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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JUNE 19, 2009 'Being Jewish in France' misses nuances By Symi Rom-Rymer derstanding of this complex- groupsweresubjected take the events is to create a false subject. Strong on narrative but weak on context, the film opens with the Dreyfus Affair of 1894-1906, the episode of the French Jew- ish captain who, wrongly "accused of espionage by the military, unwittingly became the epicenter of a political scandal rooted in vicious anti-Semitism. Jeuland uses the Dreyfus case as a lens through which the audience is encouraged to view French Jewish history from then to the present. In doing this, he presents the French-Jewish experience in avacuum, eschewing any dis- cussion of the French politi- cal ideology that influenced the status of all minorities i~France from the post-~ Revolutionary era to now. In the absence of a dis- cussion or even a.s~mple explanation, typical French Republican practices such as the delegation of Jewish reli- gious practice to the private sphere somethingtowhich all religious and ethnic on misleading anti-Semitic overtones. The film becomes particu- larly limiting when it turns to the present day. Jeuland's insistence on viewing contemporary anti- Semitism through the same lens as the anti-Semitism of continuity. By failing to address France's colonialist legacy and the subsequent dis- enfranchisement of other minority groups within France's borders, "Being Jewish in France" fails to place the latest violence The film aimed to tell a broader story of a complex and fascinating Jewish communi- ty... who came to France seeking religious, cultural and intellectual freedoms... the Dreyfus era is an overly simplistic view of France and French history. The anti-Semitism in France earlier this decade that spurred alarm and concern in both France and throughout the Jewish world actually bore little resem- blance to the Jew-hatred of the Dreyfus era, aside from some recycled rhetoric. To draw a direct link between into context. As a result, the film plays on the fears of those who see the modern- day attacks as simply the beginning of something larger. Anti-Semitic attitudes are not formed in a vacuum; they are a direct result of po- litical, social, religious and economic factors. Without that framework, it's all too easy for audience members NEW YORK (JTA)-- Through live interviews of prominent French Jews and clips from other media, "Be- ing Jewish in France," the new documentary film by French director Yves Jeu- land, vividly demonstrates that life as a Jew in France is one of peaks agd valleys. The peaks sometimes reach beyond the successes of the American Jewish ex- perience-France elected a Jewish prime minister in 1936, the equivalent of which has not been reached by a Jewish American--but the valleys bring intosharp relief the relative security of the Jewish communityin the United States. The three-hour ill,offers a good introduction to the French Jewish experience, but only for those familiar with the nuances of French politics and society. For those who aren't, many underlying issues that Jeuland takes for granted could lead the uninitiated to a skewed un- Jerusalem's big dig nearing end Amihai Zippor Construction of a light rail has wreaked havoc in downtownJerusalem since it started in the 1990s. By Amihai Zipp.or hate going down there," Oshra Atia, a Los Angeles native and mother of two who lives in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Nachlaot. said of downtown. "You just can't walk downtown with a stroller." But with the project about a year away from becoming operational, Jerusalem's residents finally are on the verge of reaping the benefits from what for the last couple of years has been a major disruption. What isn't clear is whether area businesses, some of which have been around for nearly a half-century, will survive long enough to see those benefits. Some local merchants say the construc- tion headache has brought them to the verge of bank- ruptcy, with some stores reporting income declines of up to 90 percent. "It affects our business considerably," Barry Sibul of the Village Green restaurant said 0fthe construction. "It's very hard to get here, the walkways are hard to walk on and uncomfortable to negotiate, and there's a lot of noise and a lot of dirt." Jerusalem's municipality provides aid to local busi- nesses, including loans of up to $35,000. Some shop- keepers have complained that a cumbersome approval process has made the loans difficult to get. Shmuei Elgrabli, a govern- ment spokesman for the light rail project, said the tem- porary disruption on Jaffa Street will pay off in the long run. He also noted that the project includes invaluable updates to all water, electric- ity and communication lines in downtowfl Jerusalem. "Before we started the project, all of Jaffa Street, which cuts through the center of town, was filled with buses like a train from one end to the other. The city was a mess," Elgrabli said. "Everything we are trying to do is the so|ution, not the problem." Most Jerusalemites, he said, "want to see a renewed city, a city like in Europe, where all of Jaffa Street will be pedestrian. Places like Strasburg and Paris are examples of how new trans- portation systems sparked urban renewal." In the city'svision, the dollar stores now on Jaffa Street will be replaced by higher-end retailers and restaurants. Line 1 of the light rail sys- tem--the red line isslated to run from the Pisgat Ze'ev neighborhood in northeast Jerusalem through the cen- ter of town. then southwest to Mount Herzl. Government surveys taken prior to the construction showed that about 400.000 people would be served by the route. With 12 of the 18 miles of track laid and four of 24 stations built, Jerusalem already has planned exten- sions to the neighborhood of Neve Ya'akov and Hadassah Hospital at Ein Karem. Jerusalem's master plan proposes a total of five lines. but aside from the red line only one other--the blue-- has been approved for work. The roadwork on the blue route has been completed, but its conversion to light rail is dependent on future usage, which is expected to rise in the next few years, The line would run from Hebron Road in southern Jerusalem to Ramot in northern Jeru- salem. This stage of the project will cost more than $1 bil- lion, according to govern- ment estimates. A recent report by state Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss found government spending 160 percent above the original forecasted budget. Originally supposed to be completed by January 2009, as of now the first trains are expected to runin Septem- ber 2010. But with CityPass asking for a nine-month extension, which the city thus far has refused to grant, many busi- nesses in the affected areas are having troubl6 seeing light at the end of the tunnel. "We know we have to be patient., and eventually it's going to be cleaned up and look very pretty," Sibul said, "but I'm not sure it's going to bring that many more people." to come away saying, much as a couple sitting behind me did, that "The French will always hate the Jews. It is ingrained in them." As any Jewish publica- tion will note, stories about the Holocaust and anti- Semitism always will attract interest. But "Being Jewish in France" had higher aspi- rations. The film aimed to tell a broader story ofa complex and fascinating Jewish com- munity made up of Eastern and Western European Jews, of Ashkenazic and Sephardic communities with differ- ent traditions and customs who came to France seek- ing religious, cultural and intellectual freedoms that were unavailable to them elsewhere in Europe. They have made the French Jewish community among the most diverse Jewish communities in the world, second only to Israel. In listening to the inter- views with the 13 French Jews represented in his film, their attachment to both France and Judaism was equally clear. In fact. while all of the interviewees spoke candidly about their expe- riences of anti-Semitism, many of them insisted that France is not an anti-Semitic country--even those who lived through the Holo- JERUSALEM (JTA)-- When Israel taunched its effort in the 1990s to install the country's first light rail system in Jerusalem, itwas to be the impetus for a broader revitalization effort aimed at replacing Turkish-era infra- structure, easing congestion and cleaning up pollution in the capital city. It also was supposed to be a model for other proposed light-rail systems in the country, such as Tel Aviv. But building errors, bu- reaucratic delays and poor management have clouded the vision of Jerusalem as a model for a cleaner, more user-friendly transportation system. Seven years after a consor- tium called CityPass won the contract to build the system, the tracks still aren't finished and costs have soared. The city's main downtown artery, Jaffa Street, is virtually shut down, and area shopkeepers say the construction has hurt their businesses as residents and tourists have steered clear of the area. "It's super tight, and I PAGE 15A caust and they all continue to live in France. The next documentary I would like to see about French Jews would explore the why of this history. Why have so many French Jews embraced the peaks in their history and disregarded the valleys to become the fourth-largest Jewish com- munity in the world, behind the United States, Israel and Russia? Why did so many react with anger when then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called on Jews in 2004 to abandon France in the midst of anti-Semitic violence and seek a new home in Israel? Jeuland missed an excel- lent opportunity here to go beyond the traditional narrative of anti-Semitism in France and probe deeper into the psyche of French Jewry. The consequences may be messier, and there may be inherent contradic- tions of assimilation, loyalty and pride, but that's what makes the story of Freneh Jeers interesting. Symi Rom-Rymer writes about Jewish issues in Europe. She received her master's degree in French cultural studies from Paris' Columbia University. To find screenings of the film, go to http://www.brandeis.edu/ jewishfilm/Catalogue/films/ beingjewishinfrance.htm. The Plumbing Service Company Personal Service at Affordable Prices REPAIRS -- REMODELING DRAIN CLEANING - RE-PIPING HOT WATER HEATERS & MORE 24 HOUR EMERGENCY SERVICE 407-381-7900 www.theplumbingservicecompany.com Licensed - Bonded - Insured 10% Labor Discount for Senior Citizens CFC0S~ .... =lo:0ooff .... 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