Meet France’s pioneering female rabbi

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It doesn’t often happen that a rabbi makes the cover of a fashion magazine. But Rabbi Delphine Horvilleur can also boast a cover of the French lifestyle magazine Elle, as well as several books, a successful congregation in Paris and meetings with the highest authorities in her country and abroad.

Despite the fact that among the 600,000 French Jews, very few identify with Reform Judaism, the Horvilleur synagogue affiliated with the Mouvement du Judaïsme liberal de France has several hundred families.

She is also the editor-in-chief of Tenou’a, a quarterly magazine that describes itself as “a series of workshops and spaces of collective intellect bringing together the entire spectrum of Jewish thought” and “a place of research, of audacity, creation. “

Raised in Paris, granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, mother of three, Horvilleur studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, as well as in New York, where she was drawn by the opportunity to study the Talmud, which she couldn’t do as a woman. in his native country.

It was during her time in the United States that she decided to pursue rabbinical ordination, which she finally received from Hebrew Union College in 2008.

Through her books and her public engagement, she has become a leading voice in the country’s public debate.

In her writings, Horvilleur addresses issues related to contemporary issues, feminism and innovative readings of traditional Jewish texts.

In 2015, the rabbi was called to praise one of the victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, Elsa Cayat, a Jewish psychiatrist who wrote a column for the satirical magazine.

In 2018, she officiated – with France’s (Orthodox) Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia – the funeral of Simone Veil, an Auschwitz survivor who became a prominent French political leader and the first woman to chair the European Parliament.

Horvilleur met with French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss issues related to religious extremism.

She has also regularly denounced the rise of anti-Semitism in French society, in particular by writing a book on the subject – In Reflexions sur la Question Antisemite – in 2019.

“The fight against anti-Semitism is not only a problem of Jews, it is something that must mobilize the whole of French society,” she said in an interview in 2018 after the murder of Mireille Knoll, 85, Holocaust survivor.

“There is only traditional far-right anti-Semitism left,” she added. “The new development is represented by the children of Arab-Muslim immigrants, fed by the sermons of some religious leaders. Mine is a very provocative point of view, but we have to face it. Only a blind man can deny that there is a new growing anti-Semitism among these young people.


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