Today is Bastille Day, France’s Fourth of July (though there, it’s called le 14 juillet). The medieval fortress was stormed, the monarchy started to crumble, and everyone celebrated by eating cake. Or something like that. Okay, I may not be super familiar with French holidays or figures, but many Tablet writers are. We’ll be running tres bon new French-themed pieces all day, but why not get the celebrations started with our greatest hits from the Tablet archives? In honor of the red, white, and blue, then, check out some of our great French-inspired pieces. Or, wait—that’s blue, white, and red. Excusez-moi.
Curious about what life is like for Jews in France at the moment? Read Marc Weitzmann, a regular contributor to the French newspaper Le Monde and the former editor in chief of Les InRockuptibles. In 2014, he talked to Marine Le Pen in an exclusive Tablet interview, back when the sentiment was that a “[National] Front victory in the 2017 presidential elections [looks] like a possible bet.” Weitzmann also wrote about the French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who, unlike most of his cohort of world leaders, spoke outright against anti-Zionism, describing it as a new, mutated form of anti-Semitism. Another noteworthy Weitzmann piece was an on-the-scene report from a hostage situation at a Parisian kosher supermarket in 2015. Or, if you’re the sort of person who enjoys her anxiety-inducing pieces in serial form, check out Weitzmann’s five-parter, France’s Toxic Hate.
Yeah, Jewish-focused French news isn’t always so upbeat, but it’s not all bad. In 2016, the Jewish Museum in New York featured an exhibit on the French designer, architect, and assimilated Jew, Pierre Chareau. And France is home to the Cannes Film Festival, one of the world’s most famous gatherings of cineastes; in 2016 Livia Albeck-Ripka wrote about the festival’s Jewish and Israeli entries.
Another filmmaker-and “philosopher, pundit… activist, war correspondent, semiofficial diplomat” is Bernard-Henri Lévy, and once you’re done reading about him you can read his latest essay, about the fate of the newly liberated Iraqi city of Mosul. If you need something soulful after all this war and destruction, you can learn about Delphine Horvilleur, one of France’s few women rabbis, who eulogized a victim of the Charlie Hebdo attacks.
If all else fails, you should least enjoy a croissant or two. Or these Jewish-inspired French cookies. Or go there yourself, à la Joan Nathan, who literally wrote the book on Jews and France and food. French-Jewish news might give you anxiety, but their delicious, buttery pastries will help you say c’est la vie and enjoy the holiday. Bon appétit!