French anti-semitism shuts synagogue at centre of Jewish music festival

A report from Carpentras, by David Conway:

The region of Comtat-Venaissan, once a Papal enclave in the Kingdom of France, has a complex history; one if its oddest episodes is its community of ‘the Pope’s Jews’ – who were permitted to live there (under the standard ghetto conditions) when they were expelled from France. The composer Milhaud descended from this community, which centred on the town of Carpentras, which still retains its 14th century synagogue, reconstructed in the 18th century in a style owing more to the baroque than to tradition.

Now very few Jewish families are left in the town – only a handful survived Vichy France (although some apparently convinced the Petainists that they retained Papal protection). Things also took a wry turn recently when the Front Nationale took a lead here in the recent municipal elections.

Nevertheless, the town recently held its 13th Festival of Jewish Music (20-24 July). Ten concerts, ranging from classical through klezmer to ‘tango-funky’ (sic) attracted large and appreciative audiences including both locals and tourists. Your reporter assisted with an unusual event presenting settings of Byron’s ‘Hebrew Melodies’ including some by their onlie begetter, the egregious Isaac Nathan, and others by some unlikely suspects such as Nielsen and Balakirev.

Ironically, however, in the wake of anti-Jewish demonstrations in Paris, the synagogue itself, where many of the concerts were to have been held, remained closed throughout the Festival.

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(c) David Conway/slippedisc.com

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  • Could you tell us more about the closure of the synagogue in relation to the anti-Jewish demonstrations in Paris? Have synagogues across France shut their doors due to the protests?

  • This is a very difficult situation. I usually find myself more in agreement than not with actions of the French people. In this regard, it seems particularly painful and sad.

    In my own life, I had been planning to bring some pieces by women composers of the Holocaust into an upcoming concert. However, faced with the tragedy in Gaza I am at this point unable to move forward to do that at this time…it is excruciating all the way around…

  • What does performing the music of the composers who perished in the Holocaust have to do with the events in Gaza ?

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