Drawing Conclusions: Joann Sfar and the Jews of France

On March 19, 2012, a French jihadi on a shooting spree targeted a Jewish school in Toulouse, murdering three children and a rabbi. A few days later, a Jewish cemetery in Nice was defaced. Both events were on the mind of comic book creator Joann Sfar as he resumed work on the final book of Klezmer, a five-volume fantasy on Jewish life in turn of the century Eastern Europe. Published last year by Gallimard, the last installment imagines a group of musicians on their way to Kishinev in the immediate aftermath of the infamous pogroms that took place there in 1903. Versions of Vladimir Ze’ev Jabotinsky and Chaim Nachman Bialik make their appearance in the book. In the Afterword Sfar explains that his Kishinev is a symbol for the fundamental dilemma of Jews in Europe not only in 1903 but throughout the 20th century and today in the 21st: namely, how to respond to the anti-Semitism that threatens both the physical existence of Jews and their dream of participation in a cosmopolitan European society.

Read the full essay at the Jewish Review of Books.

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