The Schmooze

Gil Ben Aych Breathes Life into France’s Sephardi Experience

On February 24, L’École des loisirs publishing group reprinted two minor classics of French Jewish writing for young readers: “The Hand-Towel for Your Feet” (L’Essuie-mains des pieds) and “Granny’s Trip” (Le voyage de Mémé).

Originally published in 1981 and 1982, respectively, by French author, philosophy teacher, and wine merchant Gil Ben Aych, both books charmingly address the linguistic, and other, confusions of Algerian-born Jewish immigrants to France in the 1950s. The author was born Simon-Paul Gilbert de Ben Aych in 1948 at Tlemcen, a town in Northwestern Algeria nicknamed “Little Jerusalem” for its once-vibrant Jewish community.

Moving to France in 1956, in anticipation of Algeria’s 1962 independence from France, after which most Algerian Jews departed their homeland, Ben Aych’s family in this tender autobiographical tale chide each other for linguistic mistakes, such as asking for the title “hand-towel for your feet.”

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Gil Ben Aych Breathes Life into France’s Sephardi Experience

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