“Gad Elmaleh is a child of his century, of modernity”

The cross : We have read and heard many positive reactions about Stay a bit from the media or Catholic faithful, what was the view of the Jews on this film?

Noemie Issan: There were two stages in the reception of the film. The fact that many Catholic media are happy to welcome an outsider who extols the beauty of Catholicism in this troubled period may have tensed, at first, certain fringes of the Jewish community.

In a second step, Gad Elmaleh also seems to have evolved taking into account the sensitivities and reactions of the public, heard during the screenings. He also appeared in Jewish media on several occasions. He has, in my opinion, succeeded in his challenge, in particular by opening up debates with actors of interreligious dialogue, even if his speech centered on a personal testimony lacks some historical depth.

Entering a church, maintaining a fascination for the Virgin Mary, does Gad Elmaleh cross taboo lines? Is he already going too far, lacking caution and forgetting the historical depth of the question of conversions, in particular forced, of Jews to Christianity?

NEITHER : To answer the question is already to situate oneself. There have always been forced conversions as well as voluntary conversions. Gad Elmaleh is a child of his century, of modernity, of a Protestant conception of religion – individualist, spiritualist, personal. On the contrary, the Jews are the last to have an ethno-religious conception of their group of origin, Judaism, without dissociating the collective belonging to a people and the faith of each one.

Through his discourse on the threshold and the footbridge, Gad Elmaleh reminds me of other figures, such as the philosopher Henri Bergson, who came as close as possible to Catholicism but who, at the last minute, did not cross the not. In his will written in 1937, he has this moving sentence: “My thoughts have brought me closer and closer to Catholicism, where I see the complete completion of Judaism. I would have converted if I hadn’t seen preparing for years (…) the tremendous wave of anti-Semitism that will sweep the world. I wanted to remain among those who will be persecuted tomorrow. »

There is a distinction between, on the one hand, personal belief and possible fascination with another religion and, on the other hand, loyalty to the Jewish people because they have been persecuted and will be so tomorrow. Gad Elmaleh, like Henri Bergson, approaches Catholicism, without leaving the Jewish community.

Is there a taboo when leaving a community where faith and identity are mixed? In other words, can one choose not to be Jewish anymore?

NEITHER : Yes, there is a taboo about leaving the community, as in all minority communities whose statistical existence has been or remains threatened. For most of the history of the Jewish community, leaving the religion meant leaving the community, even going over to the enemy, that is, to one of the persecuting religions of Islam and Christianity. However, today, as the vertical institutional control of religious authorities has weakened, conversion to Catholicism is no longer seen as a move to the enemy.

As for choosing to no longer be a Jew, it is a complex question since its answer depends on our interlocutor. A rabbi will tell you that, according to Hebrew law, the Jew, even a convert, remains a Jew. A sociologist will distinguish between law and practice. Individuals take a sincere approach by saying they renounce their Jewishness.

Evoking a “love at first sight”, Gad Elmaleh remains on the threshold. How do you analyze the deliberately maintained vagueness on the question of conversion? Is it the spiritual quest of a ferryman between two worlds or the concern not to trigger a storm?

NEITHER : I don’t think you can reach levels of violence, as is the case in other religious contexts, where a conversion can give rise to death threats. I don’t know if Gad Elmaleh converted, if he went all the way, that’s up to him. I am interested in public speeches.

Either way, it’s a brilliant artistic choice to say “I approach but do not cross the border” and to oppose a personal spiritual quest to the wish of those around him that he remain in the community.

The actor presents himself as a syncretic figure advocating a peaceful Judeo-Christian dialogue. What is the view of the Jewish community on the interreligious dialogue between Catholicism and Judaism, more than half a century after Vatican II?

NEITHER : Judeo-Christian friendship, well anchored, is not questioned in the French Jewish community, especially consistorial. This recognizes that the Church has done enormous work to challenge anti-Jewish theological assumptions (the idea of ​​final conversion or replacement theology) and to accept that the Jewish people retain their own mission without being than a first stage of Christianity.

If Christians and Jews have a shared friendship and desire to make their voices heard in social debates, notably bioethical debates, dialogue must not become a blurring of borders, because Judeo-Christian friendship has a non-neutral historical charge.

“Gad Elmaleh is a child of his century, of modernity”