Letters | July 21, 2022


Where has there not been bad actors?

Thank you for publishing the opinion piece “Prominence for France” (July 7). I agree with the nuanced view of France. I object to American Jews dismissing France as antisemitic, an unbalanced viewpoint as the article suggested. Most countries in Europe have committed or colloborated in the murder of Jews, as well as a past teeming with anti-Jewish leaders, followers and their movements. The history of our country is replete with antisemitism, notwithstanding recent events. So let us not condemn one country for its bad actors. We should reject the antisemites in all countries, and praise those who accept responsibility for their country’s dark pasts and have changed.


Know your Jewish prime ministers

A number of prominent Jewish figures have served as prime ministers of France, at least three, if not four of them, long before Elizabeth Borne was born. The first one is Leon Blum, who served three times as prime minister, twice before World War II (June 1936-June 1937 and March 1938-April 1938). He resigned his second term as prime minister to allow the French government to negotiate with Nazi Germany. After the end of the war, he become prime minister briefly for the third time (December 1946-January 1947).

The next Jewish prime minister was Rene Mayer (January 1953) followed shortly afterward by Pierre Mendes France who extricated France from Vietnam and negotiated the independence of both Tunisia and Morocco. The longest serving prime minister is Michel Debre (January 1959-1962) who was appointed by President Charles de Gaulle as the first prime minister of the Fifth Republic. He is credited for drafting the new French constitution. Finally, prime minister Laurent Fabius (July 1984-March 1986). Five in all.


Falls Church

French round-up

July 16-17 marked the 80th anniversary of “La Rafle du Vel d’Hiv,” or “The Round-Up of the Winter Velodrome.” This horrible, two-day period of arrests saw the temporary incarceration of 13,152 foreign and French Jews in Paris, with Auschwitz as their ultimate destination. The Jews were trapped in horrid conditions: inside a stadium with a glass ceiling, painted dark to avoid bombs, with no facilities, food or water. Wikipedia states that this action accounted for more than a quarter of the 42,000 Jews sent to Auschwitz from France. Of those imprisoned, only 811 returned to France at war’s end; of the 3,900 children thus detained, only six teens survived.


This is what studying Hebrew looked like

Regarding “Joining, giving and teaching with Susan Kristol” (Last Word, July 7):

It is unfortunate that Susan Kristol did not study Hebrew at her childhood Reform synagogue. At mine, in Philadelphia in the early 1960s, students took Hebrew from Grade 4 onward and were expected to know enough Hebrew to lead a major part of the Shabbat morning service, besides reading from the Torah, for their bar or bat mitzvah ceremony. Hebrew studies continued through confirmation and, for those who enrolled, in post-confirmation classes at Gratz College, the local Judaic studies college.


Who said what about Barry Krasner

In the wonderful tribute to my colleague Barry Krasner (“Remembering educator Barry Krasner,” July 14), beautiful words spoken at his funeral were attributed to me, but they weren’t my words; they were written by another colleague. My comments, were:

“In my professional tool box Barry held two vital positions; he was my reference manual and my level. If I needed to justify a position I was taking to implement a new program, or start a new training program for teachers, or try a different way of teaching, I just had to call Barry. He’d supply the state of the art literature to boost my position. Barry was my educator’s educator.

“But besides being the best reference manual, Barry was my level. More than helping me hang that shelf straight, Barry always gave it to me straight. If we were checking in and I was high on some accomplishment and thinking how much my school community seemed to love what I was doing, he’d calmly and quietly say something to tether me to Earth. Barry was a gentleman and a gentle man.”


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