It is perhaps not an exaggeration to
say that had there been no "Libre Parole" there would have been no
Dreyfus affair. It will be remembered that the first intimation
that reached the public ear in regard to Captain Dreyfus appeared
on November 1, 1894, when the "Libre Parole" announced that "a
Jewish officer of the General Staff had betrayed France and was
confined in the prison of Cherche Midi." With the aid of Drumont's
accomplices at the Ministry of War all the newspapers that had
seven years before championed the Boulangist cause--the "Intransigeant,"
the "Autorité," etc. He began, without inquiring whether the
accusation against Dreyfus was founded, to pour invective upon the
alleged traitor, and with him upon ....al Jews, and demanded their
wholesale expulsion from the army. The Jew bating press succeeded
in sowing throughout France a preconceived conviction of Dreyfus's
guilt. The "Patrie," "Eclair," "Soir" and other topsy-turvy papers
which make a business of inflaming civil and religious passions,
and are ever anxious for an opportunity of gaining popularity by
some startling act of pseudo-patriotism, followed the lead of
Drumont. Colonel Sandherr, then chief of the Information Bureau of
the Staff, who was the son of a Catholic convert from
Protestantism, and so fanatical as openly to declare that every
Jew was in his eyes a scoundrel, ably seconded Drumont's efforts.
General De Boisdeffre, then Chief of Staff, who from his earliest
youth had always been associated with Jesuit circles, furthered
the aims of Drumont.
For the moment all the fanaticism and
hatred were concentrated upon Dreyfus, the first Jew among the few
officers of the faith belonging to the General Staff who ever
attained a position of confidence at the Ministry of War. The
persecutions of Dreyfus united the Clerical and the Nationalist
press. Jews were publicly insulted in the streets of Paris, and
their situation became worse than at any time since their civil
emancipation had been guaranteed by the declaration of "The Rights
of Man." The anti-Semitic war declared in Algeria by Max Régis and
his acolytes brought desolation upon hundreds of Jewish families.
Sules Guérin began a similar campaign in Paris. His attempt to
pose as a martyr by shutting himself up in the building of the
"Anti-Juif" in the Rue Chabrol, and transforming it into a "fort,"
ended in a ridiculous fiasco; it seems to mark a decline in Paris
Jew baiting which, in the opinion of the keenest observers, has
not expended its force.
During the French anti-Semitic
movement, which has lasted fourteen years, the conduct of the
Jewish community has been irreproachable. The wisdom and
moderation of M. Zadoc Kahn, Grand Rabbi of the Central Consistory
of Israelites in France, is reaping its reward. Among the fourteen
members of the Central Consistory are Baron Alphonse de
Rothschild, head of the great banking house; M. Eugéne Péreire,
president of the French Transatlantic Company; Mr. Bédarrides,
honorary first president of the Court of Cassation, and Maurice
Lévy, member of the Institute and Inspector general of Roads and
Bridges. The dignified and patriotic attitude of the Jews during
the anti-Semitic outburst was largely due to the moderation and
foresight of this Consistory. Now that the storm seems about to
clear away, it is found that the situation of the Jews in France
is stronger and more prosperous than every before.
M. Zadoc Kahn, as Grand Rabbi of
the Central Consistory--a position that he has occupied
since 1889, when he succeeded the late Grand Rabbi Lazare
Isidor--is the head of the Hebrew religion in France. He was
born at Mommenheim, near Metz, in 1839, and was educated at
Rabbinique of Metz. Since 1867 he has without interruption
been attached to the Central Israelite Consistory of Paris.
He is an able writer and a great orator. He lives with his
wife and family in a modest house in the Rue Saint-Georges,
adjoining the sumptuous synagogue, the main entrance which
is on the Rue de la Victoire.
He is a hard worker. As early as
6 o'clock in the morning he is at his desk in his library.
He is small in stature and of slight, wiry build. His eyes
are dark and penetrating, and they sparkle behind his
spectacles. Besides his sacerdotal occupations, M. Zadoc
Kahn devotes much time to numerous charitable works relating
to hospitals, schools and mutual aid societies. He also
takes an active share in the administration of the vast
charitable funds bequeathed by Baroness Hirsch, by Mme.
Furtado-Heine and by various members of the Rothschild
photo: The Jewish
Temple in the Rue de la Victoire, Paris.
The importance and extent of the Grand
Rabbi's functions were established by the imperial decree of
December 11, 1808, which divided France into thirteen Hebrew
circumscriptions. the Temple in the Rue de la Victoire, which was
completed in 1874, is the place of meeting for the Central
Consistory, and is practically the headquarters for the higher
Hebrew functionaries. The ministration of the Temple in the Rue de
la Victoire is placed under the supervision of M. J. H. Dreyfuss,
Grand Rabbi of Paris. The three great Jewish rites--the French,
German and Portuguese--are now under one direction. The relations
between Judaism and the State are regulated by the laws of 1808,
1844, 1850, 1862 and 1872. Jews in France enjoy absolute equality
and the same rights as are accorded to all other religious
communities. Even M. Drumont has failed to prove that the French
rabbis have ever abused their rites, as has lately been the case
with the Roman Catholic clergy. During the Dreyfus agitation the
violent polemics of the Clericals and the incendiary language of
the "Croix," the accredited organ of the Gallican Church, contrast
most unfavorably with the patriotic moderation and dignity of the
In the month of January 1890, an
anti-Semitic campaign was opened by a noisy and boisterous meeting
at Neuilly, and the following day Ernest Renan discussed the
matter in the presence of M. Emile Berr and several other Parisian
journalists. The writer well remembers the indignation expressed
on that occasion by the author of "L'Histoire des Origines du
Christianisme." Renan's words seem more significant now than ten
years ago. He said:
"It is humiliating to feel that
in France the most essential of all religions--that of
tolerance--is so badly put into practice. Over a hundred years ago
France solved the Jew question in the wisest possible manner. The
laws drawn up by the jurisconsult Portalis established once [and]
for all the situation of the Jews. This Neuilly meeting may mark
the beginning of a formidable anti-Semitic movement. But I feel
convinced that no sectarian persecution in France, no matter how
violent or passionate it may be, can ever be more than evanescent.
Such a flame must inevitably burn itself out for lack of fuel."
C I. B.