The world is full of paradoxes but there aren’t very many stranger than the one that is Maurice Lacoste, a Sephardic Jew born in Salonica under the Turkish flag, publishing the illustrated French language newspaper. Amerique. The explanation of how this came about was revealed to the Jewish Daily Bulletin yesterday in the offices of the publication, 137 West Twenty-seventh street, by the publisher himself. In shirt sleeves, he was at his work despite the fact he had earned a vacation by reason of having just put out his first anniversary issue.
In the presence of his charming and vivacious black-haired French wife who he kept reminding us was the editor of the publication, Mr. Lacoste explained how it is that he speaks French so well that he is mistaken for a native.
In Turkey during the old regime, Jews had complete freedom. Not being Moslems, the government held that they weren’t real Turks and despite their citizenship they were treated as respected resident aliens. They had their own school systems, their own tribunals, even their own police officers.
Thus a majority of the Jews went to the school maintained in Salonica by the Alliance Israelite Universelle. French, looked upon as a cultural and civilized language, was adopted as a native tongue by the Sephardim of Salonica. And so when Lacoste left Salonica in 1911 with the coming to power of the Young Turks, it was natural that he turned to French life on his arrival in the United States. As a member of the staff of a French daily in New York and in the printing business, his contacts were with the French speaking population here which numbers some 100,000 persons.
COMMUNITY AN ENTITY
Talking about Salonica, which is now a part of Greece and recently was the scene of anti-Semitic outbreaks, Mr. Lacoste told of how contented the Jews were there up until about 1910 when the Young Turk movement first gained headway.
“In those days,” he said, “we were an entity unto ourselves. The Jewish community, which is some 300 years old, governed itself. Why, the rabbi could order a Turkish police officer to arrest a Jew for smoking on the Sabbath.
“With the birth of Turkish nationalism under the Young Turks, Jews lost their privilege of self-government. This caused a great migration, in fact caused my immigration to the United States.”
After coming to this country Mr. Lacoste left and resided for some time in France, where he met and married his wife. Today he is principally interested in the development of Franco-American relations, a meeting of the interests of his two adopted countries.