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At the end of this Letter No. 350, which I am addressing to a thousand of you, I reproduce (with his permission) a text by my colleague, Rabbi Yeshaya Dalsace, which appeared in Tribune Juive the day after the by-elections to the Consistory Israelite of France last Sunday, November 26, 2017, entitled "The Consistory, bleak plain where nothing moves"... If I reproduce it, it means that I share 90% of the content. The purpose of this column is to explain to me about the remaining 10%! – In his article, which I hope you will read in full, Yeshaya Dalsace observes with bitterness and realism that these elections, like the previous ones, do not change anything with regard to the supreme leadership of the Consistory, an institution created, let us recall, by Napoleon in 1808 for the purpose of representing all the Jews of France as to their religion and its relationship with the Empire, the Royalty, then the Republic. The creation of the Consistory definitively sealed the integration of the Jews of France within the national community. It followed the recognition, in 1792, in the wake of the French Revolution, of the full and entire citizenship of the Jews, abolishing at the same time all the restrictive laws in their regard, and allowing them access to all the professions which were previously prohibited. These elections last Sunday will not change anything, predicts Yeshaya Dalsace, because neither the men nor the principles in place for at least three decades will change. [One could say: at the Consistory, the more things change, the more they are the same thing].

And my eminent colleague punctuates his remarks with statements about the total indifference he feels about these elections. Indeed, he can only recognize what we have been given to observe ourselves, namely that the Consistory, this institution which claims the authority of its birth 209 years ago (nothing less than the Emperor Napoleon!), whose vocation was to federate all the Jews of France, today only represents a very small minority of the Jewish population: less than 10% (40.000) of which even less than 10% (3.700) has seen fit to go and vote. So much so that one could say that 0,74% of the Jewish community elected the representatives of the Jewish religion to the authorities of the Republic. I know how fallacious the temptation to interpret elections in terms of the percentage of abstentions and to draw conclusions on the non-representativeness of elected officials is. The last presidential elections should lead us to some caution! The fact remains that these results, even weighted, are indicative of the loss of confidence, or adhesion, of the Jews of France vis-à-vis the Consistory. This situation has deteriorated over the years since the end of the chief rabbinate of Jacob Kaplan (ז”ל) in 1980.

I don't have the space here to analyze the Jews' lack of love for their institutions. But I want to say clearly that the drift of the Consistory does not leave me indifferent, and this for several reasons. The first is that it doesn't strike me as odd that the "old lady" (as Yeshaya Dalsace calls her) is shelved in the aisle of old-fashioned accessories, and that from being a powerhouse she has become so insignificant and unrepresentative . The Consistory has been supported, both rabbinically and secularly, by high figures in the community, from the first chief rabbi of France, David Sintzheim (1809-1812) to Jacob Kaplan (1955-1980), from the one of the first presidents, Abraham de Cologna (1812-1826), up to Jean Kahn (1995-2008). From the Consistory radiated Judaism with brilliance and universalism. It is unbearable for me to see its withdrawal into communitarianism and ritualism, the rigor in terms of halakha (religious jurisdiction) and the almost complete closure to the reception of converts. All this, I said, does not leave me indifferent, even if I can very well live my Judaism without the recognition of the Consistory, because I know that for public opinion it continues to represent Judaism “officially”.

Throughout the past decades, the Consistory has made sure to "format" Jewish consciences to the point of separating them from the other religious currents of our community. He succeeded in conveying the idea that no expression of Judaism except his own had any legitimacy; and that any act emanating from the liberal, Masorti or Lubavitch communities did not have its endorsement. He forged a veritable monopoly over all religious life, beginning with kashrouth, continuing with marriages, conversions, divorces, etc. Well, that cannot leave me indifferent either because I see in it the distortion of the biblical and Talmudic image of the Jew. And I don't want, especially at a time when religions suffer from the intolerant and narrow image that some of their followers present to society, that through the fault of the Consistory, Judaism loses its substance.

I would like two things for the future. 1° That the Consistory recognize all expressions of Judaism: religious, non-religious, liberal or Masorti. That is to say that it becomes again what it was created for more than two hundred years ago. 2° Failing that, if this proves impossible, that another Consistory take over, with new men, a new name, but in the spirit of the founding fathers. It seems essential to me, especially in the times in which we live, that a unity that is not a facade sees the light of day. Unity, not uniformity; unity, not single thought; unity in diversity. It is no longer acceptable for a handful of Jews to dictate to the majority its criteria of Jewishness, to decide who is a Jew and who is not, who is a "good" Jew and who is not. . It is enough that this handful of “pure” intellectually and spiritually terrorizes a majority who, through ignorance or weariness, allow themselves to be dictated to by constraints and prohibitions with which it is more than probable that our ancestors would not recognize themselves today. By dint of advocating what the late Abraham Heschel called a “Judaism of precautions”, the Consistory would risk leading us away from a Judaism with a prophetic vocation. This is why I do not intend to lock myself in an ivory tower and superbly ignore the hole in the hull of the ship on the pretext that it is not under my seat. If the Consistory refuses to reform itself (return to the original forms and spirit), let us firmly remind it of its duties towards the “great community”, or else stop calling itself its sole representative. We read in the same verse of the Torah the following precepts (Leviticus 19:17): “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall rebuke him so that you do not bear sin on his behalf”. It is an invitation not to turn away from the future of this moribund institution. Elie Wiesel (ז”ל) said that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.

Shabbat Shalom!


  • Paulette Uzan Sfez
    Posted December 3th 14h02 0Likes

    I find this comment quite clear…… is enough of the “Prechi-Precha” and of this Judaism which one believed open and which in fact is curled up on itself…… Tunisia, we practiced a Open-minded, tolerant and intelligent Judaism. A good hears hello!!!!!!

  • Seknadje
    Posted December 4th 3h07 0Likes

    Allow me to respond to your newsletter.
    It seems to me that there should actually be more people enrolled in the consistory.
    There are only 40000 because in my opinion there is a charge for membership. Nothing prevents a person of the liberal faith from shouting and voting
    In addition you have seen that people in France do not move easily to vote.
    Last point: of course the Judaism that the consistory advocates is rigid and can be archaic. Well nothing
    Requires you to follow the 613 commandments. It does
    A majority of Jews. However, I think it is essential to keep
    Our religion as it is
    Is written in the Torah and the halaha. In my opinion, it is essential to keep
    Judaism intact.
    You are free to respect only a very small part
    Those who create different persuasions do so, in my opinion, for the wrong reasons. No one will ban you from entering the synagogue because you came to the Sabbath service.
    By car .
    This is your problem but I believe that the strength of jjdaism resides in the impossibility of
    Here change. It is the guarantor of its authenticity.
    If you want an Ersarz, it's up to you, but it's no longer Judaism, you have to give it another name.

  • Bilou
    Posted December 5th 2h57 0Likes

    No rabbi can get out of the confinement that their rabbinical teaching has delivered to them. They will always find reasons to refuse this or that evolution - however broad-minded they may be.

    The only thing that the rabbinate is fully occupied with is saving “the Torah” and in an increasingly sectarian way so as not to lose anything or sometimes a little broader according to community trends and interpretations, this is what has been succeeded despite all the vicissitudes over millennia.
    But this is notoriously insufficient, the Torah only holds if there are Jews. Without Jews no more Torah. We had to take care of spreading Judaism. They banned it despite Gé. 17-3, believing to be an elite of weight, sufficiently sure of itself (known formula). Reassuring themselves and claiming to be a light to the nations. You can't be anyone's light by staying in your room between yourself and the light on. Teaching others is a very long-term job that requires hundreds of generations.
    You just have to open your eyes and see how few people have convinced hundreds and then thousands of others to become several billions: Today they have the security of numbers. Quiet.
    This security has been taken away from the Jews. The Iranian has analyzed it when he prophesies falsely I hope, even if it must fall on his head.
    What weight did wise honest and competent rabbis represent in the face of Hitler. Zero.
    We have just revoted resolutions offering Jerusalem to the Muslims, by the vast majority of nations: 151 countries including all of Europe for the Yes and 6 or 9, I don't know any more for the No, including Micronesia, Papua and I don't know who.
    I don't see how Israel and its American ally can go against a legal, democratic vote.
    Israel and its leaders mistakenly believed that time was on their side. This is wrong. The Jews of Europe are leaving, others will agree to convert to Christianity which will be happy to show its way to the lost sheep. And whose fault is all this? It's not just someone else's fault. It's for not doing the right thing at the right time. It was for not allowing numerical development that Hitler was able to eliminate a third of the Jewish population.
    You need a Mashiah. To create a new current which opens up to the whole world without any exclusion, with a message and a philosophy based on the 10 commandments, and which does not reject science. Reform is vital, but it is impossible with the current structures. Creating Shabbat elevators is just a ruse to reconcile science and religion and not to misjudge completely unknown rabbis who rule the law for all. The Sabbath was established for man to rest after 6 days of work. – To see the exodus from Egypt – God never directly asked that it be consecrated to him, he wanted the worker to be treated humanely. It was not he who forbade pressing a button on certain days.
    There is a lot to do. This requires hindsight and a transformation of thought. It's too hard to question yourself.

  • Bilou
    Posted December 5th 3h08 0Likes

    It is this confinement that gave rise to Christianity, then to Islam.
    Open your eyes.

  • bilou
    Posted December 6th 14h22 0Likes

    Israel would not have had to suffer the current problems, the Holocaust would not have taken place, Christianity could not have seen the light of day and developed if the rabbinical Sanhedrin had opened its doors wide to all, to pagans and others. We would have respected the celestial promise that had been made to be as numerous as the sand, or as the stars. With 500 million or 1 billion Jews, the situation would have been very different.
    There is no worse blind than the one who does not want to see his mistakes

  • oscar
    Posted December 7th 23h15 0Likes

    The consistory is in the process of drying up Judaism, burying its universal vocation in favor of finicky gestures. In doing so, he participates in the demographic haemorrhage of the Jewish people. Many worthy Jews, discouraged by the multiplicity of often absurd prohibitions, by the absence of a clear mission, take refuge in indifference, and imperceptibly detach themselves from Judaism. Their children will make mixed marriages, and their children will lose all feeling of belonging to the Jewish people.
    It is a systematic demolition work that its rabbis undertake with the best conscience in the world.
    Assizes of French Judaism are essential, but the consistory will never want to take part in it.
    And if Macron, playing Napoleon 1st, decided to rethink a more democratic representation of the Jewish community? It's a bet to take.

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