A New Play Explores the Unease of Modern French Jewry

Joshua Harmon’s latest play, Prayer for the French Republic—set primarily in France in 2016 and 2017, with flashbacks to 1944—follows a Jewish family confronting many of the same questions their forebears faced 70 years earlier. Those questions revolve around whether it is safe to remain in their home country. In conversation with Ruthie Fierberg, David Cromer, its director, discusses the work and its relevance to American Jews.

The thing that I identify with most [in the play]—the one thing I’ve learned about life—is it is very easy to look back and say, “it’s so much worse now. The world is so much worse.” No. It’s always been worse. The difference about the past is we know what happened. So for good or ill, it’s concluded. The present, you just don’t know what’s going to happen a second from now. So when we’re in theater, when we’re talking about living in the moment, that is the reality.

What’s great about this play is that some people in the room are saying, “it’s time to get out.” And other people are saying, “What are you talking about? You sound like a crazy person. It’s fine. [The far-right French presidential candidate Marine] Le Pen’s never gonna win.” One of the great and chilling things about the play is Pierre [a ninety-one-year-old Holocaust survivor] saying at the end of the play, “We couldn’t leave—all our money was tied up in the pianos.”

If I say to you, “Leave now, Ruthie,” you’re gonna say, “Now I have to write this piece, walk the dog, all my stuff is here. I’m supposed to go to Vegas next week” or whatever. So you hope it’ll be okay. You hope cooler heads will prevail. And our life is the difference between whether we just keep hoping or whether we go when it’s time to go. Hope for the best or expect the worst.

You can make an argument that a person’s sense of safety is merely an illusion. If you were realistic, you would understand that danger is constant and everywhere. But the thing is—like we were saying earlier—I also hope. We have to live in some kind of hope.

Read more at JTA

More about: France, French Jewry, Theater


Israel Just Sent Iran a Clear Message

Early Friday morning, Israel attacked military installations near the Iranian cities of Isfahan and nearby Natanz, the latter being one of the hubs of the country’s nuclear program. Jerusalem is not taking credit for the attack, and none of the details are too certain, but it seems that the attack involved multiple drones, likely launched from within Iran, as well as one or more missiles fired from Syrian or Iraqi airspace. Strikes on Syrian radar systems shortly beforehand probably helped make the attack possible, and there were reportedly strikes on Iraq as well.

Iran itself is downplaying the attack, but the S-300 air-defense batteries in Isfahan appear to have been destroyed or damaged. This is a sophisticated Russian-made system positioned to protect the Natanz nuclear installation. In other words, Israel has demonstrated that Iran’s best technology can’t protect the country’s skies from the IDF. As Yossi Kuperwasser puts it, the attack, combined with the response to the assault on April 13,

clarified to the Iranians that whereas we [Israelis] are not as vulnerable as they thought, they are more vulnerable than they thought. They have difficulty hitting us, but we have no difficulty hitting them.

Nobody knows exactly how the operation was carried out. . . . It is good that a question mark hovers over . . . what exactly Israel did. Let’s keep them wondering. It is good for deniability and good for keeping the enemy uncertain.

The fact that we chose targets that were in the vicinity of a major nuclear facility but were linked to the Iranian missile and air forces was a good message. It communicated that we can reach other targets as well but, as we don’t want escalation, we chose targets nearby that were involved in the attack against Israel. I think it sends the message that if we want to, we can send a stronger message. Israel is not seeking escalation at the moment.

Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Iran, Israeli Security