The Moroccan-born Israeli historian Michel Abitbol is a possibly surprising source for savvy perspectives on the strained relations between Jews and France. Up until now he has produced cogent, concise works about North Africa such as “The Jews of North Africa during the Second World War” from Wayne State University Press as well as others so far untranslated into English. Now an emeritus Humanities professor at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, Abitbol has just produced a revised edition of his 1989 study, “Two Promised Lands: France’s Jews and Zionism,” from Les éditions Perrin.
Some heroes of Jewish history are better known for their deeds than for their personalities, like Sylvain Lévi, president of the Alliance israélite universelle until his death in 1935. A great expert on Eastern religion, literature and history, who co-authored a dictionary of Buddhism and taught Sanskrit at the Sorbonne, Lévi has been little remembered as a man.