Good evening, everyone,
My name is Samuel BENHAMOU; I am a lawyer and I am also the President of the Union Libérale Israélite de France Section de Marseille.
Our Synagogue has been open since 1981 following the attacks on the Copernic Street Synagogue.
5 of us decided, notwithstanding this tragic event even though a Synagogue had just been the victim of a particularly bloody attack, to create a liberal section in Marseille.
The Marseilles Community has a population of 70,000 Jews.
Our Synagogue has about 200 families.
When ARGAMAN asked me a few weeks ago to find out if it was possible to organize with all the Liberal participants the i-vision 2019 conference that is being held in our City, I immediately said yes.
And it is an honour for me to welcome you to our modest Synagogue.
I would also like to thank all the members of the Board of Directors of our Synagogue who made it possible for this event to be held at our home on Rue Martiny.
I am thinking of Laurent DAMBERT and many others: Ella his wife, Francine and Serge COHEN, Stéphane BEDER, Renée and Michel COHEN.
First of all, our Synagogue will soon celebrate its 40th anniversary and is part of a context of conflict with the Jewish Consistory of France, and in particular its representation in Marseille.
We have two Rabbis: Haïm CIPRIANI and Michel LIEBERMANN who in turn organize the services for Shabbat and for all the holidays of our calendar.
Our Association aims to transmit the values of our modern Judaism, but faithful to its traditions.
This start-up involves us.
It is this Judaism called liberal or reformist
it is not a lax Judaism,
it’s not a light Judaism, or
it is not a cheap Judaism a “low cost” Judaism.
Our Judaism is an egalitarian, modern, open Judaism, it is the Judaism of Hillel.
Two thousand years ago, Hillel and Chamaï represented the two approaches to Judaism.
Hillel, who had come from Babylon, Israel, at the age of 40, was very poor.
The Talmud reports interesting anecdotes about his poverty and his love of studying the Torah.
For example, he was so poor that he could not even pay the few cents he had to pay to enter the Beth haMidrach, the study house.
So, to be able to participate in the study, he would sit on the roof and listen through a skylight.
One day, it was so cold that he fainted.
The students in the room suddenly realized that something was preventing the light from passing through. At the height of his career, he became the Nassi (prince – leader) of the Sanhedrin.
Shamaai seems to have been born in Erets Israel, and to have practiced masonry.
Its design in the Torah was undoubtedly based on rigour and high standards,
Hillel is considered a gentle and welcoming person, always aiming to solve problems with ease,
While Shama is mistaken for a tough and demanding man, advocating rough and uncompromising conduct.
This perception is probably due to one of the many anecdotes given about them (Shabbat 31a):
It tells of the arrival before these two wise men of three candidates for conversion, with surprising demands each time.
– The first accepts to convert only without assuming the oral Torah,
– The second is only ready to do so if he is taught Torah when he stands on one foot,
– and the third one asks nothing more or less than to be Kohen Gadol.
Chamai rejects them, while Hillel accepts them, not without, nevertheless, undertaking to reason with them.
The three converts meet together occasionally and bless Hillel with his attitude.
Hillel’s flexibility of character is therefore proven, and praised – don’t our Wise Men say (id. 30b) that we should always aspire to be humble like Hillel and not hard like Chamai?
However, it must be acknowledged that it is Hillel’s conduct that is the most surprising!
No Orthodox Beth Din in the world would have the right, nowadays, to accept such candidates for conversion…
So how did Hillel get into such a game, and take such a risk?
Rachi (ad loc.) answers this question in one word:
“Hillel was certain that after their conversion, they would make their future rest on him. »
However, in substance, even if one can indeed detect a tendency towards openness in one person, and the opposite in the other, those who claim to be Shamai should meditate on the exhortation of Shamai who declares, in the Mishnah of the Pirqé Avoth/Maximes of our Fathers (1:15), “Receive every person with kindness”…
In any case, it is undoubtedly the welcome Hillel has shown himself to be among the “Wise Men” on the pediment of the Bibliothèque Ste-Geneviève, place du Panthéon in Paris.
Hillel succeeded, by his remarkable conduct, in bringing the people closer to the Torah, at a time of great difficulty, after Herod, and under Roman rule, when the various sects were tearing each other apart to attract spirits
This controversy is still ongoing, it is the one that the Central Consistory and our liberal communities still maintain and continue to maintain.
We want to speak a modern Jewish word together
The liberal movement also provides more flexible responses than Orthodox Judaism to the challenges posed by mixed marriages and by the transmission of Judaism to children whose father is the only Jew.
We must be ready to welcome all children of mixed couples,
Whatever the family structure, we must tell them “you are welcome”.
Together, we will act to build this Judaism of Hillel, we will work tirelessly to bring together and mobilize Jews from all over the world.
Our Community does not consider children from mixed marriages as aliens.
Our Community simply considers that these children must be regularised because they are the strength of our Community for the future.
Children are our main hope and it is to them that we must turn in order to prepare the future of our Communities.
We do not want a Judaism that is closed to the world.
What we want is a world that opens up to Judaism.
The contribution that each of us makes to religion cannot be excluded.
Today’s lesson is that our Communities do not have to worry when non-Jewish people come knocking on the door of our Synagogue to become Jews.
It will be time to worry when no one knocks on the door anymore.
Président ULIF Marseille