Menu JTA Search

Jules Isaac, French-jewish Philosopher, Writer, Dies at Age of 86

SIGN UP FOR THE JTA DAILY BRIEFING

Jules Isaac, historian, philosopher, author and one of the great personalities of Judaism in France, will be buried tomorrow in the presence of French Cabinet Ministers, university professors and students and representatives of Jewish organizations. He died at his home at Aix-en-Provence Friday, at the age of 86.

After a brilliant academic career, during which he showed little interest in Jewish affairs, he was brought into violent contact with the meaning of anti-Semitism during World War II, when his wife and only daughter perished in Nazi deportations.

He devoted himself passionately in the postwar era to the fight against anti Semitism, establishing a League of Jewish-Christian Friendship which was joined by some of Europe’s foremost scholars and writers. He met frequently with the late Pontiffs Pius XII and John XXIII who both proclaimed proudly their friendship with him. It was at his insistence that the Vatican, under Pope John XXIII changed passages in the Good Friday liturgy which were considered offensive to the Jewish people. He was credited with almost single-handedly inducing a change in a deeply anchored anti-Jewish liturgical passage in the Good Friday mass.

His intellectual stature and his writings, which included the standard history textbooks for French high schools and universities, gave him a leading position among European scholars, which he always used on behalf of the Jewish people. He wrote lengthy essays, such as “Genesis of Anti-Semitism” and “Jesus and Israel,” in which he set forth the contention that several key points of Catholic theology and their interpretation had contributed substantially to the persistence of anti-Jewish feelings in Europe.

NEXT STORY