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December 5: The Grand Rabbi of France

December 5, 2013
makethumbdetailsJacob Kaplan, Grand Rabbi of France from 1955 until 1981, died in Paris at 99 on this date in 1994. Born in Paris in 1895 and ordained in 1921, Kaplan was a wounded veteran of World War I and a participant in the anti-Nazi Resistance in Lyon between 1941 and 1944 (a park in that city was named for him in 2009). Kaplan was outspoken about French Jewish support for Israel after the Six-Day War, while the French government was, at best, reserved about Israeli policies. At the same time, he identified strongly as a Frenchman and wrote and published his sermons in French. A lecturer at l’Institut d’Etudes Politiques and a member of the Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques in Paris, Kaplan wrote several books, including Judaism and Social Justice (1937), Racism and Judaism (1940), and French Jewry under the Occupation (1945–46), among others. “French Jews! We are familiar with the history of France, the France to which we have devoted ourselves wholeheartedly and whose joys and sadness . . . we feel deeply, the France of human and civil rights . . . emancipator of the Jews. But we are being brutally confronted with a different reality; we are becoming acquainted with a different history. . . .” —Jacob Kaplan regarding Vichy France