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March 25: Last Chief Rabbi of France

Zadoc Kahn was inducted as the last official Chief Rabbi of France on this date in 1890. His tenure, which would last until his death at 66 in 1905, was marked by Dreyfus Affair: Kahn officiated at the 1890 wedding of Captain Alfred and Lucie Dreyfus and supported them throughout Dreyfus’ false imprisonment, but was […]

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October 24: Algerian Jews

Jews of Algeria, numbering more than 33,000, were granted French citizenship on this date in 1870, a little more than three decades after France colonized the North African country. Algerian Jewish communities dated back to Roman times and the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, and were reinforced by the influx of Sephardim after […]

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The Uncivil Servant: BDS and Free Speech in France

by Mitchell Abidor IN LATE OCTOBER, France’s highest appeals court issued a decision with such alarming implications that it deserved far greater notice outside that country than it has received. The court determined that the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement is in violation of French law prohibiting discrimination based on national origin. The court has, […]

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July 10: Vichy France

The collaborationist Vichy government, headed by Marshal Philippe Petain, 84, a hero of World War I, was established by the French National Assembly in the city of Vichy on this date in 1940, after Nazi Germany had overrun the country. Petain’s strategy was to collaborate with the Germany occupiers in order to maintain French sovereignty […]

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March 26: The Divine Sarah

Sarah Bernhardt, the world’s most famous actress before Hollywood films entranced the planet, died on this date in 1923 at age 78. Bernhardt was the Paris-born daughter of a courtesan and attended a convent school before becoming a student at the Comédie Française, where she had her acting debut. She, too, was headed to courtesanship […]

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February 24: The French Abraham Lincoln

Adolphe Cremieux (Isaac Moïse), a French lawyer, statesman, and human rights activist, was named French minister of justice on this date in the revolutionary year of 1848. Although only briefly in office, Cremieux secured decrees that instituted freedom of the press, freedom of association, and freedom of worship, abolished arrest for debt, ended punishment by […]

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August 14: The Photographer of Paris

Willy Ronis, the first French photographer to work for Life magazine, was born in Paris on this date in 1910. His father, a refugee from Odessa, ran a photography studio in Montmarte, while his mother, a refugee from Lithuana, taught piano. Ronis was pursuing his own musical talent when his father died in 1936, leaving […]

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