At the end of this Letter No. 350 that I address to a thousand of you, I reproduce (with his permission) a text of my colleague, Rabbi Yeshaya Dalsace, appeared in Jewish Tribune in the aftermath of the by-elections in the Consistory Israelite of France last Sunday, November 26, 2017, entitled "The Consistory, dreary plain where nothing moves" ... If I reproduce it is that I share 90% of the content. The purpose of this column is to explain myself about the remaining 10%! - In her article that I hope you will read in full, Yeshaya Dalsace notes with bitterness and realism that these elections, like the previous ones, do not change anything about the supreme direction of the Consistory, institution created, let us remember, by Napoleon in 1808 for the purpose of representing all the Jews of France as to their religion and its relations with the Empire, the Kingship, then the Republic. The creation of the Consistory definitely sealed the integration of the Jews of France into the national community. It followed the recognition, in 1792, in the wake of the French Revolution, of the full and complete citizenship of the Jews, abolishing at the same time all the laws restricting them, and allowing them access to all the professions that Until then they were forbidden. These elections last Sunday will not change anything, predicts Yeshaya Dalsace, because neither the men nor the principles in place since at least three decades do not change. [One could say: in the Consistory, the more it changes, the more it's 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 are given to see for 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, represents today only a very small minority of the Jewish population: less than 10% (40,000) on which still less than 10% (3,700) decided to vote. So you could say that 0.74% of the Jewish community elected representatives of the Jewish religion to the authorities of the Republic. I know how misleading is the temptation to interpret elections with regard to the percentage of abstentions and to deduce from them conclusions on the non-representativity of elected representatives. The last presidential elections should lead us to some caution! Nevertheless, 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 Jacob Kaplan's grand rabbinate (ז"ל) in 1980.
I have no place here to engage in an analysis of the disenchantment of the Jews 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 does not seem to me that the "old lady" (as Yeshaya Dalsace calls it) is stored in the old-fashioned accessories department, and that from the powerhouse she was, she became so insignificant and unrepresentative. . The Consistory was carried, both rabbinical and secular, by high figures of the community, from the first chief rabbi of France, David Sintzheim (1809-1812) to Jacob Kaplan (1955-1980), since one of the first presidents, Abraham de Cologna (1812-1826), until Jean Kahn (1995-2008). The Consistory radiated Judaism with brilliance and universalism. It is unbearable to me to note its withdrawal into communitarianism and ritualism, rigor in the matter of halakha (religious jurisdiction) and almost complete closure to the reception of converts. All this, I said, does not leave me indifferent, although I can very well live my Judaism without the recognition of the Consistory, because I know that for public opinion it continues to represent "officially" Judaism.
Throughout the past decades, the Consistory has made sure to "format" Jewish consciences to the exclusion of other religious currents in our community. He managed to convey the idea that no expression of Judaism except his own had legitimacy; and that any act emanating from the liberal communities, massortis or loubavitch was not endorsed. He forged a true monopoly on all religious life, beginning with kashrut, continuing with weddings, conversions, divorces, etc. Well, that too can not leave me indifferent because I see there the distortion of the biblical and talmudic image of the Jew. And I do not want to, especially at a time when religions suffer from the intolerant and narrow image that some of their faithful offer society, that by the fault of the Consistory, Judaism loses its substance.
I would like two things for the future. 1. That the Consistory recognize all the expressions of Judaism: religious, non religious, liberal or massorti. That is to say, it becomes what it was created over two hundred years ago. 2 ° Failing that, if this proves impossible, that another Consistory takes over, with new men, a new name, but in the spirit of the founding fathers. It seems to me essential, especially in the times we live, that a unit that is not facade is born. Unit, not uniformity; unity, not single thought; unity in diversity. It is no longer permissible for a handful of Jews to dictate to the majority its criteria of Jewishness, to decide who is Jewish and who is not, who is a "good" Jew and who is not. . It is enough that this handful of "pure" terrorizes intellectually and spiritually a majority which, out of ignorance or lassitude, is allowed to dictate constraints and prohibitions of which it is more than probable that our ancestors would not be recognized today. By dint of preaching what the late Abraham Heschel called a "Judaism of Precautions," the Consistory would risk excluding us from a Judaism with a prophetic vocation. This is why I do not intend to lock myself in an ivory tower and ignore the hole in the hull of the ship superbly, claiming that it is not under my seat. If the Consistory refuses to reform (return to the first forms and spirit), let us firmly remind him of his duties towards the "great community", or that he ceases to be the sole representative. We read in the same verse of the Torah the following precepts (Leviticus 19:17): "Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart, but shalt take him back, lest he bear sin because of him." 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.