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#1 07-09-2011 13:39:58


Memmi Albert - Portrait of a Jew

Memmi Albert

Portrait of a Jew

Translated from the French by Elisabeth Abbott


Memmi Albert - Portrait of a Jew.pdf (14.24 MB) … t-of-a-Jew

"Could I be descended from a Berber tribe
when the Berbers themselves failed to
recognize me as one of their own? I was Jewish,
not Moslem; a townsman, not a highlander.
And even if I had borne the painter's name,
I would not have been acknowledged by the
Italians. No, I'm African, not European.
In the long run, I would always be forced to
return to Alexandre Mordekhai Benillouche,
a native in a colonial country, a Jew in an
anti-Semitic universe, an African in a world
dominated by Europe."



As this book is to a great extent a self-portrait, it would be well for me to give at least a brief account of myself. I was born in Tunisia, in Tunis, a few steps from that city's large ghetto. My father, a harnessmaker, was somewhat pious, naturally somewhat so, as were all those men of his trade and his station in life. My childhood was marked by the rhythms of the weekly Sabbath and the cycle of Jewish holidays. At a fairly early age, after first attending Yeshiva and then the Alliance Israelite, I became associated with various Jewish youth movements—scouts, cultural groups, political groups—so that, though I had profound doubts about religion, I did not stray from Jewry. On the contrary, I found it secured and even deepened a certain continuity for me.
For a number of years I pursued a course of studies that dispensed Jewish culture both traditional and reformed, open to the most immediate problems and yet solidly anchored to the past. I took up collections, among the flat graves in the Jewish cemetery or in front of old synagogues, on behalf of various community works, for the poor, for Polish refugees, for German refugees.
Without too much embarrassment, illegally or not, I went from door to door trying stubbornly to convince my co-religionists of the beauty, importance and necessity of the Zionist movement at a period when that movement appeared to be nothing but an adventure.
I even thought of going to Israel, or rather, to the romantic, pioneer Palestine of those days. In other words, I was sufficiently involved in all Jewish activities for my emotions, my mind and my life to become identified with the lot of all Jews over a fairly long period.


Last edited by Commodore (07-09-2011 13:41:14)

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