Jews Quietly Play Prominent Roles in French Life
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Jews Quietly Play Prominent Roles in French Life

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The part that Jews play in the public life of the French Republic has often been under-estimated, chiefly because in this country, to a greater extent than almost any other, public figures are known for themselves, their political beliefs or their accomplishments rather than by religious labels. Jews have long been prominent in the life of France, the public has been accustomed to seeing Jews in high position and sees no reason to react to this in a special way.

The recent death of Raphael Georgi Levi, one of the outstanding men in the academic life of France and the reviews of his life and activities throughout the French press illustrates the part that Jews are quietly playing in the life of the country.

For many years a member of the French Senate, M. Levi was active in the reorganization of French finances. He was a member of the Financial Commission of the Senate and one of the authors of the new agreement between the French government and the State Bank, the Banque de France.


From his youth, Levi had devoted himself to economics, and he published a number of well-known books on political science and on finance, the most important of which are “Tendencies of Fiscal Legislation in the 19th Century”, “Half a Century of French Civilization” and several books on currency and finance. He was appointed Professor at the College of Political Science in Paris, and in 1913 he was elected to the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences. Soon afterwards, he was entrusted with a number of important government missions, among which was the revision of the French company law. Among the many other positions of honor he occupied were those of president of the Statistical Society and of the Economic Society of France. In each of these positions he distinguished himself, introduced many new ideas, and did much for the economic life of France.

In 1926, in recognition of his many services to his country, Levi was elected president of the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences, one of the highest positions and greatest honors in the scientific world of France. He was also elected to various foreign academies, among others, those of Belgium and of Italy.

Yet but little was ever spoken of this man, and even the French Jews scarcely knew of him. It was only when he died that they became aware of his greatness and of the esteem in which he was held by the scientific and political world of France. He was #uried according to the orthodox Jewish ###ual, and the government, the Senate and many of the scientific bodies of France were represented at the funeral, which was attended by numerous ministers and other important personages, including the ex-President of France, M. Millerand. The many obituaries disclosed also that one of his daughters was married to Paul May, the Belgian Ambassador in Washington, and another to Count C#hen of Antwerp, both members of the most aristocratic Jewish families in Western Europe.


Raphael George Levi was one of many Jews prominent in French life. Not long ago a book was published devoted to the Jews of France, which showed that there were many Jews of outstanding importance in various aspects of the public life of France. In law, there is the famous counsel, Henri Torres, who defended Schwarzbard. Less known, but of equal importance, is Eugence Dreyfus, president of the highest civil court in France.

In the theatrical world, the director of the Odeon State Theatre Paul Abram, is a Jew, and the Comedie Francaise has many famous Jewish actors. It is even said that Mistinguette, the famous music hall actress and the most popular person on the French stage, had a Jewish mother. In the medical world, there are a large number of famous Jewish doctors and professors.

The fact that so little attention is paid to the question whether these people are Jews or non-Jews reflects greatly to the credit of France. It shows that France is still the traditional land of freedom, in which racial or religious distinctions are unknown.

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