The events in France have prompted a reminder of how France and things French have punctuated my life.
As a child in pre-World War II Warsaw I remember my parents’ friends describe visits to Paris as a place where you can “otemen frei” — breathe freely.
In Vilno on June 15, 1940 we went to see the American film “Marie Antoinette” about the French Revolution. As my parents and I emerged from the theater, Soviet tanks were rolling down the street and Lithuania had lost its independence. In Kobe, Japan in 1941, I attended Ecole Ste Marie, a convent school, where French nuns taught us Jewish refugee children English and French — and even tried to replicate a Seder.
The lingua franca of my husband’s father’s family — from pre-British Mandatory Palestine to Alexandria to France, Switzerland, Israel, and Algeria was French. His uncle had served in WWII in the French army and spent part of the war in a German POW camp. Their son — like the little boy in filmmaker Claude Berri’s “The Two of Us” — was hidden by a French farmer who was not too fond of Jews but took pity on the child.
Marek Halter and Ambassador Francois Delattre, 2004 // Photo by Karen Leon
Our 1967 visit to Paris — a few weeks after the Six Day War — offered a little window on what it was like to live as a Jew in France at the time. In a restaurant, the Maitre D’ greeted us with hauteur as “Americains” then quickly warmed up when he saw the “chai” I was wearing and whispered “Vous etes Juifs?” (Are you Jews?) adding sotto voce “Moi aussi” (me too).
During my August 1987 interview of Beri (ne Claude Berel Langmann) who had been hidden during the Nazi occupation with an anti-Semitic French farmer (portrayed by French superstar Michel Simon) told me “I made that movie not only against anti-Semitism…but prejudice.” Did he know Marek Halter, I asked referring to the activist who as a child escaped the Warsaw Ghetto and immigrated to France in 1950 where he founded the International Committee for a Negotiated Peace Agreement in the Near East.
“He is more involved in the Jewish thing,” Berri told me. “I am a man of the West not first a Jew.” Does he see himself as a Jew or Frenchman? “ Berri replied, “Probablement as a Jew….but I can be more close with an Arab than a Jew, depends on the man. It was never for me ‘Jew first.”
On June 9, 2004, then newly appointed French Consul General in New York Francois Delattre (now France’s Ambassador to the United States who on January 11 was among the more than 1000+ crowd at the Memorial service for the 17 victims of Terror in France held at Lincoln Square Synagogue) had hosted a reception for Marek Halter who was here to publicize his latest novel, “Sarah” — the first of a trilogy about Biblical women.
Later that day, at a reception for Halter at Mortimer Zuckerman’s home, I asked Marek in Yiddish “What about anti-Semitism in France?” He winced. “As long as France is a democracy….” he trailed off. He was downhearted that the marches he had once organized against “anti-semitisme et racisme” that used to empower tens of thousands to march, through the streets of Paris “can hardly muster a couple of thousand.” Wherever Marek may be now, he must be aware of outpouring not of just thousands — but of millions.
(JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a knack for embroiling himself in political sideshows during foreign memorial services.
He entered Israel’s latest tempest in a teapot earlier this week, attending the march for victims of France’s terror attacks even though French President Francois Hollande asked him not to. Israeli media outlets are now reporting that Netanyahu pushed his way past other world leaders so he could get to the front of the crowd.
Among his previous funeral-related controversies: When British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher died in 2013, Netanyahu came under fire domestically for installing a $127,000 bed on the plane for his five-hour flight to the state funeral — right when he was trying to pass an austerity budget.
Charlie Hebdo will be back en force on Wednesday, after a terror attack that left 12 dead.
The magazine is set to release a record-breaking 3 million copies this week, dwarfing its usual print run of 60,000 in response to soaring demand for the first edition of the satirical weekly since last week’s deadly attacks by Islamist militants.
Charlie Hebdo staff has been working out of makeshift offices at French newspaper Libération. On Sunday, at least 3.7 million people took part throughout France in marches of support for Charlie Hebdo and freedom of expression.
The cover, published Monday night in anticipation of Wednesday’s release, shows the prophet Mohammed holding a #JeSuisCharlie sign. The caption above reads: “All is forgiven.”
On January 7, three gunmen open fired at the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people, including two police officers. Four of France’s most celebrated cartoonists Charb, Cabu, Wolinski and Tignous, were among the victims. It’s easy to speculate about what sparked this deadly attack. Charlie Hebdo wasn’t exactly known for its tact or subtlety — in November 2011, the publication’s offices were firebombed a day after publishing a cartoon depicting the prophet Mohammed.
But it would be a mistake to think that the popular magazine only targeted Islam. It thumbed its nose at everyone, reflecting mostly the bad and the ugly, but also the good, of French society as a whole — Jews included. Here are a couple of examples:
Charlie Hebdo/ via Daily Beast
An Orthodox Jew, the Pope and an Imam yell: “Charlie Hebdo must be veiled!”
The Pont des Arts footbridge over the Seine in central Paris was closed for a few hours on Sunday after a metal grill laden with padlocks left by amorous couples collapsed onto the walkway.
Padlocks began appearing on bridges in Paris and other European cities more than five years ago left by people seeking to symbolize their enduring love - often inscribed with couples’ names. Lovers typically throw the keys into the river. Among the many famous faces who have have sealed their love with a padlock are Kim Kardashian and sister Kourtney Kardashian — who induldged in the tradition with Jewish boyfriend Scott Disick.
Nobody was hurt by the “love lock” incident, a city official told French media on Monday, adding that the bridge had reopened and the two grills across a 2.4 meter stretch of the bridge replaced temporarily by wooden panels.
But in a tweet posted on the city’s official web site, Bruno Juillard, the city’s elected head of cultural affairs, said it “confirms that our desire to find an alternative to these locks is a real necessity.”
The railings of several Paris bridges, including the central Pont des Arts which has a commanding view of the Ile de la Cite from the west, have since all but disappeared behind festoons of padlocks.
Paris authorities, who inspect and replace panels twisted or made unsafe by the weight of the locks, have faced calls to clamp down on the practice on esthetic grounds. But they have been reluctant to take stiffer measures for fear of hurting the city’s tourist industry and its worldwide reputation as a city of love.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo last month invited citizens to “open a debate around the phenomenon of ‘love locks’ with a view to finding alternatives”.
The crème de la crème of Hollywood, fashion and music worlds will descend on Paris this weekend for the royal Kimye nuptials.
Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s rumored Versailles (or Florence?) May 24th, wedding has the world watching and waiting with bated breath. What will the bride wear? Will North crawl down the aisle? Will Kanye finally smile? How soon will they divorce?
With only 100 on the guestlist, the intimate, and if we know anything about the Kardashians, extravagant affair will be an unforgettable and custom affair replete with the best money can buy. But did you know that some of Kardashian’s best accessories throughout the years have been her Jewish friends? We count the top five Jews in Kardashian’s life.
1. Lorraine Schwartz
Diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but a custom15-carat Lorraine Schwartz engagement ring is a girl’s soul mate. West proposed to Kardashian at San Francisco’s AT&T Park with the help of a Jumbotron displaying “PLEEEASE MARRY MEEE!!!.” But more instrumental was the flawless ring Jewish jeweler to the stars, Schwartz, designed for the couple. Here she posts a photo of North West holding the ring.
2. Alber Elbaz
Kardashian’s new favorite designer Alber Elbaz, the creative director of Lanvin, one of the world’s most respected fashion houses. Elbaz, the Israeli Moroccan designer has made a name for himself in the high fashion world. He recently dressed Kardashian for her Vogue cover story and the 2014 Met Gala. (Elbaz is on the bottom left)
3. Scott Disick
Let’s just call him Jewish-boyfriend-in-law. Older sister, Kourtney Kardashian’s long-time boyfriend Scott Disick is a Long Island Jewish boy who has become part of the Kardashian klan and made a name for himself as Keeping Up With the Kardashians’ black sheep with a drinking problem.
4. Jonathan Cheban
The title of Kardashian’s BFF goes to none other than PR extraordinaire Jonathan Cheban. The Russian Jewish native of Fort Lee, NJ ascended up the celebrity ladder as a PR consultant to the stars to eventually become Kardashian’s best friend. Kardashian even executive produced his short-lived reality show The Spin Crowd. He will no doubt be front and center as Kimye take their vows.
5. Bar Refaeli
The second Israeli on the list is one of the world’s most popular supermodels, Bar Refaeli. Kardashian and Refaeli have become friends over the last few years and the Israeli beauty and Leonard DiCaprio’s ex is among the select few to be invited to the wedding.
After two years off-screen, the tribe’s pride and joy (a Harvard graduate!) is back in the limelight.
Natalie Portman shines on the November cover of Marie-Claire, and dishes about her love for Los Angeles, her upcoming move to Paris and how, really, she’s just like you and me.
She even has bad habits! “I bite my cuticles,” she offers, apologetically. “Oh, and I can go into a Food Network hole.”
On Hollywood’s tendency to typecast her: “Like, every Jewish role comes to me,” she says, laughing. Even now, when everyone from Mila Kunis to Scarlett Johansson is of the faith? “I look more Jewish than Scarlett,” Portman deadpans.”
Portman’s next project will also be her directorial debut: She’ll be starring as Amos Oz’s mother in “A Tale of Love and Darkness.”
Though the Israeli-born actress is fluent in Hebrew, she admitted to be being somewhat nervous about carrying on whole conversations in French, though she can definitely get through the basics. “I mean, not about, like, philosophy,” she explains. “But about this and that, I can manage.”
Welcome back Natalie, and bon voyage a Paris!
Anti-Semitism is out of style this season.
Designer John Galliano has been fired by the Christian Dior fashion label after he was caught on tape declaring “I love Hitler,” and merrily telling a Jewish couple that their relatives could have been “f—ing gassed.”
Galliano was suspended by Dior last week following initial reports about an anti-Semitic tirade in a Parisian restaurant. The video clip, which went viral online yesterday, appears to have sealed the designer’s fate with the company.
Freshly minted Oscar winner Natalie Portman, who also endorses Dior’s Miss Cherie Dior perfume, surely influenced the decision yesterday when she released a statement expressing “shock” and “disgust” over Galliano’s statements. “In light of this video, and as an individual who is proud to be Jewish, I will not be associated with Mr. Galliano in any way,” she wrote. “I hope at the very least, these terrible comments remind us to reflect and act upon combating these still-existing prejudices that are the opposite of all that is beautiful.”
So much for that defamation suit.
Fashion designer John Galliano is now in even deeper trouble after being arrested last week in Paris for an anti-Semitic tirade. (Anti-Semitic speech is illegal in France). England’s Sun newspaper posted video of the rant online today, with the clip immediately going viral, and contradicting Galliano’s denials last week about the incident.
Galliano, who initially threatened a defamation suit against his victims, will now have to explain footage that shows him proclaiming, “I love Hitler” and telling his targets, not unhappily, that if history had worked out differently, “People like you would be dead. Your mothers, your forefathers would all be f—ing gassed.”
Following “New York, I Love You” and “Paris, I Love You,” Israel’s capital has been tapped to serve as the third city in the star-studded film series. Assuming it follows the model of the previous films, “Jerusalem, I Love You” will tell a dozen short love stories written, starring and directed by major names in Israeli and international cinema. The film’s foreign participants are still being lined up, but Nrg.co.il, the Web site of Israel’s Ma’ariv newspaper, reports that top Israeli writers including Amos Oz, Etgar Keret and A.B. Yehoshua will contribute stories, and the film’s directors will include Ari Folman and Joseph Cedar, Israelis whose previous films have received Oscar nominations.
Based on the earlier installments, producers no doubt hope to line up major overseas talent for the movie, which is scheduled to be released next year. Participants in the New York and Parisian films featured eclectic casts ranging from Natalie Portman and Juliette Binoche to Ethan Hawke and Orlando Bloom. Participating directors have included Oscar favorites including Joel and Ethan Coen, Anthony Minghella and Gus Van Sant.