The American friends of the Alliance Israelite Universelle: a study in American-Jewish Intraethnic Relations, 1947-2004.
The American Friends of the Alliance Israelite Universelle (AIU), a non-profit organization created in New York City in 1947 to garner funds for the AIU's then extensive network of schools in the Arab world, provides a window into the evolution of Sephardic integration, identity and self-representation in the post-World War II United States. While it was primarily a fundraising group, the Friends also functioned as a vehicle for Sephardic expression and community building in the United States, as well as a space where Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews worked together--and were sometimes at odds with one another. As such, a study of the Friends--the personal histories and perspectives of the people who founded and maintained it, the tactics it used in its attempts to solicit funds, as well as the reasons for its limited success and its ultimate demise--is a particularly interesting vantage point from which to explore the evolution of both Ashkenazic-Sephardic relations and each groups' perceptions of each other in the United States over the past 60 years.
Scholarship on immigration to the United States in the postwar era has emphasized the diversity of geographical, religious, cultural and class backgrounds of the "new new immigrants." This diversity, combined with a shift in American popular culture and government policy away from assimilation and toward multiculturalism, argue sociologists Ruben G. Rumbaut, Alejandro Portes and others, has splintered the notion of what it means to "become American." Rather than integrating into an undifferentiated "America society," post-World War II immigrants have experienced "segmented integration" into any number of particular American subcultures. (3)
In a similar vein, rather than using terms such as "Jewish culture" or "Jewish diaspora" in the singular, scholars such as Moshe Rosman and David Biale have used these terms in the plural, thus drawing our attention to the range of Jewish experiences in a wide variety of historical contexts. (4) This focus on diversity has been particularly important within the field of Sephardic studies, as scholars such as Jonathan Ray and Aviva Ben-Ur have pointed out that "Jewish" has often been equated with "Ashkenazic" among contemporary historians. They have suggested that the Sephardim have functioned as a "subethnic" group in the contemporary Jewish world. (5) As a "minority within a minority," American Jews of Sephardic origins have thus faced not only the challenge of integration into American life in general, but also that of integration into an overwhelmingly Ashkenazic Jewish mainstream community. (6)
The story of the American Friends of the AIU is a story of competing and overlapping identities. On the one hand, the Sephardic Jews who were the driving force behind the organization saw the group as an opportunity to forge a new network of Sephardic Jews in the United States and, in so doing, to educate both American society as a whole and American Jews in particular, about the history, culture, and material needs of Jews in the Arab world and the former Ottoman empire. On the other hand, these individuals naturally sought out connections with members of the larger American Jewish community as they integrated into American society and moved up the economic ladder. As we shall see, this "push and pull" of post-World War II Sephardim toward the American Jewish majority shaped the motives of Sephardim who joined the Friends, as well as relations between Sephardim and Ashkenazim within the organization.
Sephardic Jews who became involved with the Friends represented a particular stratum within the modern Sephardic--and Sephardic American--world. Most were French-speaking graduates of AIU schools who had transitioned with relative ease from their countries of origins into the American middle class. It was from the perspective of their successful integration into American society that most of these individuals became involved with the Friends. Feeling that their own success was directly linked to their AIU education, they wanted to "return the favor" and help the Alliance. Ironically, as we shall see, the very success of these individuals' integration into American society contributed to the relative weakness of the organization and to its eventual demise.
A confluence of factors led to the effective disappearance of the American Friends of the AIU by the turn of the millennium, and it was when the group moved out of its New York office in 2.004 that the decision was made to send its archives to the AIU in France. (7) Those archives, as well as interviews with former members and leaders of the organization in New York, Los Angeles and Paris--plus an analysis of the Friend's publication. The Alliance Review, provide a rich terrain for analysis.
The Rise And Fall of the American Friends: A Brief History
The AIU opened several branches in the United States immediately after its creation in 1860, and by 1872 counted 730 delegates on American soil. The group attracted the attention and approval of the B'nai Brith leadership, and was represented at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. In 1901, the AIU sent educator Nissim Behar to New York to further support for the organization among American Jews. Behar was a Sephardic native of Jerusalem who had founded and directed a series of Alliance schools in Aleppo, Istanbul, Bulgaria and Jerusalem. He was also a pioneer in the movement to revive Hebrew as a spoken language. (8) Behar created a group called "Alliance Israelite en Amerique," an independent association intended to raise money for the AIU and publicize its works in the United States. That alliance was very much a one-man show, and it died out after Behar's death in 1930. (9) With Europe in ruins after World War II, developing a strong relationship with American Jews became more important than ever for the Alliance. In August of 1944, when the AIU's Central Committee held its first meeting after the liberation of Paris, the majority of the surviving members of the committee were residing in New York. One of the main issues on the agenda at this meeting was how best to tap into the United States as a source of potential revenue for the impoverished Alliance. (10) It was in September of 1945 that Jules Braunschvig, who would become vice president of the AIU the following year, suggested creating a non-profit organization in the United States that would enable American citizens to make tax-deductible contributions to it in American dollars. (11)
Almost immediately, however, the AIU delegation that arrived in New York in February of 1946 came into conflict with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC or Joint) and its parent organization, the United Jewish Appeal. These organizations objected to the AIU doing any independent fundraising that would conflict with their own annual drives. Recognizing the AIU's need for funds, however, the Joint agreed to grant them an annual subsidy through an American-based affiliate organization, to be called the American Friends of the Alliance Israelite Universelle. In return, the AIU--represented by the Friends--would refrain from doing any direct fundraising in the United States. Once this agreement was ironed out, the French delegation, headed by Braunschvig, went about recruiting a group of American citizens interested in incorporating such an organization. (12)
The most obvious target group for the Friends were graduates of AIU schools who had immigrated to the United States, and Braunschvig was particularly well positioned to penetrate this community, since he had lived for many years in Morocco and he moved comfortably in Sephardic circles. (13) Furthermore, Braunschvig himself married into a Sephardic family at the same time that he created the Friends, having celebrated his wedding to Gladys Toledano in New York in July of 1947. (14) Gladys Toledano's' father, Haim, a native of Morocco who had studied at the Alliance Normal School in Paris before moving to the United States, was recruited as the Friend's first treasurer, (15) while Marcel Franco, a graduate of an AIU school in Turkey who had immigrated to the United States in 1944, served as vice president. A number of other prominent members of the American Sephardic community were also on the Friends' original board of directors. These included both Simon S. Nessim, who served as president of the Central Sephardic Jewish Community of America and as chairman of the World Sephardi Federation and David de Sola Pool, the rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel, the oldest (Sephardic) synagogue in the United States. (16) Braunschvig and his colleagues also actively recruited members among Ashkenazim, targeting both French Jews living in New York at the time as well as prominent members of the American Jewish establishment with no particular French connection. Alan M. Stroock, a prominent New York lawyer known for his wideranging activism in various Jewish charitable causes, was the Friend's first president, and he stayed on the board of directors until his death in 1985. Investment banker Andre Meyer, who had fled France following the Nazi occupation and who remained in the United States after the war, was one of the original incorporators. (17) Both banker Alain de Rothschild and the prominent art dealer Georges Wildenstein had been added to the board by June of 1947. By July, the group already counted 2,000 members, and it had branches in Baltimore and Philadelphia. (18) Saadiah Cherniak, an Ashkenazic Jew of Russian origin who had lived in Paris in the 1930s and who could write and converse fluently in French, was recruited as executive director. (19)
The American Friends was officially incorporated as an independent American nonprofit organization "intended to promote literary, scientific, and educational work among the Jewish populations of the Near and Middle East, North Africa and other countries in the Western Hemisphere, and to 'aid charitable organizations' that are organized for the same purpose" on February 14, 1947. (20) We thus see that, from the beginning, the Friends was not exactly legally independent. It had, in fact, been created at the initiative of the AIU's Central Committee to receive and distribute American charitable contributions on its behalf. Hence, while the group's relationship to the AIU is not even mentioned on the certificate of incorporation, by the time it was created, an agreement had already been worked out by which the Friends would serve as a financial holding tank for the AIU. The Friends would receive JDC money in dollars, which they would then transfer to the AIU in France. (21)
As well as serving as a go-between for the AIU and the JDC, the American Friends did, in fact, actively engage in fundraising: To get around their agreement with the UJA, the Friends charged membership dues and accepted "spontaneous contributions." What this translated into on the field was that the group recruited members rather than asking directly for contributions. While the JDC funding was sent directly to Paris, members of the Friends managed the money that they had raised themselves, which they then used primarily to set up various grants and scholarships for students in AIU schools. Over the course of the Friends' sixty-odd years of existence, the countries these grants were intended for naturally changed in accordance with shifting demographics: whereas, in the 1950s and 1960s, fundraising efforts focused primarily on AIU schools in the Arab world, by the 1980s, the vast majority of these schools no longer existed, and most of the Friends' focus had become the AIU network in Israel. (22)
The initial core of Sephardic members of the Friends hailed primarily from Turkey and Rhodes, and they were soon joined by new arrivals from North Africa and the Middle East. Iranian Jews became prominent in the organization beginning in the early 1980s, after they immigrated en masse to the United States after the Islamic Revolution of 1978-1979. Many of these individuals had been educated in AIU schools, and, as did other alumni who had arrived before them, they felt deeply grateful to the AIU and committed to keeping the Friends alive. By the late 1990s, however, interest in the Friends on the part of most of its core members had waned, and there was no new wave of AlU-educated Sephardic immigrants to the United States. As the group's activities came to a relative standstill, the general director of the AIU, Jean-Jacques Wahl, convinced the friend's president, Flenriette Beilis, to transfer the approximately $3 million dollars that remained in the Friends' treasury to Paris. (23) It was Albert Sibony, the Friends' last president, who made the decision effectively to dismantle the organization in Z003. (24) While interest in the organization had slowed in California as well by the late 1990s, the last president of the California chapter, Arthur Benveniste, continued to collect annual dues for the organization until the fall of 2010. (25)
The Friends: A Sephardic Network and Cultural Organization?
In contrast with the Paris chapter of the AIU, which had always been an organization of Ashkenazic Jews working for the benefit of Sephardic Jews, Sephardic Jews played a major role in the leadership of the American Friends from the beginning. As we have noted, prominent members of the American Sephardic community served on the group's board of directors, including both members of the old, established New York Sephardic elite, such as David de Sola Pool, and graduates of AIU schools who had immigrated to the United States. For example, Marcel Franco, who took over the presidency of the Friends in 1954, was born in Milas, Turkey in 1896. He attended an AIU primary school and went on to have a very successful business career in Istanbul, where he was head of the local B'nai B'rith. Franco worked with the United States government during World War II, which helped him to gain an immigration visa when he decided to leave for the United States in 1944. (26) Franco's former prominence in Jewish community life in Turkey undoubtedly played a role in the AIU's decision to approach him about assuming a leadership role in the Friends.
The initial impetus to create a California chapter of the Friends came from Leon Ligier, who was born in the Ottoman Empire in 1879, and who immigrated first to Chicago in 1901 and finally to Los Angeles in 1942. There, he took on a leadership role in the community of Sephardic Jews from Rhodes and Turkey that had settled in Los Angeles beginning in the 1920s and 1920s. (27) While Ligier's initial attempt to establish a California Friends' chapter failed, primarily because of internal frictions among Los Angeles Sephardim, the 1959 merger of the Sephardic Brotherhood and the Sephardic Community of Los Angeles facilitated his task. (28) The California chapter of the Friends became viable in i960, when a physician, Irving Benveniste, an AIU graduate who had immigrated to Los Angeles from Rhodes in the 1930s, took over leadership. Benveniste, who contributed a good deal of his own money and time to the organization, remained the key figure in the California chapter from i960 until his death in 1993. (29)
One of the Friends' strategies for increasing its membership was to actively seek out individuals with Sephardic-sounding names as the most likely recruits for the organization. Sephardic immigrants and, in particular, those who had attended AIU schools, were often surprised and delighted to find--or to be found by--the Friends. For these people, the AIU had often played a critical role in setting them on the road toward education and upward mobility, and once they had become successful financially, they were eager to return the favor to the organization. In a 1964 letter to Saadiah Cherniak, for example, Flaroun Haddad, a man of Egyptian origins who was a professor of Arabic at the University of California, Los Angeles, expressed his delight at having found the California chapter of the Friends upon moving from Paris to California. While he had not attended one of the organization's schools, Haddad explained, his admiration for the AIU was boundless, and he welcomed the opportunity to help the organization from afar. (30) Sassoon Peress, a native of Bagdad who had attended an AIU school there in the 1930s, prospered in business after immigrating to the United States in the 1950s. He was specifically looking to donate money to the AIU, and he found the Friends by looking in the New York telephone book. He subsequently became involved with the group, making generous financial contributions and serving on the board of directors. In a similar vein, Simon Zareh, a graduate of AIU schools in his native Iran who had immigrated to the New York area in 1964, recalled that he was always thinking of how he could pay the AIU back for the education that it had afforded him. Like Peress, he was delighted to find that an American branch of the AIU existed. He subsequently became an active member and served on the board of directors for many years. (31)
Perhaps the best example of Sephardic passion and commitment to the Friends was demonstrated by Henriette Beilis (nee Perez), who founded and presided over a Women's Division of the organization in the 1970s, and who went on to become president of the Friends in the late 1980s. Beilis, who hailed from an elite Tunisian Jewish family, had not herself attended an AIU school. As everyone who was active in the group during her tenure attested, however, she was the Friends' most active and committed member. Beilis was instrumental in organizing fundraising activities and cultural events for the organization through the late 1990s, and her tireless activity in favor of the organization earned her a place as a "chevalier" in the French Legion of Honor in 2004, as well as a special honor from the Knesset in 2010 during the i50th-anniversary celebration of the AIU. (32) The events that Beilis organized--from afternoon coffee hours and lectures for the Women's Division in the 1970s to gala dinners and speaking events--most often included cultural programming focusing on the AIU and its schools, as well as on Sephardic Jewish culture and history more generally. Lectures planned for the Friends' 50'h-anniversary celebration during 1996/1997, for example, included author Andre Aciman on his memoir Out of Egypt, Susan Gilson Miller on Moroccan Jewry, Aron Rodrigue on the AIU in the Ottoman Empire and Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi on Sephardic history. (33)
It was precisely this kind of cultural programming, oriented toward the interests and concerns of Sephardic Jews, that kept its core members' interest in the group alive and inspired them to continue to take an active part in the association. At the same time, however, since the Friends had been founded first and foremost to do fundraising for the AIU in the United States, there was perpetual concern among its leadership--and the leadership in Paris--about the group being labeled as a specifically Sephardic organization. Such a designation, it was feared, would make it even more difficult than it already was for the group to raise funds among the mainstream Ashkenazic Jewish majority. An exchange of letters in 1950 between Saadiah Cherniak and the Friends' treasurer Edmond Weil, points to this concern. Cherniak wrote Weil to ask his opinion of Marcel Franco's recent decision to contribute $2,500 on behalf of the Friends to the World Sephardi Organization, in support of a "World Sephardic Congress [to be] called in the near future in Europe." (34) Weil retroactively agreed to the $500-dollar installment that had already been paid. He objected, however, to providing the remaining sum pledged, explaining that he was concerned that by sponsoring the Congress, the AIU might be "misunderstood and alienate some of the help we get from non-Sephardic Jews. I believe that we are already 'labeled,'" he said, "and we should not go beyond that point." (35)
For Franco, the Friends was one of a number of associations participating in a growing movement of Sephardic solidarity and awareness in both Israel and the diaspora. As such, it was only natural that the organization should actively recruit Sephardic members and forge strong ties with other Sephardic organizations. For Weil, by contrast, the Friends was first and foremost the American fundraising arm of the AIU and, as such, it should make every effort to appeal to as wide an American public as possible. Jean-Jacques Wahl, who served as director of the AIU from 1997 to Z007, confirmed that the issue of whom the Friends should focus on in terms of fundraising persisted throughout the organization's 60-odd years of existence. At the same time that Braunschvig approached American Sephardim as the most likely potential donors, Weil noted, he also sought to interest "the French Ashkenazi population" that had settled in the United States. The group also reached out as much as it could to prominent figures within the American Jewish establishment with no'particular French or Jewish connection who might lend prestige to the organization. (36) This third approach is perhaps reflected in the choice of Alan M. Stroock as the Friends' first president. Stroock appears to have been a figurehead for his eight-year term; the name of Marcel Franco, the Friends' vice president, appeared much more frequently in the organization's correspondence than Stroock's, even before the former took over the presidency in 1955.
The California Branch and the Sephardic Quagmire
While no one would have denied that disseminating information on the history and culture of Sephardic Jews was integral to the Friends' fundraising mission, the concern that Weil raised about alienating potential donors by putting too much emphasis on the group's Sephardic identity did, in fact, continually pose a problem for the group's leadership. Evidence suggests that--just as Franco had feared--even when sympathetic to the Friends, Ashkenazic Jews tended to think of the organization and its mission as a specifically "Sephardic" cause rather than as a broader Jewish cause. Because almost all of the members of the California chapter of the Friends were Sephardic, this issue was particularly salient for them.
A 1957 exchange between Sam Lasry--a Sephardic Jew who was, at the time, working with Leon Ligier on starting up the California chapter--and Marcel Franco well illustrates this problem of self-presentation vis-a-vis the issue of Sephardic identity. When he approached an Ashkenazic friend for help in setting up a yearly scholarship fund to meet the costs of keeping a student who could not otherwise afford it in an AIU school, Ligier explained, the friend "agreed with [him] that the project was a good one and deserved the attention of local leaders." Importantly, however, the friend went on to assert, "This is a Sephardic problem," and wanted to know if local leaders of the Los Angeles Sephardic community had already pledged their support. Only if a nucleus of local Sephardim committed to the project, the friend said, would it be appropriate to seek contributions from Ashkenazic Jews. (37)
In his response, Franco expressed his exasperation with this point of view: "As to the contention of your friend that the problems confronting us are Sephardic problems, I must deny it most emphatically." Franco asserted that there was no reason that addressing the needs of poor Jewish children in the Middle East and North Africa should be any less of a concern for Ashkenazic Jews than for Sephardic Jews. To emphasize the shortsightedness of Ligier's friend's point of view, Franco went on to affirm that "every fifth Jew in the Moslem countries" receives aid, in one way or another, from the JDC, and, he went on to observe sarcastically, "Your friend should certainly know that the Jews in the Moslem countries are Sephardim and that the Joint Distribution Committee people are Ashkenazim. Still, we have never heard them say that before doing something for the Jews in Morocco or in Iran, they had to find out what the American Sephardim did." (38)
Saadiah Cherniak expressed a similar sentiment in his correspondence with Ness Peha, who was one of the key players in creating a California chapter of the Friends several years later. Noting with approval the California chapter's inclusion of the rabbinic injunction and AIU motto: "Kol Israel Yisrael arevim ze la ze" ("All Jews are responsible for one another") on the group's letterhead, Cherniak remarked, "It is about time that the Ashkenazim understand that the problems of Sephardic Jewry should concern them not less than the Sephardim themselves." (39) Franco had expressed a similar concern in his 1955 address to the World Sephardic Federation, which was reprinted in the Friends' publication, The Alliance Review: "There is no doubt," Franco affirmed, that "a world organization of Sephardim is useful, but we must avoid any action, any utterance, which could suggest that problems confronting the various Sephardic communities--be they in Israel, in North Africa, or anywhere else--are primarily or exclusively a matter of concern for other Sephardim. (40)
On the one hand, the group sought to position itself as being of particular interest to Sephardic Jews in order to expand its membership within that community, whose members seemed most likely to be interested in the organization. In 1963, for example, the California chapter of the Friends sent letters soliciting membership to the approximately 425 families who belonged to the Sephardic Jewish Community and Brotherhood of Los Angeles, as well as to the approximately 200 families who were members of the other main Sephardic organization in Los Angeles, the Sephardic Hebrew Center. (41) The California chapter also sought out speakers, such as Haroun Haddad, who were working on aspects of Sephardic history and culture. They were then featured in the group's banquets and other fundraising and cultural events. Haddad was featured, for example, at a 1963 open meeting of the American Friends at the Savoy Hotel, where he spoke on "Jews in Arab Lands." (42)
On the other hand, one of the major challenges for the leadership of the California chapter of the Friends was to find ways to reach out to the much larger Ashkenazic Jewish community of Los Angeles. The 100th anniversary of the AIU in i960 provided one such occasion, and the Wilshire Boulevard Temple sponsored a special "Alliance Israelite" Shabbat evening, with members of the California chapter of the Friends as special guests. (43) Two years later, Saadiah Cherniak acknowledged with satisfaction the California chapter's success in recruiting new (Ashkenazic) members from Beverly Hills, noting, "We are fighting everywhere the tendency, quite natural, I confess, to give a Sephardic parochial aspect to our organization. While the Sephardim are everywhere the first to join the American Friends, we have succeeded almost everywhere in attracting in much greater numbers Ashkenazi members whom we convince that the future of Jewish children--even if they are Sephardic--is the responsibility of all the Jews, whatever their origin." (44)
At the same time that the California chapter was actively recruiting Ashkenazic members by attempting to convince them that the work of the AIU was a Jewish cause rather than a narrow Sephardic cause, the leadership was also making use of its Ashkenazic membership nationwide as a tactic to shame Sephardim--whom the leadership felt were not joining the organization in sufficient numbers--into becoming members. This sense of frustration comes across very clearly in a letter that Ligier wrote to Cherniak in 1959 about his efforts to get the California chapter off the ground. Quoting a recent Friends fundraising letter intended to appeal to Sephardic Jews with the remark, "There is no Sephardi in the world who is not deeply grateful to the Alliance for what its schools have done for him or his family," Ligier remarked sarcastically, "But please! Tell me how we can awaken their conscience." (45)
A 1963 membership drive letter aimed specifically at Sephardic Jews in Los Angeles also attests to this frustration. It begins by noting that readers may be "interested to know that the great majority of members of the [American Friends of the Alliance Israelite Universelle] in the United States are Ashkenazim," while "all the 600,000 children to whom the schools of the Alliance brought a happy childhood and a hope for a better life were Sephardim." The letter goes on to suggest that it is "much more natural" for Sephardic Jews--who have either "seen with their own eyes" or heard from their parents about the positive impact that the AIU made on Sephardic families--to join the friends than Ashkenazic Jews, who have only read about the organization. A membership appeal published in the Sephardic Messenger, uses similar language, beginning with the observation that "all Sephardim" are aware of the great works that the AIU had been undertaking in the Near and Middle East and North Africa. It goes on to make reference to the difficulties that the group is currently encountering, and concludes, "No Jew--and certainly no Sephardic Jew--can afford to remain aloof when the fate of so many Jewish children is at play." (46)
As both the tone of these letters and internal discussion within the organization clearly indicates, the Friends leadership was clearly aware of the need to wear "different hats," depending on the audience from which they were trying to gain support. Whereas in its appeal to the larger, overwhelmingly Ashkenazic American Jewish population, the group took great pains to portray itself as a broadly Jewish rather than narrowly Sephardic organization, in its appeals to the Sephardic community, it presented itself as an organization of particular importance and relevance to Sephardim. (47)
If differences between Ashkenazim and Sephardim within the Friends grew in part from the Ashkenazic tendency to equate Jewishness with being Ashkenazi, they also stemmed from the desire of some members to promote the organization first and foremost as a Sephardic social club. In 1979, Michael Laskier was recruited to serve as assistant director of the Friends while finishing his doctoral thesis on the AIU schools in Morocco. (48) While he was based in New York, Laskier took advantage of his family's Los Angeles connections to revitalize the California chapter of the organization. During this time, different Sephardic and Ashkenazic branches of the California Friends were actually created. Irving Benveniste, whom Laskier had convinced to revive the organization when he visited Benveniste at his Los Angeles home in December of 1979, was the head of the Sephardic branch, which was centered in North Hollywood. Laskier's mother, Haya, was at the head of the Ashkenazic branch, which was centered in the San Fernando Valley. (49)
The reason that Laskier asked his mother if she would be interested in heading up an Ashkenazic branch of the organization was that Benveniste and his fellow Sephardic friends were primarily interested in reviving the Friends as a way to promote Sephardic social contacts and cultural expression and, as such, they had no interest in doing outreach among the Ashkenazim. From their perspective, he explained, Ashkenazic participation simply "made no sense," because the AIU and its schools bore no natural relevance to people who had not frequented AIU schools and who were not francophone, Francophile, and/ or Spanish-Ladino-Haketia speaking. (50)
My interview with Jack Serror, who was born in Salonica and who immigrated to Los Angeles right after World War II, confirmed Laskier's recollections. For Serror, who was active in the California Friends from its beginnings in the late 1950s, the Friends was first and foremost a social club for Jews from the former Ottoman Empire: The group's status as a fundraising organization for the AIU was secondary. The group met once a month at Irving Benveniste's home, he recalled, and provided an opportunity for people to socialize--primarily in Ladino--with others from a similar background. This attitude was frustrating for Laskier, who had been sent from New York to figure out how to maximize the Friends' fundraising potential. From his perspective, the Friends needed to do as much outreach as possible within the greater--overwhelmingly Ashkenazic--Los Angeles Jewish community. (51)
'The Alliance Review': Building Sephardic Solidarity and Educating Ashkenazim
One of the primary vehicles that the Friends used for outreach was The Alliance Review, which was published continually from 1947 until the group's effective demise in the late 1990s. (52) Reflecting the Friend's fundraising strategy more generally, The Alliance Review wore two hats in terms of its intended public. At the same time that the paper functioned as an organ for Sephardic expression and community building, it was also geared toward an Ashkenazic American Jewish public with little knowledge of the Sephardic world.
Many articles in The Alliance Review can be described as having a tone of Sephardic pride to them, detailing Sephardic contributions to world culture, both in a historical and a contemporary context. Debates among leaders of the emerging Sephardic movement in the immediate postwar years, marked notably by the creation of the World Federation of Sephardic Communities, occupied a central place in the early issues of the magazine. (53) Articles exposing prejudice against Jews from the Arab world in Israel were also an important feature. A 1952 article, for example, discussed (Ashkenazic) Zionist leader Joseph B. Schechtman's criticism of superficial American Jewish stereotypes of Jews in Arab lands as "uneducated and unwashed," while a 1968 piece publicized critical comments made by Elie Eliachar, head of the Sephardic community in Jerusalem, about discrimination against Sephardim by Israel's Ashkenazic majority. (54) In the mid-1960s, when France was experiencing an influx of Jews from North Africa, the paper began to feature glowing articles detailing the contribution of these immigrants to French Jewish social, cultural and religious life. (55)
Not only should Ashkenazim respect Sephardic Jews' social and cultural differences, contributors often suggested, but also, in fact, they should learn from them. In a 1955 article entitled "An Ashkenazi's Plea to Sephardim," for example, the president of the New York Board of Rabbis, Rabbi Emmanuel Rackman, argued, "Sephardim have a great spiritual tradition which Judaism now needs desperately." Rackman praised the Sephardic religious traditions of openness toward non-Jewish learning and adapting halakha to evolving historical realities. It would be greatly beneficial to the State of Israel, Rackman concluded, if this Sephardic religious culture, rather than its more rigid, insular Ashkenazic counterpart, became dominant. (56) A 1961 interview with Isaac Alcalay, who had served as both Chief Rabbi of Yugoslavia and vice president of the World Sephardic Federation before immigrating to the United States in 1943, had a very similar message. The historic lack of denominationalism among Sephardic Jews, Alcalay suggested, should serve as a model for Ashkenazim in the United States. (57)
While these kinds of articles reflected the internal concerns of the Sephardic community, they were also, of course, intended to educate the general American Jewish public. Ignorance about the very existence of non-European Jews was not uncommon among the Ashkenazim, who had arrived en masse from the Russian empire between 1881 and 1915 and who were coming from a largely insular cultural universe. While this phenomenon of "co-ethnic recognition" (58) failure was much less common in the post-World War II period, the children and grandchildren of East European immigrants remained, for the most part, woefully ignorant of the history and culture of the Sephardim. Haroun Haddad's 1964 letter to Saadiah Cherniak testifies to the frustration that Sephardic Jews often felt when faced with Ashkenazic ignorance and prejudice. Lamenting that the AIU's mission of "saving and conserving a civilization that is disappearing," was all but unknown in California, Haddad remarked, "You cannot imagine the degree of ignorance of American Jews, concerning their brothers in the Arab and Muslim world. The only [impression] of them that they have (if any) is the erroneous notion of barbarian half-brothers, who are polygamous, illiterate, and mentally deficient." (59) This ignorance and prejudice were major barriers for the Friends and, as a result, educating American Jews about the history, culture and material needs of Jews in the Sephardic world was part and parcel of the Friends' fundraising strategy.
To this end, from the late 1940s through the early 1960s, The Alliance Review published many informational articles on the local Jewish communities where the A1U operated its schools. These articles, which were clearly aimed at an Ashkenazic audience, featured such local communities as the Mellahs of Morocco, the Flara of Tunis, and remote Jewish communities in Iran and Syria. The articles share a certain similarity with National Geographic-style portraits of "exotic" Third World communities. The primary objective of The Alliance Review, however, was not to celebrate or idealize these traditional cultures, but rather to showcase their material deprivation. (60) In this way, the editors hoped to demonstrate to Ashkenazim that the needs of Sephardic Jews were as great as--or greater than--those of Ashkenazim. In an article entitled "Noblesse Oblige," which appeared in the magazine's first issue, for example, Marcel Franco wrote that, just as American Jews had a moral obligation to help Flolocaust survivors in displaced-persons camps, so, too, should they come to the aid of Jews in the Arab world, whose material needs were just as great, if not greater. A feature story in the November 1947 issue of the paper entitled "Teen-Agers saved from Gutter in Morocco" makes this same point in very concrete terms, highlighting Jewish poverty in that country and the important role that the AIU played in helping young people to develop vocational skills. (61)
In his history of the United Jewish Appeal, To Give Life: The UJA in the Shaping of the American Jewish Community, Abraham J. Karp notes that the early 1950s were "lean years" for the organization. The post-Holocaust refugee crisis had been resolved, and the emerging Jewish refugee crisis in the Arab world did not generate the same level of con tributions. This discrepancy, he indicates, was, in part, a product of the fact that the "needs of the Jews in Moslem lands were not as dramatic as those of the postwar refugees in Europe." At the same time, however, there was also an emotive component at work: "American Jewry, almost wholly of European origin," he notes, "could identify more with the plight of European Jews." (62) As Karp's comment indicates, in the competitive world of fundraising, it was difficult to convince American Ashkenazim to contribute to a cause--the education of Jewish children in the Arab world--obscure to their own cultural, geographic and political universe.
A 1950 article by Saadiah Cherniak focused on Ashkenazic prejudices against Sephardim in Israel exemplifies the sense we often get from The Alliance Review of fighting an uphill battle to interest American Jews in the history and culture--as well as the philanthropic needs--of Sephardic Jews. While "certain Ashkenazim" fear that the influx of Jews with fundamentally different customs and values to Israel represents a danger to the new nation, Cherniak writes, "No proof whatsoever has been brought forward to support the claim that as Jews the Sephardim are different from the Ashkenazim." (63) The following year, an anonymous author who was described as "a French Jewish leader who recently traveled through North Africa" similarly "reminded" his Ashkenazic readers that Sephardim are "Jews before all else." American visitors to the country, he concluded optimistically, were finally getting over their prejudices and realizing that Moroccan Jews were their brothers. It takes some effort, he went on to explain, for an American Jew to realize that a Moroccan Jew is Jewish, "although he does not eat 'gefulte fish.'" (64)
Solidarity or Paternalism? Representing Sephardim and the AIU's Colonialist Legacy
The AIU school network played a critical role in raising the educational and material status of the Sephardic populations of the Mediterranean basin. AIU schools often afforded the only opportunity that Jews in those parts of the world had for a Western-style secular education, which in turn provided them with a pathway to the economic and social mobility that was much less readily available to other indigenous, colonized populations. At the same time, however, the story of the AIU school network can be considered as a chapter of the larger narrative of European and French colonial hegemony, as it was infused with assumptions about French/Western cultural superiority. It represented the attempts of a group of Europeans to "remake" non-Europeans in their own image. The AIU's educational mission had always been to bring the "benefits of Western civilization" to "less fortunate" Jewish communities in North African and the Middle East. (65) As a close reading of The Alliance Review demonstrates, particularly in its early years, most people involved with the Friends--both Sephardic and Ashkenazic--shared this orientation.
Articles intended to educate Ashkenazim about their Sephardic brethren in the Arab world, while well intentioned, were often condescending in tone. They operated from the assumption that the best way to better the lives of Jews from the Arab world was to Westernize them. Saadiah Cherniak's 1950 article on Ashkenazic prejudices against Sephardim in Israel, for example, paid lip service to the historical contribution of the Sephardim to Jewish civilization, singing the praises of Maimonides and Joseph Caro (66) and deriding Ashkenazim who thought that "everything created by Jewish genius before Martin Buber was a sealed book." (67) His main purpose however, was to reassure readers that, with their moral and financial support, the Eastern Sephardim could successfully become Westernized, as had their own Eastern European forebears a century earlier. "Closer attachment to Western civilization," he noted, "is all that [Sephardic Jews] lack." (68)
Stories published over the next few years by AIU school director and folklorist Raphael Levy, who wrote under the pen name Ryvel, reveal a similar mix of empathy and paternalistic condescension. Levy, a Tunisian Jew of Ashkenazic origin--his family had emigrated from Galicia in the early 19th century--was a product of the AIU system, having graduated from the normal school in Paris before returning to the Maghreb in 1919. He went on to teach and serve in various administrative capacities in AIU schools in both Tunisia and Morocco until his retirement in 1954, while at the same time making a name for himself as a folklorist. In the numerous short stories and novellas that he penned from the late rpzos through the mid-rp50S, Levy set out to convey both the traditional culture and the misery of the Hara, the Jewish quarter of Tunis, with a clearly didactic purpose. The thrust of Ryvel's argument, Judith Roumani notes in her analysis of his 1929 book, L'enfant de L'Oukala, "is that the difficult physical conditions of life in the ghetto of Tunis will block future progress for the Jews unless they become open to Western influences and education. This thesis grows throughout the book," she notes, "using the stories of deprivation and tragedy as its proof." (69)
The same argument is clearly revealed in Ryvel's stories for The Alliance Review, which intend to demonstrate to the reader that by aiding the AlU, they will be "saving" Jews in the Arab world, not only from poverty, but also from the constraints of an oppressive, backward, and often barbaric culture. In his 1949 story "Farafa," for example, we read the tragic tale of a hungry young boy in a nameless North African country who pleads to the teacher to let him back into school after a month's unexcused absence. His father left the family home after a quarrel, the child explains, and his mother, in turn, took up with "the second-hand clothes dealer from Potence Street." When the child accidentally happened on the lovers in bed, his mother flew into a rage and burned him with a live coal. Shame had kept him from returning to school and, furthermore, he had been forced to sell his school uniform for food. The editorial comment at the beginning of the story assures the reader as to the story's credibility: "To anyone who knows the conditions under which Jews live in most of the Moslem countries," it is noted, "it will not seem unusual or exaggerated." (70)
As then President Marcel Franco's article in honor of the AIU's centennial Congress well demonstrates, Sephardim were not immune from this kind of heavy-handed, colonialist-style rhetoric. Franco expressed his gratitude to the AlU for "assuring the future" of the Jewish communities of the Mediterranean basin, which, as he described it, "lay, toward the end of the last century, somnolent, vegetative, exposed to every type of neglect and disintegration." These communities, Franco went on to explain, had been "forgotten by the Jewish world, living (if it can be called living) shriveled within themselves." As this rhetoric well illustrates, for Franco, as well as for the Friends' leadership in general, chastising Ashkenazic Jews for their ignorance of the Sephardic world often went hand in hand with denigrating the indigenous cultures of the people that they were trying to help. We see a similar duality at work in Haroun Haddad's 1964 letter to Saadiah Cherniak. While Haddad expresses his frustration with Ashkenazic ignorance and prejudice, what he is lamenting, in fact, is the fact that American Jews do not know about the AIU's "civilizing" work in the Arab and Muslim world, which, in turn leads them to have an inaccurate image of the Jews in that part of the world as primitive and uncouth. The Westernization of Arab Jews was assumed to be a positive good; the problem, from Haddad's perspective, was that American Jews knew nothing about it.
By the early 1950s, some A1U graduates had begun to adapt an openly critical stance toward the colonialist aspect of the organization's project. The most famous of these is undoubtedly the anti-colonial theorist Albert Memmi, whose semi-autobiographical 1953 novel, La Statue de Sel, tells the story of a boy from a poor Tunisian-Jewish family whose Alliance education alienated him from his family and left him spiritually bereft. (71) For obvious reasons, however, individuals with a similarly critical attitude toward the AIU would have been unlikely to join the Friends. (72)
Within a cultural context in which the superiority of Western civilization and the "benefits" of colonialism were still taken for granted in mainstream American society, attracting potential donors by promising them that that their money would be used to Westernize the Jews of the Arab world was a viable fundraising technique. By the late 1960s, by contrast, this kind of rhetoric had disappeared from The Alliance Review, undoubtedly both for ideological and practical reasons. The anti-colonial critique of assumed Western cultural superiority made this kind of discourse dated, and, furthermore, the focus of the Alliance's fundraising efforts had largely shifted to Israel, since few Jews remained in the Arab world.
The Friends' French Connection and Sephardic Difference
In an article entitled "Jews from Algeria and French Identity," Sarah Sussman notes that upon arriving in France en masse in 1962, Algerian Jews were often confronted by French Ashkenazim who had little understanding of Sephardic linguistic history: "For the Ashkenazim," one woman recalled, "if you didn't speak Yiddish, you weren't Jewish." What they didn't understand, she said, was this: "For Algerian Jews, French was a Jewish language." (73) While this link between being Jewish and speaking French was particularly strong for Algerian Jews--who had actually become French citizens after 1870--it was true, to a lesser extent, of the Sephardic world more generally. Because the AIU schools primarily served the Jewish communities in the Ottoman Empire, North Africa and the Middle East, Jews were much more likely than other indigenous people in the colonial world to speak French.
A kind of intertwining of attachment to, and nostalgia for, things Sephardic and things French was thus natural for most core members of the American Friends. It was their French education that had enabled them to transition with relative ease from the traditional Ottoman, Middle Eastern and North African societies in which they were born into the contemporary Western world. Having arrived in the United States, where French speakers were few and far between--and Jewish French speakers were even more of a rarity--they often welcomed the opportunity to connect with other Jews who had a similar relationship to the French language and culture as themselves.
In his letter to Saadiah Cherniak, for example, Haroun Haddad explained that his decision to write his letter in French had been as much related to emotion as to linguistic ease: In the respite of his home on a Saturday afternoon, he wanted to forget, for a short moment, his California surroundings and to express himself in his language of preference, "the language of Rabelais and his countrymen." (74) As did Haddad, Jeannette Benveniste chose French as her language of communication in a i960 letter that she wrote to Friends President Marcel Franco to inform him that she was now a member of the Beverly Hills Alliance Frangaise. (75)
For the Benvenistes, as for Haddad, a sense of connection with French language and culture was intertwined with their identity as Sephardic Jews, as comes across very clearly in a letter that Irving Benveniste wrote to Saadiah Cherniak several days after Jeannette Benveniste had sent her own note. "Yesterday was a very significant day for Jeanette and me," he wrote. "She passed her examination and became an American citizen." Several lines later, Benveniste went on to note that his wife was "thrilled," because the very next morning she had received her membership card from the Beverley Hills Alliance Franchise. He finished the paragraph: "Vive la France and the Sephardim!" (76) Later that year, at the Los Angeles Friends' Centennial Celebration of the AIU, Jeannette Benveniste led the singing of "Happy Birthday, dear Alliance" and also "popular French songs of old Alliance days, such as "Au Clair de la Lune" and "Frere Jacques." (77) As this choice of musical program suggests, for the crowd attending the event, singing traditional French songs provided a nostalgic point of entry into their memories of childhood and young adulthood in the Mediterranean basin.
All of the former members of the New York Friends whom I interviewed recalled the active role that Henriette Beilis had played in encouraging the French-language orientation of the organization. She often spoke French at meetings, they recalled, and made an active effort to reach out to French speakers as potential new members of the organization. As had been the case for Jeannette Benveniste in Los Angeles in the 1960s, Beilis sought to create links between the American Friends and the Alliance Francaise. We read, for example, in The Alliance Review that the Friends sponsored a lecture by Andre Acimen at the Alliance Francaise in New York City that attracted 130 guests, including "a large number of younger members of the New York francophone and Sephardic communities." (78)
For most of its Sephardic core members, the Friends' association with France, French language and culture was part of what made the group attractive. Ironically, however, for the Friends' leadership, the issue of the Friends' "French identity" posed a similar problem to that of its "Sephardic identity." As we have seen, the group portrayed itself as of particular interest to Sephardim for potential Sephardic members while simultaneously taking pains to promote itself as a broadly Jewish cause for potential Ashkenazic members. The group similarly wore two hats in terms of its French connection.
If the central part of the Friends' public relations mission was to increase awareness about Jews in the Arab World, the group was also understood by the AIU Central Committee to have a role to play in deflecting negative stereotypes about France and French Jews within the American Jewish community. Arguing in favor of the creation of the Friends in 1945, Central Committee member Paul Dreyfus noted, "The Alliance is regarded as an aristocratic organization with money at its disposition. The average American Jew does not understand, among other things, that it is possible to be both French and Jewish, as the Alliance dictates." (79) As Dreyfus' comment indicates, even in the wake of the obvious financial destruction that World War II had wreaked on French Jews, the AIU feared that negative American stereotypes associating French Jews with social snobbery and radical assimilation would hinder the ability of the organization to raise money in the United States.
The sense of connection to France and the French language that was a common feature of the Sephardic cultural universe was alien to most Ashkenazic Jews in the United States, who had no particular historical or personal connection to things French. Furthermore, to the extent that American Ashkenazim thought about France in the post-World War II years, a negative image of the country's antisemitism had arguably come to the fore. In the nineteenth century, France was admired for a Republican civic culture that allowed Jews to participate fully as equal members of society. However, in the postwar years, the memory of the Dreyfus affair, the French collaboration with the Nazis during World War II, French criticism of Israel post-1967 and the country's growing Muslim population rather fostered the idea that the country was a hotbed of antisemitism. (80) France houses the world's third-largest Jewish population, and Jewish day schools, kosher restaurants and Jewish cultural institutions abound in both Paris and Marseille. However, these facts have been greatly overshadowed in the American media by a rise in acts of anti-Jewish violence that coincided with the second intifada in 2000. (81) Arguably, these specifically Jewish prejudices have been reinforced by perpetual waves of anti-French sentiment in the United States over the past sixty years. This reached an all-time high in 2003, when the U.S. Congressional cafeteria renamed French fries "freedom fries," in response to France's refusal to support the U.S. invasion of Iraq. (82)
According to Arnold Franco, Marcel Franco's American-born nephew who took over as president of the Friends when Marcel Franco died, Henriette Beilis' relative success in keeping the Friends active in the 1980s and 1990s was largely due to her dedication to developing the group's French cultural and linguistic networks. Somewhat paradoxically, however, the Friends were simultaneously trying to deflect the "French cultural club" image that the organization conveyed, reassuring potential Ashkenazic contributors that their money would not be going to France, but rather to support schools in Israel. (83) In the end, however, Franco affirmed, it was very difficult to make that case for what appeared to be a French organization to the American Jewish public. Albert Sibony, who assumed the presidency of the Friends in 1999, after Henriette Beilis stepped down, expressed a similar set of frustrations. "While we tried to get some events going and increase membership," he explained, "it was very hard to raise money for an organization that was perceived by the American Jewish public as French rather than Jewish." (84)
A Natural Death? The End of the Friends
Despite the efforts of the Friends' leadership to solicit mainstream American Jewish support and to steer away from identifying the Friends as a Sephardic and/or a French cultural organization, limited interest in the organization among Ashkenazim in fact remained a problem throughout the group's 60-odd-year history. While the Sephardic branch of the California Friends continued to function through the late 1990s, the Ashkenazic chapter did not survive Michael Laskier's decision to take an academic position in Israel. In the diverse and plentiful landscape of American Jewish charitable organizations, Laskier explained, convincing the average American Jew to take an interest in the work of the AIU schools was difficult: Their knowledge of both the AIU, and of the Sephardim in general was minimal, and, as a result, the cause of funding Jewish schools in the Arab world simply didn't speak to them. (85)
Newton Frohlich ran into a similar problem when he tried to organize a Washington, D.C. section of the Friends in the late 1960s. Frohlich, an Ashkenazic Jew who heard about the AIU schools from a colleague, was excited about the idea of getting involved in a Jewish organization "that actually did something, rather than just raise money." Fie drummed up some support for the Washington chapter and organized a few fundraising dinners, including one featuring author Herman Wouk--a personal friend of Frohlich's--as a speaker. Frohlich and his wife actually took a trip to Morocco and met the people who ran the AIU schools in Casablanca and Marrakesh, and they then continued on to Mexico City to meet Marcel Franco, who had relocated there in the late 1960s. Despite Frohlich's enthusiasm, however, the Washington chapter did not survive his departure from the D.C. area in 1972: There was simply no interest, he explained, in keeping the group alive once he had left. (86)
Regional branches of the Friends in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Chicago that do not appear to have had any particular Sephardic connection were also either stillborn or very short-lived. Attempts to organize a chapter among Sephardim in Montgomery, Alabama, were also unsuccessful. A Sephardic-majority Seattle branch of the organization was active in the 1950s, but it had faded out by the early 1960s. (87)
Indeed, while the Friends' failure to interest Ashkenazim was a constant frustration for its leadership, limited interest among Sephardim themselves was arguably the decisive factor in the decline of the organization. This was largely a natural result of the fact that the Friends' sixty years of existence coincided with the decline of the AIU school network: When the Friends was founded in 1947, the AIU was operating 116 schools, whereas by 2009, that number had shrunk to ten. (88) This decline meant that as AIU graduates aged, there were not sufficient numbers of younger people with a personal interest in the organization to take their place. Furthermore, the decline of the AIU school network had made justifying the Friends' cause more and more difficult, both to potential donors and, ultimately, to many of the organization's long-standing members as well.
Over the course of the 1970s, the Friends shifted their focus to fundraising for AIU schools in Israel. Given the plethora of other venues through which American Jews could donate money to Israel, however, the specific interest of giving to AIU schools was arguably an even more obscure cause to defend in the American context than that of Jewish schools in the Arab world. Despite the shrinking of its school network, the AIU has remained active on the cultural front, and, notably, is home to the largest Judaica library and archival collection in Europe. Tellingly, however, this raison d'etre inspired little enthusiasm for either the Friends' last president, Albert Sibony, or its long-standing board member, Sassoon Peress. For both men, the AIU was synonymous with its school network, and its near demise meant that there was little reason to keep the Friends going. (89)
For former president Arnold Franco, the slow decline of the Friends was, to a certain extent, the result of declining interest in the organization on the part of the Paris AIU. When the Friends was created in 1947, building a strong connection with the United States--which had emerged from the war as both a dominant world power and home to the world's largest Jewish population--made both financial and emotional sense. As French Jewry regained its middle-class status and its overall sense of security in France, however, having an outpost in the United States became less and less of a priority. The Paris leadership's only interest in the Friends was financial, Franco explained, so, as JDC funding dried up and the group's already minimal fundraising capacities dwindled, so, too, did French interest in the Friends. Ultimately, however, Franco concurred with Sibony and Peress that the first and foremost reason for the Friends' demise was waning interest in the organization on the American side. As the AIU went from being a "major factor to a minor factor" in the contemporary Jewish world, he explained, it is understandable that the Friends encountered increasingly difficulty in interesting American Jews--Ashkenazic or Sephardic--in the organization. (90)
The "subethnic" factors that had drawn its Sephardic core members to the Friends, as well as to other specifically Sephardic religious or cultural institutions, were also mitigated over time. Most of these individuals had immigrated to the United States in their youth and had been able to take advantage of the material and social opportunities that the country had to offer. As time went by, the pull of their Sephardic heritage increasingly competed with the many other pulls of identity--as businessmen, as New Yorkers or Angelenos, as American Jews or simply as Americans--to which they were drawn. While Albert Sibony, for example, had been a member of Congregation Shearith Israel, the Spanish-Portuguese Synagogue where his children had become bar mitzvah, he no longer attended any synagogue, he explained when I interviewed him in the summer of 2009--except, he said, when Chabad came "knocking at the door" of his summer house in the Hamptons. Simon Zareh and his wife, Shahin, are very active in the Parnas Jewish Organization, a community center for Iranian Jews in Forest Hills, Queens: they funded a library for the organization and Shahin Zareh has been teaching English there for ten years. At the same time, however, they have also been active members of Temple Sinai and Temple Judea, both Ashkenazic-majority Reform synagogues on Long Island. (91)
Furthermore, the Friends' connection to France and the French language, a marker of Sephardic difference in the early postwar years, was less of a draw over time. As its core members became more acclimated to American life, the importance of French language and culture as a point of reference naturally receded into the background, and there was no new wave of French-speaking Sephardim to replace them. While this was, in part, a natural evolution of acculturation to American life, the normalization of anti-colonial attitudes post-19 60s arguably played its role as well. For Arthur Benveniste, who was born in Los Angeles in 1933 to parents who had emigrated from Rhodes, for example, it was the Friends' function as a long-standing social network for the Turkish-Rhodes Jewish community of Los Angeles, rather than an attachment to either the French language or the Alliance as an institution, that motivated him to keep the group afloat. Benveniste, in fact, has a rather negative association with French, which he perceives as part of a colonial European veneer that encouraged Sephardic Jews of the Mediterranean basin to denigrate their own language, culture and history. For Benveniste, who is keenly interested in Sephardic history and culture, it is rather Ladino--the language that his family had been speaking for centuries in the Mediterranean basin--that he wants to preserve and perpetuate. (92)
The creation of new Sephardic cultural associations and events since the 1970s likely lessened interest in the Friends among Sephardim as well. The American Sephardi Federation, which intends to "promote and preserve the spiritual, historical, cultural and social traditions of all Sephardic communities as an integral part of Jewish heritage," through publishing ventures, conferences and cultural events, was created in 1973. Sephardic House, an institute for researching and promoting Sephardic history and culture, followed in 1978. (93) One of the most successful of the American Sephardi Federation's ventures has been the annual Sephardic Jewish Film Festival in New York, which was initiated in 1990. A Sephardic Educational Center has existed in Los Angeles since 1979, and the mass concentration of Iranian Jews in Los Angeles has also led to the creation of cultural institutions serving that community, such as the Eretz Cultural Center in the San Fernando Valley and the Iranian American Jewish Federation in West Hollywood. (94) While the Friends held a special place in the heart of the "old-timers," immigrants arriving after the 1960s as well as second- and third-generation Sephardic Jews, would have likely encountered these other institutions and cultural manifestations before the much smaller and less prominent American Friends of the Alliance.
The story of the Friends illuminates both similarities and differences between the experiences of Sephardim who arrived during the great era of immigration (1881-1915) and those who arrived in the post-World War II era. During the great era of immigration, parochialism on the part of both communities, as well as natural linguistic and cultural barriers, meant that Sephardim and Ashkenazim remained quite separate from one another. (95) Encounters between Ashkenazim and Sephardim in the post-World War II years shared many of the same features that they had in the previous generation. Prejudices against and ignorance of Sephardic history and culture was still largely pervasive among Ashkenazim, and this--along with the tendency of any group of people to seek out people from a similar background--pushed new arrivals to seek out fellow Sephardim. At the same time, however, by the postwar years, the majority of American Jews were not Yiddish-speaking immigrants, but rather second- or third-generation Americans on the path toward the middle class and upper middle class. This made the prospect of associating oneself with Ashkenazic cultural and religious institutions more natural and more appealing for Sephardim than it would have been a generation before, as this association was part and parcel of their process of acculturation to American society.
In contrast to the great era of immigration, when marriage between first-generation immigrant Sephardim and Ashkenazim was a rarity, by the early 1970s, Sephardic-Ashkenazic intramarriage had become the rule rather than the exception. (96) Furthermore, the kinds of dramatic linguistic and cultural barriers, as well as the extreme prejudices on both sides that had shaped Ashkenazim-Sephardim encounters during the great era of immigration, began to fall away in the post-World War II years. The nature of Sephardic identification, as well as perceptions of and interactions with Ashkenazim that we find among the core members of the Friends, clearly reflects this shift. These individuals, for the most part, participated with ease in both mainstream American and American Jewish society.
At the same time, however, both the difficulties that the Friends faced in soliciting Ashkenazic support for the organization, and, even more importantly, the feeling of the organization's leadership that it was caught between a rock and a hard place in terms of whether or not to emphasize the Sephardic nature of the organization, illustrates certain continuities with the pre-World War II years. "Generally speaking," Aviva Ben-Ur notes, "the problem [for Sephardic Jews] today concerns not genuine ignorance of the existence of non-Ashkenazi Jews but rather what I term corporate exclusion: the failure to consider them a legitimate part of American Jewish history and community." (97)
More often than not, organizations or causes focused specifically on Sephardic Jews are perceived as not generally Jewish in the same way as their Ashkenazic counterparts. Among the examples that Ben-Ur gives to illustrate this phenomenon is the observation of the founder of an online Ladino chat room who remarked, "I always notice that when there is a concert of songs in Yiddish and Hebrew, they call it 'Jewish music,' but when it is Ladino it is 'Sephardic music.'" (98) This remark harks back to Marcel Franco's frustration with Sam Lasry's Ashkenazic friend who implied that aiding Sephardic children in the Arab world was somehow not a universally Jewish cause in the same way as were philanthropic projects targeting Ashkenazic Jews. The Friends' ambivalence about its "Frenchness" can be seen in a similar light. The group's link with France, especially in its early years, was a plus for recruiting and maintaining Sephardic members of the organization, for whom a sense of connection with French language and culture was often experienced as being integral to their Jewish identity. The general Ashkenazic Jewish American public, by contrast, had little if any knowledge of the influence of France and the AIU school system in the Sephardic world and, especially in recent years, has often harbored anti-French prejudices. As a result, for these individuals, the Friends' link with France compromised the group's Jewish legitimacy.
If the Friends' mitigated success and ultimate demise stem in part from the difficulty that the organization had in penetrating into an Ashkenazic Jewish American social and cultural landscape, it was more importantly a function of the waning interest of its core Sephardic membership in the organization. The Friends had served an important function of Sephardic conviviality and community building, as well as offering the AIU's grateful American alumni an opportunity to raise money for the organization. By the turn of the twenty-first century, however, the shrinking of the Alliance's school network, the existence of a larger range of Sephardic cultural and social institutions, and the successful integration of the Friends' core members into the American and American Jewish mainstreams, meant that there was little reason to keep the Friends alive.
* The author would like to thank Greg Shaya, Aviva Ben-Ur and Lisa Moses Leff for reading and commenting on previous versions of this article
(1.) The usage of the term Sephardi--which means "Spanish" in Hebrew--is somewhat controversial, as many Jews from the Middle East and North Africa come from families who never set foot in Spain, but rather lived continuously in the region since biblical times. These individuals are often referred to as Mizrahim (Eastern Jews). Because the use of the term Sephardic to include both people who can trace their origins to Spain and those indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa has common usage by both lay people and historians, however, I am using the term in this inclusive sense in this article. The majority of Sephardic immigration to Canada in the postwar years was from Morocco to Quebec. On this community, see "Migrations juives marocaines au Canada ou comment devient-on Sepharade?", in Pierre Anctil et Ira Robinson, eds. Les communautes juives de Montreal, histoire et enjeux contemporains (Quebec: Editions du Septentrion 2010).
(2.) Estimates of the Sephardic population of the United States were in the area of 50,000 in the mid-i920s, versus 250,000 in 2004, which represents approximately 2 percent to 3 percent of the American Jewish population. See the appendix, "Population Statistics of Non-Ashkenazic Jews in the United States of America," in Aviva Ben-Ur, Sephardic Jews in America: A Diasporic History (New York: New York University Press, 2009), pp. 193-196.
(3.) Ruben G. Rumbaut provides very helpful synthetic discussions of the diversity of the mostly non-European populations that began to flow into the United States after 1965 in "Origins and Destinies: Immigration to the United States Since World War II" in Sociological Forum, vol. 9, no. 4, (Dec., 1994), pp. 583-621. The collection of articles in Ethnicities: Children of Immigrants in America, ed. Ruben G. Rumbaut and Alejandro Portes, University of California Press, 2001, focuses on the "segmented integration" of the children of these immigrants into American society. The essays point out, for example, that while poor, undocumented Mexicans are integrating into inner-city American ghetto culture, educated South Asians are integrating into upper- middle-class American suburban culture.
(4.) See Moshe Rosman, ed. How Jewish Is Jewish Historys' (Oxford: Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2007); David Biale, ed. Cultures of the Jews: A New History (New York: Schocken Books), 2002.
(5.) See Ben-Ur, above citation, and Jonathan Ray, "New Approaches to the Jewish Diaspora: The Sephardim as a Sub-Ethnic group" in Jewish Social Studies, vol. 15, no. 1, Fall 2008. Ray's article appeared as part of a special issue entitled "Sephardi Identities," based on a 2007 workshop held at Stanford University in 2007.
(6.) Western Sephardim were, of course, the first Jews to settle in the New World, and they comprised the majority of the Jewish population in the Colonial period. By the early 1800s, however, they had already become numerically dwarfed by immigrants from Central Europe.
(7.) The Friends still exists in name, but its only real function is to distribute the AIU's teacher-pension fund, which the group has been doing since 1967. The organization is now administered by the Jewish Funders Network (JFN), which manages and distributes funds for independent philanthropists and small foundations such as the Friends.
(8.) Ben-Ur, above citation, p. 56.
(9.) On the AIU in the United States in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, see Jessica Yager, "Les Pionniers de l'Alliance en Amerique du Nord" in Les Cahiers de VAlliance Israelite Universelle, no. 18 (mai 1998), pp. Z4-28.
(10.) Archives de 1'Alliance Israelite Universelle (AAIU) Proc'es verbale de la reunion la comite centrale (PVCC) (August 28, 1944). North Africa and Great Britain were also mentioned as potential sources of funding at this meeting. Tapping into American funding was more complicated for the AIU than it was for other Jewish charitable organizations in France that benefited from grants from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in the aftermath of the war. The AIU's status as an "international" rather than a specifically French organization made it ineligible for direct funding from the Joint's French program. See Laura Hobson Faure, "Les Juifs americains et l'AIU israelite universelle apres la Shoah" in Andre Kaspi and Valerie Assan, eds. Histoire de l'Alliance Israelite Universelle; De i860 d nos jours (Paris: Armand Collin, 2010). On the American Jewish presence in France in the aftermath of World War II, see Laura Hobson Faure, Un Plan Marshall juif: La presence juive americaine en France apres la Shoah, 1944-1954 (Paris: Armand Collin, 2013)
(11.) AAIU, PVCC (September z, 1945)
(12.) AAIU, PVCC (June 12, 1946 and March 2, 1947) and author's interview with Arnold Franco, July Z009. On these negotiations, see also Catherine Nicault, "L'Alliance au lendemain de la Seconde Guerre Mondiale; ruptures et continuites ideologiques" in Archives Juives (2001/1, no. 34), pp. 36-37.
(13.) Both Jean-Jacques Wahl, director general of the AIU from 1997 to Z007 and Braunschvig's biographer, Alain Michel, emphasize Braunschvig's life-long devotion to the Alliance as well as his dual "Ashkenazic-Sephardic" identity. Braunschvig's grandfather and father were Alsatian Jews who had founded a commercial enterprise in Tangiers in the late 1880s. As a result, Jules Braunschvig, who was born in 1908, grew up, in large part, in Morocco, and he felt as comfortable there--if not more so--than in his native Alsace. When his father died in 1932, Braunschvig, who was only 24 years old at the time, was asked to take his place on the AIU's Central Committee. He became vice president of the AIU in 1946, and president in 1976. Author's interview with Jean-Jacques Wahl, November, 2012, and Alain Michel, Jules Braunschvig, Juif humaniste: l'homme et l'Alliance (Paris: Alliance Israelite Universelle, 2006). See also Michel's summary of Braunschvig's family history and involvement in Kaspi and Assan, above citation, pp. 353-354.
(14.) "Jules Braunschvig-Gladys Toledano Married in New York," The Alliance Review, no. 12. vol. 1, (July 1947), p. 8. In this article, Gladys Toledano is identified as a descendant of David Toledano, the chief rabbi of the Kingdom of Castille in the fifteenth century.
(15.) Ibid. For a brief biography of Toledano, see also "Haim Toledano 80 Yrs. Old," The Alliance Review, vol. 13, no. 33, (November 1958), p. 37.
(16.) Simon S. Nessim, a native of Salonica, immigrated to New York as a young man. David de Sola Pool, who was born in London in r885, immigrated to the United States in 1907 to become the rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel, a position he held until his death in 1970.
(17.) Andre Meyer was a partner in Lazare Freres Gestion who had served on the board of directors of Citroen before World War II. After the war, he was appointed head of American operations for Lazare Freres, and he was responsible for making the company one of the top mergers-and-acquisitions firm in the United States. See Cary Reich, Financier: The Biography of Andre Meyer: A Story of Money, Power, and the Reshaping of American Business. (New York: William & Morrow 1983).
(18.) A AIU, PVCC (July 10, 1947)
(19.) Cherniak had served as director of the Jewish Colonization Association (JCA) in Turkey from 19Z7 to 1935, and then in Paris from 1935 to 1941. He arrived in New York in 1941, where he continued, along with Louis Oungre, a member of the AIU's Central Committee and general manager of the JCA, directing JCA activities outside of Nazi-occupied Europe and North Africa. It was in 1946, he noted, that the JCA officially agreed to "loan him" to the newly formed American Friends of the AIU. This bibliographical information on Cherniak comes from a letter he wrote in 1969 in response to a request from an acquaintance from Istanbul who was writing his own memoirs. See AAIU, American Friends of the AIU (AF) Box 31, file 92, correspondence between Eran Laor and Saadiah Cherniak, February 14, 1969 and February 26, 1969.
(20.) AAIU (AF, Box 54, dossier 196) Certificate of Incorporation of the American Friends of the Alliance Israelite Universelle, February 14, 1947.
(21.) See Hobson Faure and Nicault, above citation.
(22.) By the mid-1980s, Morocco was the only Arab country that still had AIU schools. In 2010, the AIU school network included four schools in France, ten in Israel, four in Morocco and one in Switzerland (Geneva), as well as 27 "affiliated institutions" in Belgium, Canada, Spain and Israel. The later are autonomous institutions that receive pedagogical aid and, in most cases, some financial support from the AIU for their curricula in French language and/or Hebrew and Jewish studies. See Annexe 10, "Le reseau scolaire en 2010" in Kaspi and Assan, above citation.
(23.) Interview with Wahl, above citation.
(24.) Author's interview with Albert Sibony, July 2009.
(25.) It was at this point that Benveniste was asked to stop collecting funds in the name of the Friends. In 2011, he decided to send out, at his own expense, fundraising letters to the 100 or so individuals--almost all of them Sephardic--that he had on the group's membership list. The funds collected were sent directly to the Paris chapter of the Alliance. Author's interview with Arthur Benveniste, January, 2013.
(26.) According to his nephew Arnold Franco, Marcel left Turkey to avoid the Varlik Vergisi ("Wealth Tax"). This was a new tax that the Turkish government imposed on its wealthier citizens after 1942, and it disproportionally affected Jews and Armenians. Interview with Franco, above citation. In addition to his leadership role in the Friends, Franco served on the Friends' Central Committee until his death in 1981.
(27.) Ligier was born in 1879 in Vidin, Bulgaria, when it was still a part of the Ottoman Empire. He immigrated briefly to Paris and then to London before arriving in Chicago in 1901 and finally to Los Angeles in 1942. For biographical information on Ligier, see "Leon Ligier Named Man of the Year," The Sephardic Messenger (vol. 5). SeptemberOctober, 1962, pp. 14.
(28.) AAIU (AF, Box 2, dossier 3) Ligier began building a membership list and soliciting funds for a California Chapter of the Friends in the mid-1950s, and he had a list of 125 individuals who pledged membership dues for the organization in 1956 and 1957. As a 1958 letter from Leon Ligier to Saadiah Cherniak indicates, however, factionalism among the Sephardim in Los Angeles made the organization of a Los Angeles chapter of the Friends difficult. In the letter, Ligier talked about his own advocacy for unifying the congregations. See Ligier to Cherniak, February 24, 1958. On this early Sephardic community in Los Angeles, see Stephen Stern, The Sephardic Jewish Community of Los Angeles: A Study in Folklore and Ethnic Identity (New York: Arno Press, 1980) and Aron Hasson, "The Sephardic Jews of Rhodes in Los Angeles" in the Western States Jewish Historical Quarterly, vol. 6, no. 4 (1974), pp. 24-254.
(29.) All of the former members of the California branch of the Friends with whom I spoke attested to the primary role that Benveniste had played in the organization, both organizational and financial.
(30.) AAIU (AF Box 1, dossier 1) Haddad to Cherniak, November 28, 1964.
(31.) Author's interviews with Sassoon Peress and Simon Zareh, July 2009.
(32.) See Legifrance.gouv.fr, decret du 13 juillet 2004 http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/ affichTexte.do?ddTexte=JORFTEXT000000441435&dateTexte=&categorieLien=id and "The Israeli Knesset Honors Alliance--Kol Israel Haverira (http://listmanager.co.il/fb/fb/ userFiles/i976/yedion_3/kneset/knesset.htmlIn). In the first text, Mme. Perez (Henriette), epouse Beilis, is named to the Legion of Honor in recognition of her 30 years of activity as "presidente dissociation, mecene (Etats-Unis)." An error on the AIU's Israeli website testifies to Beilis' importance to the Friends; Beilis is identified not only as having been honored by the Knesset for "all of her efforts to help raise funds for [the Alliance's] educational work," but also for having "founded" the Friends. The organization, as we have already noted, was of course founded by the AIU itself in 1947.
(33.) AAIU (AF, Box 55, dossier 212-1)
(34.) AAIU (AF, Box 6, dossier 13) Cherniak to Weil, May 15, 1950 and Weil to Cherniak. This meeting ultimately took place in November of 1951 in Paris.
(36.) "There was always this ambiguity," Wahl explained. "We tried one, we tried the other." Interview with Wahl, above citation.
(37.) AAIU (AF, Box 2, dossier 4) Lasry to Franco, October 20, 1952.
(38.) Franco to Lasry, December 2, 1957 (Box 2, dossier 4). Franco made a very similar point in an editorial in The Alliance Review in 1948, in which he warned against the dangers of painting the needs of Sephardic Jews as a specifically "Sephardic" problem rather than a broadly "Jewish" one. See Franco's editorial entitled "Sephardism," October 1948, p. 2
(39.) AAIU (AF, Box 3, dossier 8) Cherniak to Peha, March 21, 1962.
(40.) The Alliance Review, vol. 10, no. 29, (February 1955), pp. 3-4.
(41.) AAIU (AF, Box 3, dossier 8) Peha to Cherniak, February 15, 1963. This congregation was founded in 193 5 as "Ohel Avraham," but later changed its name to the Sephardic Hebrew Center, in part to advertise the fact that it was a Sephardic synagogue. See Stern, above citation, pp. 80-81.
(42.) AAIU (AF Box 3, dossier 8). Other speakers included Rabbi Jacob Ott of Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel who spoke on "The Alliance: Its Impact on French Culture and Jewish Survival," while Friends member Mrs. Louis Small, who, like her husband, was an active member of the Friends, reported on her recent trip to Israel. See correspondence relating to organizing the event and press clippings announcing it in the Friends Archive. One of the clippings is identified as coming from the B'nai B'rith Messenger, while the others are unidentified. See the report on the event in The Alliance Review, (Winter 1964) vol. 18, no. 38, p. 35
(43.) AAIU (AF Box 2, dossier 3) Rabbi Maxwell H. Dubin to Saadiah Cherniak, March 2, i960.
(44.) AAIU (AF Box 3, dossier 9) Cherniak to Lasry, May 25, 1962. In the letter, Cherniak noted that only the Los Angeles and (short-lived) Seattle branch of the Friends were predominantly Sephardic.
(45.) AAIU (AF Box 2, dossier 3) Ligier to Cherniak, March, 1959.
(46.) "An Appeal by the Alliance Israelite Universelle," Sephardic Messenger, vol. 4 (September-October 1962). A letter drafted by Saadiah Cherniak aimed specifically at recruiting Sephardic community leaders as members of the Friends used a similar guilt-inducing strategy, expressing "surprise" at not noting the name of the individual in question on the list of members, and remarking, "As a Sephardic leader, you certainly know that 600,000 Sephardic children were saved from ignorance, misery, and degradation by the AIU during the first 100 years of its work." AAIU (AF, Box 5, dossier 12), April 1963.
(47.) This kind of political maneuvering in terms of the image one presents to the public in order to solicit funds is of course not particular to the Friends. As Marc Lee Raphael notes in an essay regarding fundraising techniques within the federated Jewish philanthropy system, "Although they hate the thought and deny the allegation ... [the leaders of the Federation] are politicians." As such, their primary role was to develop myths, slogans and ideologies in order to manipulate potential donors into giving to the cause at hand. See Marc Lee Raphael, "Getting in and Getting On: Reward Systems in Federated Jewish Philanthropy" in Understanding American Jewish Philanthropy, ed. Marc Lee Raphael (Ktav Publishing House, 1979), p. 28-29.
(48.) Laskier's dissertation was published as The Alliance Israelite Universelle and the Jewish Communities of Morocco, 1862-1962 (Albany: State of New York Press, 1983). His tenure at the Friends was very brief, as he accepted a position in the history department at the University of Tel Aviv in 1980. He is now a professor of history at Bar-Ilan University.
(49.) AAIU (AF Box 4, dossier 10a) Michael Laskier, "Report to M. Saadiah Cherniak Executive Director of the American Friends of the AIU about my Meetings in Los Angeles Concerning the Revival of the AFAIU Chapter." See also the articles in The Alliance Review on the two branches (Fall, 1980), pp. 32-23.
(50.) Author's interview with Michael Laskier, January, 2012.
(51.) This very different perspective on what was, in fact, the Friends' primary purpose-socializing among Sephardim or fundraising for the Alliance--is likely the explanation for a discrepancy that I found between Jack Serror's recollection and the archival evidence. No record of any activity of the California Friends exists in the Friends' archive between the mid-1960s and 1980, which corresponds with Michael Laskier's recollection of having been sent to Los Angeles to revive a moribund chapter of the Friends. According to Serror, by contrast, the California Friends held monthly meetings at Benveniste's home from the early 1960s right through to Benveniste's death in 1993. L's likely that during these years, the group did little if any fundraising for the Alliance, but nonetheless continued to meet in a social capacity. In his 1972 book, The Other Jews: The Sephardim Today (New York: Basic Books, 1972), Daniel J. Elazar does count the California Friends of the Alliance Israelite Universelle in his discussion of Sephardic associational life in North American, noting that the group raises funds "for educational activities among Sephardim in Israel and in Muslim countries," p. 176.
(52.) The journal reported a circulation of 23,000 in the United States and Canada in 1952, with "several thousand more" issues in a Spanish-language edition for Central and South America. The paper initially came out monthly, printing twelve issues in 1947, but it had tapered off to one volume a year by 1948. The last issue of The Alliance Review was vol. 58, no. 59, which was published in 1998.
(53.) A lengthy debate between Marcel Franco and Simon Nessim as to the role that politics should play in the [emerging World Federation of Sephardic Communities, for example, appeared in The Alliance Review in 1949. See Franco's editorial "Sephardism," above citation, note 38 and Simon Nessim's response, "Chairman of the World Sephardic Federation Takes Exception to Review Editorial," March-April 1949, vol. 4, no. 16-17, P- z
(54.) See The Alliance Review, vol. 2, no. 26 (1952), pp. 3-4 and vol. 22, no. 22 (1968), p. 8.
(55.) See, for example, The Alliance Review "The New Face of French Jewry" vol. 18, no. 38 (1964).
(56.) Rabbi Emanuel Rackman, "An Ashkenazi's Plea to Sephardim," The Alliance Review, vol. 10, no. Z9 (1955), pp. 18-19.
(57.) See "Will the Sephardim be the Bridge Builders?" The Alliance Review, vol. 15, no. 35 (1961). For a brief biography of Alcalay, see his 1979 obituary in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency archive, http://www.jta.0rg/1979/01/02/archive/isaac-alcalay-dead-at-97
(58.) Ben-Ur coined this term. For many of these culturally isolated, impoverished and uneducated East European Jewish immigrants, she documents, it was simply not plausible that the Eastern Sephardim--who did not speak Yiddish and who "had never seen a matsah ball"--were, in fact, Jews. Ben-Ur, above citation, p. 108.
(59.) Haddad to Cherniak, above citation. Translated from French by the author. We find very similar evidence of Ashkenazic ignorance and prejudice vis-a-vis Jews from the Arab world in Loolwa Khazzoom, ed., The Flying Camel: Essays on Identity by Women of North African and Middle Eastern Jewish Heritage (Seal Press, 2003). For example, Rachel Wahba, a psychotherapist and Mizrahic advocate of Iraqi origins, recalls that when she arrived in Los Angeles in the mid-1960s to attend university, "Most of the people I met had never even [heard] of North African Middle Eastern Jews ... [In] some of the more disturbing incidents, I found myself perceived as primitive and dangerous." Rachel Wahba, "Benign Ignorance or Persistent Resistance?" pp. 52-53.
(60.) This marked an important distinction between The Alliance Review articles and National Geographic-style reporting, which tended to idealize traditional cultures and which did not, for the most part, focus on their material deprivation. See Catherine A. Lutz and Jane L. Collins, Reading National Geographic (University of Chicago Press, i993)> PP- 89-90.
(61.) The Alliance Review, vol. 1 no. 1 (November, 1947) p. 5.
(62.) Abraham J. Karp, To Give Life: The UJA in the Shaping of the American Jewish Community, Schocken Books, New York, 1981), p. m,
(63.) "A New Danger," The Alliance Review, vol. v, April 1950, no. 20, pp. 2-3.
(64.) "American Visitors Sometimes Judge Hastily" (This is a letter from Morocco.), The Alliance Review, vol. 6, no. 24 (1951) pp. 5-6.
(65.) An extensive bibliography on the AIU exists in French. The most important English language sources on the AIU school network are two books by Aron Rodrigue, French Jews, Turkish Jews: The Alliance Israelite Universelle and the Politics of Jewish Schooling in Turkey, 1860-192.5 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990) and Jews and Muslims: Images of Sephardi and Eastern Jewries in Transition, (University of Washington Press, 2003).
(66.) Joseph Caro (Toledo, 1488 to Safed, 1575) was the final compiler of the Jewish legal code, the Shulchan Aruch.
(67.) The Alliance Review vol. 5, no. 20 (1950), p. 3.
(68.) "A New Danger," The Alliance Review vol. 5, no. 20 (1950), pp. 2-3.
(69.) Judith Roumani, "The Portable Homeland of North African Jewish Fiction: Ryvel and Koskas," Prooftexts, vol. 4 (September 1984), p. 256. For a short biography of Levy, see Josiane-Elise Tubiana, "Raphael Levy, dit Ryvel, enseignant de l'Alliance israelite universelle et ecrivain," Archives Juives 45/1 (2012), p. 149-143.
(70.) The Alliance Review, volume 4, no. 18-19 (1949).
(71.) Albert Memmi, The Pillar of Salt (Random House: 1995); originally published in French as La Statue de Sel (1953).
(72.) I did not find any evidence of this kind of criticism in either The Alliance Review or the Friends archives, and the Alliance graduates whom I interviewed did not have anything negative to say about the AIU in this regard.
(73.) Sarah Sussman, "Jews from Algeria and French Jewish Identity" in Transnational Spaces and Identities in the Francophone World, ed. Hafid Gafaiti et al. (University of Nebraska Press, 2.009), PP- 217-243 P- 234.
(74.) Haddad to Cherniak, above citation.
(75.) AAIU (AF Box 2, dossier 4) Jeannette Benveniste to Saadiah Cherniak, January 26, i960. Jeannette Benveniste, like Franco, had emigrated as an adult from Turkey to the United States.
(76.) AAIU (AF Box 2, dossier 4) Irving Benveniste to Saadiah Cherniak, January 29, i960. Jeannette Benveniste's interest in joining the Beverly Hills Alliance Franpaise was surely strengthened by the fact that its president, Joseph Sigal, the Consul of Portugal, was himself a Jew of Sephardic origins who had already had contact with the nascent California chapter of the Friends in 1959. Ness Peha had sent a letter to Sigal in 1959, asking him for a list of anyone he knew who might be interested in French culture. AAIU (AF, Box 2, dossier 3).
(77.) AAIU (AF Box 3, dossier 9). See the California Friends' report on the evening, entitled "The Centennial Celebration of the Alliance.... A Huge Success." In this report, it is noted that Sigal's mother is "a Sephardi from Algiers."
(78.) The Alliance Review, vol. 46, no. 58 (1997), p. 26.
(79.) AAIU, PVCC 12 Septembre, 1945. Author's translation.
(80.) While the Dreyfus affair, of course, took place well before World War II, it is in the postwar years that the affair has been routinely cited as a precursor to Vichy and French collaboration, and thus evidence of the allegedly deep-rooted nature of French antisemitism. Prior to the war, the positive resolution of the affair in favor of Dreyfus rather appeared as evidence of the strength of the Republican tradition and security of the Jews' place in French society. There is no evidence, for example, that the Dreyfus affair slowed Jewish immigration to France from Eastern Europe. See Nancy Green, The Pletzl of Paris: Jewish Immigrant Workers in the Belle Epoque (New York: Holmes and Meier, 1986), pp. 27-29.
(81.) This observation is based on my own failed attempts to find articles in the American press on Jewish life in contemporary France. While the search engines LexisNexis and Factiva yield numerous articles focusing on French antisemitism, discussion of topics such as the rivalry between ultra-Orthodox and modern Orthodox factions for control of the Consistory, a wave of French Jewish theme films that began with the 1997 release of the box-office-hit comedy La Verite si je mens! and the burgeoning of kosher restaurants and Jewish day schools in Paris over the past twenty years, are simply not to be found in the English-language press. On the American-Jewish obsession with French antisemitism, see Myriam Miedzian, "Anti-Semitism: A Tale of Two Countries," Jewish Currents (January-February, 2008).
(82.) Exemplary of this latest anti-French craze among right-wing pundits and academics is Our Oldest Enemy: A History of America's Disastrous Relationship With France (New York: Doubleday, 2004), by John J. Miller, a conservative columnist, and Mark Molesky, a Harvard PhD and an associate professor of history at Seton Hall University (New Jersey).
(83.) Interview with Franco, above citation.
(84.) Interview with Sibony, above citation.
(85.) Interview with Laskier, above citation.
(86.) Author's interview with Newton Frohlich, February 1, 2012. The founding of the Washington, D.C. chapter and the fundraiser with Herman Wouk were featured in the The Alliance Review, vol. 23, no. 45 (1971), p. 32.
(87.) The minutes of the Alliance's Central Committee testify to the creation of branches of the Friends in both Philadelphia and Baltimore in 1947, but there is no subsequent mention of these branches. Evidence of other ephemeral regional branches can be found in the Friends Archives. (Box 3. dossiers 8 and 9). The Seattle branch counted more than 200 members, the vast majority of them with Sephardic surnames, in 1959 (Box 2, dossier 4b). The last reference I found to the Seattle Friends is an article in The Alliance Review vol. 18, no. 3 (1963) rather ironically entitled, "Seattle Steps Up Alliance Activity."
(88.) The AIU school network reached its peak in 1914, at which point it counted 184 schools in fifteen countries. The network began to shrink thereafter. Fifty-nine schools closed during the interwar years, and the decline continued progressively after World War II, in conjunction with decolonization and the decline of French influence more generally, and, most importantly, the exodus of Jews from the Arab world following the creation of the State of Israel. See note 22 above.
(89.) Interviews with Sibony and Peress, above citation.
(90.) Interview with Franco, above citation. Some disagreement exists as to the primary reason for the Friends' demise. Sassoon Peress, Albert Sibony and Arnold Franco felt that the Friends had died a "natural death" as its core members, for good reason, lost interest in the organization. Both Simon Zareh and Jean-Jacques Wahl, by contrast, blamed the demise of the group primarily on the laziness and incompetence of its last executive director, Warren Green, combined with the unfortunate decision of Henrietta Beilis to hand the presidency of the organization over to Sibony, who, as he himself admitted, had no interest in keeping the group going. From Wahl's perspective, even if the Friends' profit margin had remained minimal, it could have continued to represent its constituency and raise funds--albeit on a very small scale--for the AIU in the United States.
(91.) Interviews with Sibony and Zareh, above citation.
(92.) Interview with Benveniste, above citation. Benveniste's active interest in Sephardic history is evidenced in his Web page, "http://home.earthlink.net/~benven/" Benveniste's negative associations with French can perhaps also be understood as symptomatic of a more generalized prejudice against "things French" that has characterized American Jewish attitudes, albeit with ebbs and flows, since World War II. See p. 341 above.
(93.) These two institutions merged in 2002.
(94.) The publication of memoirs by American Jews whose families left the Arab and Ottoman worlds in the post-World War II era, and the fact that the study of Sephardic and Mizrahic Jews has now become a recognized subspeciality of American Jewish history, have also increased Sephardic visibility in the United States in recent years.
(95.) See Ben-Ur, above citation. While Ben-Ur's study shows many examples of Ashkenazic-Sephardic cooperation and mutual appreciation, it highlights the divisions between the two groups during this era, driven largely by the Ashkenazic majority's ignorance of prejudice toward the Sephardim, but also the Sephardic minority's desire to retain their cultural distinctiveness.
(96.) Ben-Ur, p. 143. A study done in the early 1970s found that 72 percent of second-generation Sephardic men had married non-Sephardic women, a figure that jumped to 90 percent by the third and fourth generations. Cited in Ben-Ur, p. 269.
(97.) Ibid. p. 189
(98.) Quoted in Ben-Ur, p. 189. We find similar kinds of observations about Sephardic marginality in the contemporary United States in Khazzoom, ed. The Flying Camel, above citation.
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|Date:||Oct 1, 2014|
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