oxford University in England. Disillusioned officers of the university’s Conservative Association recently leaked documents to the campus newspaper The Oxford Student, showing evidence of anti-Semitic behavior among its members.
The paper found one video to be particularly offensive. It is of a student leading others in a drunken chant of “Dashing through the Reich / in a black Mercedes Benz / killing lots of kike / ra ta ta ta ta. ” It was evidently recorded toward the end of the Michaelmas term in 2010. That would have been in December, which would explain why — at least to The Shmooze’s ear — these lyrics sound as though they go to the tune of “Jingle Bells.” The song has reportedly been enthusiastically sung by OUCA members in other seasons, as well.
It’s not quite worthy of a Sherlock Holmes story, but the mystery continues: Who censored Steven Spielberg’s name at a movie theater in Lebanon?
In a piece picked up by The Washington Post, the country’s Blog Baladi reported yesterday that the director’s name had been covered up on a poster for his next movie, the kid-friendly “Adventures of Tintin.”
Despite claims by its distributor that it is selling “like hot fried bananas,” an Islamic sex guide with anti-Semitic overtones has been banned by Malaysian authorities.
The 115-page “Islamic Sex: Fighting Jews to Return Islamic Sex to the World,” was published in October by the Obedient Wives Club, a pro-polygamy group believed to be an offshoot from the Al-Arqaam sect. Al-Arqaam was banned by the Malaysian government in 1994 for its allegedly deviant teachings. The club, which touts itself as being selective, is believed to have at least 800 members in Malaysia, as well as branches in Indonesia, Singapore and the U.K.
A letter typed and signed by Adolf Hitler in 1919, and thought to be his first written comments calling for the annihilation of the Jews, is now on display at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. The document, known as the Gemlich letter, was purchased by the Simon Wiesenthal Center for $150,000 and revealed to the public this past June.
Hitler was a soldier in the German army when he wrote the letter. After being wounded during World War I, he was assigned to a propaganda unit in Munich run by Karl Mayr. Mayr asked Hitler to write a response to one Adolf Gemlich’s request for a clarification on the army’s position on “the Jewish question.”
The banner was green, and “Jihad Legia” was written across it in white Arabic-style font. Green is one of Legia’s team colors, but it is also the color of many Islamist groups and parties.
“Some Legia fans have been known for anti-Semitic and extreme-right behavior for years and they had a chance to express their hatred of Jews again when Legia played an Israeli team, this time adopting a pseudo-Islamist guise,” Rafal Pankowski, who runs the UEFA-backed Football Against Racism in Europe network, told AFP. The UEFA is European football’s governing body.
As an expected 50,000 Breslov Hasidim descend on Uman, Ukraine for their annual Rosh Hashanah pilgrimage to the grave of Rabbi Nachman there, they are being met with protests from local Ukrainian nationalists.
According to reports by the Moscow Times and Kyiv Post, the Svoboda nationalist party held an “Uman Without Hasidim” rally to demand stricter controls on the Hasidic pilgrims. Tetyana Chornomaz, head of the local Svoboda branch, was adamant that the protest had nothing to do with anti-Semitism. However, she did say that “we have many questions regarding their [the Hasidim’s] stay in Ukraine.” In particular, she and other activists are concerned about security and sanitation while the pilgrims are in the area. During the 2010 pilgrimage, 10 Hasidim were deported back to Israel and banned from returning to the Ukraine for disrupting the public order and causing bodily harm to Uman residents.
It’s not just Arsenal football fans in the U.K. who are using their websites to spread anti-Semitism.
Here in the U.S., ESPN was alerted by the Simon Wiesenthal Center that people were setting up fantasy (American) football teams with names like “Jews are Immoral,” “Jews are Terrible” and “Jews Love Pennies” on the ESPN website.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told USA Today that he was alerted to these names when a Jewish father went to sign his son up to participate in fantasy football. “They may have been fantasy leagues but the hate is all too real,” Cooper said.
ESPN responded quickly to the complaint and removed the teams immediately. “Offensive hate speech like the examples discussed here have no place on our site. While we have systems in place to protect against inappropriate team and league names clearly with millions of users and deceptive ways around the safeguards, we can never completely eliminate it,” ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz said.